As some may be aware, this year’s student elections are upon us. Campaigning and voting for the student elections happen between 1 and 9 March. Nominations have now closed, and the candidates have been set; the 2018 Student Association sabs will soon be chosen. Yet, many have heard nothing about it. This begs the question: Do student elections really matter?
Some students believe that student democracy is insignificant and therefore don’t take much interest in the upcoming elections. Indeed, very little information about the student elections has been released on the Students’ Association website, and to find out the key elections dates it would appear you need to email the Students’ Association. While a little more information was sent out about the recent rector elections there was still limited advertising. With a lack of real information about the elections, it can appear that the importance of student democracy is limited.
In the 2018 Student Elections, as well as a lack of information, there is also a lack of candidates: many positions, especially activities representatives, have no election candidates chosen and others have only one or two. Student Elections are intended to give students the choice of their representatives in different parts of the Student Association, which can’t happen if there isn’t a range of candidates.
A further reason for belief in the insignificance of student democracy is the limitations of the Students’ Association in influencing university policy. As the Students’ Association and the university are totally separate institutions, the Students’ Association does not have any real power over university decisions and policies, despite the promises made in campaigns. An example of this is the issue of lecture recordings. In the 2017 Student Elections many of the candidates promised to work to ensure that all lectures would be recorded, and yet this has not been a success. While some of the candidate campaign policies would be regarding the Students’ Association itself and so would be more achievable, any policies involving the university have a limited scope for success. If candidate policies are limited in their achievability, can student democracy really be a success?
However, many do believe in the importance of student democracy, both as a symbol of students being involved in democracy and as a process of exacting change in the Students’ Association and in the university as a whole. The election of university rector gives students the power to choose a powerful member of the university. The rector heads the university court, chairs council meetings in the absence of the Chancellor, and works closely with the Students’ Association. Our newly elected rector Ann Henderson is in favour of cheaper and more accessible student accommodation and supports fair pay and pensions for university staff.
The Student Elections for Students’ Association positions also allow students some real democratic power. While the Students’ Assocation’s power may be limited it does show student priorities and can push in the direction that students want policy to go. While there has been limited success in enforcing university-wide lecture recordings, there has been some: there has been an increased number of recordings this year, and many of the courses which didn’t record have given some form of explanation for this. A student election also allows the Students Association power of representation, which is of great benefit to students. An example of this the recent motion at student council during which those present voted to support the strike. Full Students’ Association support means more than the support of many individual students and gives more significance to student democracy.
Image: Wikimedia Commons