News YUSU Elections 2018

YUSU Elections: Do they really matter?

A panel of representatives from across campus, chaired by Martin Spurr, gathered to talk about: YUSU's relationship with the University; student politics; and speculation on the outcome of the YUSU elections (Thumbnail credit Photo credit: Hoagy Davis-Digges)

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Do you see the YUSU elections as more of a popularity contest or something that really matters?

Kris McGee: I think you do have people who treat it as a popularity contest and would go out of their way to secure popularity by saying what is obviously going to appeal to people and you do get some very sensible candidates who will go for a much more focused approach.
Luke Sandford: I don't think there is anything wrong in speaking to what students want, I think if a candidate has gone out and spoken to students, found out what they are interested in and what they think the University needs, and then they produce a manifesto platform based around that, that is basically how elections are supposed to work.
Jane Grenville: For the University, what is unbelievably helpful and necessary is to have a Students' Union that has the machinery to go and ask questions about how we might better organise things. So it's the Students' Union who are asking the question, and not the University, saying what do you think? The kinds of answers we've been getting back from YUSU over the last two years have been so much better informed; and bringing back those answers from a broad base really gets listened to... It is a beauty contest to some extent because you want people who are good communicators to a student body; [but] what we need as a University administration, as the people who are trying to make the decisions about where the money goes and how it is spent, we need people who share with us a broad vision of what excellence is about.
Luke Sandford: But when we elect representatives as students we don't elect them for the person who has the views that most coincide with the University's, rather the views that most coincide with our own.
Jane Grenville: It's not to say we just want someone who, in something I noticed in one of these [candidate manifestos] said, 'I'm sick of our so-called representatives sucking the metaphorical dicks of bigwigs'. The last thing we are interested in is having people sucking our genitals, it is not what we want. If you say, well, so-and-so student representative that, 'oh god his head is so far embedded up my arse that I can't see anymore' that is not saying this is someone we approve of, this is us saying this is someone we are finding really difficult to work with because all they are saying is yes, yes, yes...A waste of time is when we are so far apart, that we just spend a year arguing over things when we could be constructively getting stuff done.

Do you think YUSU communicates well with College Chairs and Part-time Officer positions?

Cem Turhan: For me, not at all. But I think the new position of College JCRC coordinator will help. In my opinion they should have two full-time Welfare Officers and a Liberation Officer as well, I know they have already brought in a new staff member to work with RAG and Volunteering. I think YUSU works well in ways, but I think there needs to be more money put into it for more positions and I think Welfare is a really tough job and there should be two Welfare Sabbatical Officers. When I was chair I was just left on my own, but for this group of chairs they seem to be getting lots of training.
Susana Paardekooper: I've been really involved in their training and I've heard it has been a lot better than last year. They have had training in how to deal with committee members and how to best communicate things with the University and with YUSU. What I think is really important this year is that the chairs are really working together a lot.
Luke Sandford: It is good to work with colleges, but I think some of the candidates this year, [have been] making a big point about what [they] would do with colleges, [they] don't quite seem to understand that the Union and colleges are only affiliated, essentially friendly organisations, and colleges come within the remit of the University. I think quite often there is a disparity between the college committees and how that is defined relative to the JCR and I don't really think it is the role of YUSU to step in and tell colleges things like how to run their elections. It frustrates me when candidates come into the elections saying how they want the relationship between colleges and the Union to be, because they are both still separate organisations.
Susana Paardekooper: Colleges are very different. Halifax is very different to Langwith and it is kind of upsetting to see them wiped over with one paintbrush.

How does the University see 'joke' candidates in the YUSU elections?

Jane Grenville: The University was very anxious about Tom Scott, 'the pirate,' several years ago. But in the end, Tom decided to do it and decided he could be a completely non-aligned spokesman for the student body. And he did the job brilliantly, but loathed every minute of it, and I really admire him for doing it. So the answer is, if it's a joke candidate and they then go on to treat it as a joke that would be a colossal problem for us, I mean off the scale, if we found we didn't have a good contact into student opinion through the President and the Students' Union that would be an epic problem which we could do absolutely nothing about - we would be completely stuffed. We can't say stop and do it again. We can't do that.
Luke Sandford: I think it is also very important for the Union that you couldn't do that.
Jane Grenville: We would have a year of finding work-a rounds .
Kris McGee: It is people like former chairs of colleges who would attract my vote more because they have experience of micro-managing.

Does having 'joke' candidates make the elections more interesting?

Cem Turhan: People aren't going to choose between two ['joke' candidates], they are going to vote for someone serious.
Luke Sandford: I think it is important they are funny, but the second part of Question Time [last Thursday] was just awkward. The good joke candidate is one that comes to Hustings but lets people talk about the serious issues, doesn't really campaign and no one votes for them. David Hansen, a few years ago, being the prime example.
Susana Paardekooper: I think the most painful thing for a joke candidate is if you're not funny. But you can gain some valuable ideas off some joke candidates.

Do you think a candidate who has had a year's experience running a college has an advantage in the elections?

Jane Grenville: The one President in the last few years that struggled who hadn't had experience of running a college or a society, like Fusion, was Tom Scott...The position of the Students' Union in getting the ducks lined up is colossally important and if I think that I am working with someone who understands where the ducks are dotted around the lake, and how we are going to get them in one place, to make the policy happen - that's great. If I have someone who is saying I just want to sort out the internal battles in YUSU, that's not my business and, if that is the case, it wouldn't give me a lot of confidence that there will be a YUSU next year that will try and bring to our attention to what the problems are and what the solutions might be.

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