Looking in the Mirror: Do SU Executive Candidates Fully Reflect our Diverse Union?

The upcoming Students’ Union Elections have, as ever, led to concerns over the Students’ Union’s under-representation of certain elements of the student body – principally ethnic minorities, women and international students. The SU Exec is meant to be a representative body, possessing the right to make decisions on our behalf, as it reflects student opinion and the broader spectrum of students’ needs. But are those campaigning to lead the Students’ Union really representative of the student body as a whole?

The outcome of the 2010 SU Elections resulted in only two female officers within the SU Executive, in contrast with the seven male officers elected. This year, however, 32% of the list of Exec candidates is comprised of women (as opposed to last year’s 25%, and the 16% of the year before), a solid improvement in terms of female representation. Current Women’s Officer Rosie Tressler commented that, “this year’s candidates are more diverse and reflective of the electorate but further improvements can, and should, be made”. In an effort to encourage female candidates, Tressler has held numerous events, including a ‘Women’s Public Speaking Training’ event and a ‘Women in Politics’ speaker event, which may have served to help to boost the number of female candidates in this year’s elections.

Despite the democratic, free and fair nature of the SU elections, those elected into the Students’ Union Executive are often not a fair reflection of the international component of the University of Nottingham’s students. This year, there is not a single candidate running for the position of Black and Minority Ethnic officer – a virtually unprecedented occurrence. A subsequent by-election will be called as a result. The fact that not one student wished to stand for election as the representative for ethnic minorities creates a tricky situation with regards to fair and equal representation of all students. Although the percentage of international students within this year’s candidates has risen to 16%, this is still under-representative, considering that international students make up over 25% of the Nottingham University student body.

It is difficult to know how to deal with this conundrum of representation, which may be something of a vicious circle. For example, perceiving that there are few international student or ethnic minority student representatives within the Students’ Union, potential candidates may feel less inclined to put themselves forward for a position. It is certainly difficult to reverse or combat such a trend, although female representation, at least, does appear to be on the rise.

A factor that requires consideration is the importance of the SU Executive reflecting the diversity of students within this University, and whether an Executive should be considered more able to represent students due to its genetic makeup, or whether its policies and actions are a better indication as to how suitable it is to represent the student body.

Hannah Pupkewitz

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6 Comments on this post.
  • Tell Me Something
    5 March 2011 at 17:06
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    Ultimately, who really cares about the SU Exec? The only exposure I have to the Union is reading Impact and I’m perfectly happy with that. I’d rather staple my foreskin to the Portland toilets than get involved in SU Politics, everyone involved (and this isn’t an exaggeration) is a self-obsessed, self-righteous and ultimately disgusting individual.

    It makes me sick that student money salaries these people, I’d much rather it be given directly to The New Theatre, NUTs and Impact e.t.c without these bureaucratic morons getting involved.

    • Will Bickford Smith
      6 March 2011 at 16:44
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      @Tell Me Something: “everyone involved [in the SU] (and this isn’t an exaggeration) is a self-obsessed, self-righteous and ultimately disgusting individual”

      If you aren’t interested in SU politics that’s fine, but please don’t go round spouting abuse when people invest a huge amount of time and energy trying to make things better for students. If you don’t think the Exec is doing a good job then tell them why and what you would like to see happen differently. But please don’t sit in your dark bedroom on a Saturday afternoon typing such rubbish.

  • Mark
    5 March 2011 at 17:18
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    “The outcome of the 2010 SU Elections resulted in only two female officers within the SU Executive, in contrast with the six male officers elected. ”

    There are currently seven male officers that were elected last year! A total of nine exec positions.

  • Frank
    5 March 2011 at 17:48
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    Correct me if I am wrong, which I often am, but the number of female candidates in this year’s exec election has not been boosted (or if so, at least by much). There are about 8 this year, and about 8 this year. The number of male candidates has fallen, so the percentage of male candidates has fallen.

  • Rob
    5 March 2011 at 18:01
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    Wasn’t the make up of the exec for the first part of the ’00’s female dominated? I think its strange how its shifted and you would assume law of averages would roughly make the SU Exec roughly representative in terms of sex, skin colour etc. I remember this being raised last year and to my knowledge no one at impact, no student and no member of the Exec had either an explanation or a solution to it. Moot point methinks.

  • Stefan
    2 April 2011 at 17:56
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    Contrary to any of the previous comments made, I think that this is a well written article Hannah. Although, I don’t really think that it holds any particular validity. Anyone who is part of University is allowed to run for any of the positions, it’s not like female or international students are discouraged from doing so. Furthermore, I don’t think it matters if there are more males than females, because essentially they are just relaying what the students have said.

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