Is the SU President the most pointless student on campus?

We’re paying them £18,000 to have no actual power and change nothing year on year


Every year around Easter we are accosted by colourful mobs of banner waving peers barraging us with mottoes and the repeated question of “have you voted yet?”. Unlike the rest of us, who are stressing about finishing dissertations and finding jobs for graduation, they run around vandalising our lovely green campus with ghastly bright boards and posters in effort to elect the most meaningless student on campus. The Student Union President.

The SU President is usually a smiley non-offensive type who looks good in photos and stash, who’s main job is to happily waste a year ribbon cutting and berating indifferent students about welfare.

Once elected they can be paid up to £26,582 a year – LSE President – for the privilege of representing an apathetic population of students. Nottingham Pres gets £17,421 a year to do what?

When all the excitement around election time has died down we don’t hear from them again. For the rest of the year they are unaccounted for and get away with doing nothing.

They don’t even have to get in for 9am. I regularly see the president and head of Activities heading into ‘work’ on the 11am 34 bus from Lenton. They don’t even have 9am seminars like the rest of us.

Can anyone say anything they have actually done? Anything that is helpful or of significant impact? No really, name anything.

We are literally paying them £18,000 to put them off graduating for another year. Giving them sweet chilled year of blissful Uni life – without all the exams and deadlines – before they head into the real world like the rest of us.

There are nine SU Presidents that earn over £21,000, which means we are even paying off some of their student loan for them. So for example the students of LSE will have payed off £6,028.56 of their President’s loan by then end of their pointless rule. They get to sit around in comfy SU offices as they see their loan get payed off by fellow students.

But surely we are electing them to power in order to delegate resources and money for the betterment of our lives and campus. They use these resources and money to fulfil their manifesto points. Wrong again. The SU President gets a grand total of £0 to deliver their campaign promises. It is stated in SU procedure that the The Chief Executive of the Student Union and The Trustees actually have the power to spend the SU’s money, not the president.

No wonder that Lenton Hub has never been built after appearance in manifestos year on year. It may sound like it is great for students but there is no way the SU would cough up the money for it no matter how nicely the president asks for it. Why would they? It would cost in the millions!

And who actually cares? Turns out it is only around 30 per cent of us even vote in the SU elections.

So effectively the hopeful SU presidential candidates have to convince only approximately 15 per cent of the UoN population to vote for them – and that’s if they need a majority – to be payed £18,000 to represent 100 per cent of us.

In fairness, they are only around for a year. They set up a line of dominoes and before they get a chance to knock them down a new optimistic agreeable type walks into their office the next year and sets up their own dominoes. Meaning nothing effective ever gets done.

If that is the case though it gives you the idea of how inefficient the SU must be if it takes more than a year to get anything meaningful done.

I spoke to Sarah Gosling – The Chief Executive of the Student Union – about the effectiveness and the role of the SU President at our University. “They (the President and Officers) ask the senior staff a lot of questions in regular meetings” with the ambition to get something done. They need to “improve on their ability to get things done” and that “change is a slow process at the SU” compared to other charities and businesses.

She said one of the key roles of the president is to secure funding from the University itself. Though she remarked it was highly unlikely the University would deny or cut this funding as laws put in place by the government in 1994 mean the Uni has to contribute this funding.

I asked her why some students may believe the SU President and Officers to be ineffective, replying it is down to students “not understanding what they do”. She went onto say the work of each president is passed onto the next meaning the changes each president bring about is unlikely to be seen during their leadership. Thus it appears they are doing nothing.

So is the SU President a vital sabbatical role that we should care about or is it just another ineffectual cog in an unproductive machine? Well you can decide with how you vote in the election this year, or whether you vote at all, which seems to be the popular choice.