After two weeks of intense campaigning, we now know who our Students Union’s Executive Officers, Representative Officers and Faculty Co-Ordinators will be for the 2011-12 year. Voting closed at 5pm on Friday 11th March and the results were announced at a black-tie event the same evening. For Impact, NUTS, URN and TEC, the night was one of the biggest and most technically challenging events of the year, broadcasting every aspect of the night live from the SU Hub and The Den.
This year votes were cast through the intranet portal, replacing the traditional paper ballot polling stations. a change that went seemingly without a hitch. The overall number of votes was 7,756, an increase on last year’s 7,014. The Students Union website claimed that the University had “one of the highest turnouts, if not the highest, in terms of numbers across the UK in any Students Union”. However, with around 30,000 students at the University there is always room for improvement, and this year raised all the usual questions about ‘student apathy’ and how best to engage with the wider student community.
Engaging with students always poses a dilemma for candidates: how they can have a strong visible presence without compromising their integrity. Candidates such as Rosie Tressler demonstrated that policies and experience can compete against Supergirl or Power Ranger themed campaigns, whereas Julia Seal showed that having some guts and spending two weeks dressed as a seal helps to convince students you are worthy of their vote. Whatever the candidates’ strategies, they now know whether they were right to take a policies-based approach or if they may have been better off wearing fancy dress for a fortnight.
This year was also the third in a row that a Presidential candidate pulled out due to allegedly breaching electoral rules. The official statement from the Union failed to disclose the precise details as why Sam O’Flaherty withdrew, only that a “number of grievances” were made against him and it was deemed that he had been given “considerable unfair advantage”. O’Flaherty was similarly unwilling to explain his motives when interviewed by URN and NUTS on the subject. Overall there was a lot of work put into encouraging more candidates to run in the elections, yet in many positions there remained a lack of competition. Eight positions were uncontested, and no candidates ran for the BME Officer position.
More success was found in increasing the number of female candidates. This year they made up 32% of candidates – a real improvement on previous years. Although the number of women elected to Rep Officer roles decreased, the number of women elected to Faculty roles and Exec positions increased. This year’s Exec will consist of four women and five men, a huge proportional increase on last year. Perhaps part of the reason lies with the work of newly elected Equal Opportunities & Welfare Officer, Rosie Tressler who in her capacity this year as Women’s Officer has encouraged female students at Nottingham to fulfil their full potential. It would seem female students have taken Tressler’s message rather literally and successfully put themselves forward for positions of power in the Students’ Union.
For now all those involved in the SU Elections will probably be resting after the strain and stresses of the past fortnight, but in July those who have been successful will take over leadership of the Students Union, and for them the stress will start all over again.
You can check out all of the SU Elections 2011 coverage by clicking on our SU Elections tab.
Fiona Crosby & Ben James