Why you should actually care about the Students’ Union elections

Fewer than 15 per cent of students tend to vote in the election

The appearance of cardboard posters dipped in effervescent colours plastered all over campus can only mean one thing: the Students’ Union elections have arrived.

Candidates hand out pamphlets, invade public spaces with posters and parade around campus with catchy slogans like “Bean for Sports” or “Magic Mike for DDO”. Yet students are just left wondering who they actually are, and what these acronyms really mean.

In reality do any of us really understand what the SU do? In truth it is much more important than we may have first suspected.

What the Students’ Union does

At Warwick the Students’ Union is a political body that looks after students’ welfare, health and education, and ensures an inclusive community on campus. As stated in their mission statement, they aim to “positively impact students’ lives at Warwick and beyond.” As well as recently extending our library hours and introducing the gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, Welfare Officer Chloe Wynne launched the “Are You Okay” campaign to support student mental health.

Education Officer Hope Worsdale helped win a lecture-free Freshers’ Week for all students and fought against an increase in tuition fees, helping to save students £4 million. The SU’s recent achievements should be recognised and congratulated. Plans to invest in mental health services, build a second library, cap tuition fees and reduce the price of purple all sound like great ideas, and yet generally the Students’ Union at Warwick is not a major thing.

We should really start caring

The work the Students’ Union is doing is meaningful and has the potential to really impact students, and yet fewer than 15 per cent of students tend to vote in sabbatical elections.  Reading the potential of the SU feels very promising, but the majority of students are still unconvinced about the effectiveness of the Students’ Union as an entity that represents their interests and supports their well-being. As a result, voting in the up and coming elections is not a concern for much of the student body. Yet in reality the Students’ Union is, without a doubt very powerful, and the difference it can make is huge.

After all, the SU President sits on the highest board with the Vice Chancellor, allowing the students’ voices to be heard, and yet there are still major issues within the running of the Students’ Union, which an election could positively impact. Wellbeing is still an issue here a Warwick, as five months ago in mental health rankings Warwick came 27th out of 30 universities, and these elections are a perfect opportunity to get involved and make a difference.

But the campaign is irritating

Year after year, there is an epidemic of complaints about harassment with pamphlets and invasive signage, with students saying that they have no interest in voting, or rather complaining that the SU doesn’t do enough. Katie Shanahan, a campaigner running for Societies Officer said: “It’s quite difficult with the SU, it can often be in its own bubble. I understand the part about being harassed, like when you’re walking by the library and people are shouting at you, it’s very uncomfortable.”

These are real problems which can be solved with the right student officers. Yet rather than luring students in to vote, they are put off by the pamphlets and aggressive signposting all over campus. Literature and Creative writing student Ally Hercka adds: “The problem is mainly that people are campaigning for what they believe in but we don’t necessarily know that person, nor their position. We don’t know what they actually do.” Another student has responded that they are voting for their friends or flatmates. Others think that the SU has “little influence” or they have “no interest in voting.”

Why we should get involved

Whether we are just voting or deciding to get involved with the election itself, the Students’ Union elections should be more meaningful for us at Warwick. As just a simple demonstration of democracy, or to officiate change we want to see within the University. But in order for this to happen we must first learn that the Students’ Union is an important institution which as a student body we could easily become more involved in.

The Students’ Union could aid this, rather than inundating people with posters, names and pamphlets, candidates need to be having real conversations about the problems that the SU is facing right now and how they can solve those problems.

It’s up to you whether you want to make a difference. Cash in your votes now.
Elections close at 21:00 on Friday 3 March 2017.

Vote here: https://www.warwicksu.com/elections/