By-election nominations open amid hopes for high engagement

Nominations for this year’s Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) and National Union of Students (NUS) UK and Scotland by-elections have opened amid optimism over student engagement in campus politics.

The by-election will see 62 positions contested: 40 within EUSA, 14 within NUS Scotland, and eight within NUS UK. Candidate nominations will close on Thursday 1 October, and polls are set to open on Monday 12 October.

Speaking to The Student, EUSA President Jonny Ross-Tatam and Vice President Services (VPS) Urte Macikene expressed confidence in the Association’s ability to improve on past levels of student involvement in EUSA’s democratic processes.

Ross-Tatam said: “The elections in March saw a higher turnout than the previous year, so we hope this trend continues for this year’s by-elections.

“Urte, Andy, Imogen and I have gone round to as many welcome school events as possible, spreading the message about the difference students can make by running in the elections.”

Historically, the annual by-election has been marred by low voter turnout. In a particularly egregious example, last year’s contest for Health in Social Science School Convener attracted just three votes. Andy Tam, who ran unopposed, was elected with two votes.

Macikene said: “All of our staff have worked hard over the last year to increase democratic engagement with EUSA. The number of nominations in the spring 2015 EUSA elections increased by 68 per cent from 2014 and the number of people voting increased by 18.5 per cent. We have even more ambitious targets this year, and will be upping our publicity and outreach around campus during election times.

“This year we are also undertaking a review of our democratic structures – including student council structure, rep and sabbatical positions – with the help of external consulting from NUS. The aim of this is to ensure our structures suit the needs of our students, and are accessible and engaging to as many people as possible.”

Asked to identify some of the most important issues at play in the by-election, Ross-Tatam said: “[A]mong the key issues students are facing at the moment are rent prices, living costs, gaining opportunities outside of our degrees, supporting student mental health and wellbeing and the nature of their course, feedback, and assessment. So I’d expect these to come up as [with] many others – we look forward to the campaigns beginning!”

On what she would like to say to students considering putting themselves forward for an elected position, Macikene is unequivocal: “Do it! I’ve made some of my best friends at uni through EUSA (though some people might find this sad).

“It can often be whatever you make of it in terms of time commitment and is a platform for you to use towards many different opportunities.”

Image: Flickr: byronv2

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