During the University of Nottingham Student Leader elections, not every student will have the opportunity to choose someone that effectively represents their interests.
When choosing which MP to vote for, we look for the candidate that we believe will best represent our interests on a broad range of issues – everything from the NHS to Foreign Policy. When we vote for a student leader, arguably, we are choosing the individual that we believe will best represent our interests on specific issues, or from a specific viewpoint.
Both the Disabled Students’ Officer and Women’s Officer are meant to represent the interests of their respective networks, but how can they be considered to have a full and proper mandate, when no one was standing against them?
However, since voting opened for the SU elections on Thursday, members of our student body will have no choice when it comes to who they believe will best represent their interests: for the second year in a row, members of the Disabled Students’ Network are left with only one candidate on the ballot paper. Last year, James Otieno was elected despite having submitted no manifesto and his predecessor, Naomi Gilchrist, stepped down just months into her role leaving the Network without an elected representative for the remainder of the year.
The problem is not exclusive to Disabled Students either. For the past number of years, the Women’s Network has put forward joint ticket candidates to be the elected representative, with Emma Ehrenberg and Beth Searby being elected last year unopposed. Both the Disabled Students’ Officer and Women’s Officer are meant to represent the interests of their respective networks, but how can they be considered to have a full and proper mandate, when no one was standing against them?
To my mind, the officers who represent a specific network are the most important, as they allow the voice from a community to be heard that may otherwise be lost in the noise
Some will argue that there is a limited number of students within these networks who are interested in SU politics which makes it impossible to have genuinely competitive elections, whilst others won’t care because these roles are part-time and don’t affect them. In my mind, the officers who represent a specific network are the most important, as they allow the voice from a community to be heard that may otherwise be lost in the noise. This means that it is even more important these positions are allocated through competitive elections, and that the students within the network are given a genuine choice about who they feel is best suited to representing their interests.
The Students’ Union has successfully recruited a high number of students to run in the upcoming elections, however its pride in this success should be tempered by the knowledge that some of its elections will offer no genuine choice to those students who require effective representation. At the very least, our Union should not so readily accept one-person races and seek to extend the nominations period to encourage more students to be run, and for a truly earned appointment to be made.
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