Campus Comment Comment

Tackling student apathy with incentives is a bad approach

The incentives we are given to vote reveal a much larger issue

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Image Credit: York Student Television

Recently the campus has been abuzz with student involvement in the YUSU elections. From my experience, it is during this time that you see many societies coming together in a way that would best emulate what YUSU has always strived for – student participation. Yet in my opinion, the results from the student elections should be discounted from any form of actual statistic both within the University and outside of it. They are illegitimate.This is because YUSU uses incentives such as reduced pint prices and charity donations as a lure to gain students to vote in the election– which effectively hinders any realistic attempt at fair representation in the university.From my perspective, there are two main reasons that a student union might hold an election.

Firstly, to try and mimic a basic sense of democracy within its own institution. Secondly to have a safe-guard at the university that allows the students themselves to have a say at an executive level so that in general everything can be freer and fairer.Both things have been made redundant if the students essentially must be bribed to participate in the elections and thus no one can truly know if the results are an accurate representation of what the population truly wants.Yes, having a high turnout is good but has YUSU ever asked what is better than a high student turn-out?I have and it is having a turn-out that is legitimately representative of the student body, my point being that if a student does not participate in an election, it should be represented within the statistics as well.Reasons students do not participate in elections, such as believing the elections are stupid, being too lazy to do it or simply forgetting to vote are all valid factors that organisations like YUSU should not be attempting to ignore or even worse,hide.I will agree that to a certain ex-tent what YUSU has done could bean accomplishment because every time a student voted they donated money to a charitable cause, meaning that as a direct result of the 2019 YUSU elections, 6140 votes were cast, which has equated to £3070 being donated to charity.But is it really an act of charity?If YUSU is being charitable then they would not gain from these statistics, but they do.Let’s face it: the biggest reason for YUSU’s push for a high turnout is because it makes the University look good – it's another thing that the University can brag about during open days to a prospective set of students, tell possible investors,donors and even advertisers, all of which are factors that contribute to my point that YUSU benefit from high voter turnout.

This essentially means that the York Students Union has spent money, such as the charity donation and the limited time offer on reduced pints in its establishments across campus, to have better-looking student statistics, which will be compared with different universities.For argument’s sake let us say the UK government was proposing to allow incentives to any person that votes during the general election.There would be absolute bed-lam across the world. Local authorities would rightly berate the British government for using funds for its own gain in trying to solve the voter turnout crisis instead of using it on cash - strapped councils. Other sovereign states would rightly call it proof of larger democratic issues in our democracy, that the government of the UK cannot even ensure that it can entice its voters to vote for the sake maintaining our system of government. A country that introduced voting incentives would be an inter-national laughing stock.This same logic can be applied to what YUSU has done during its own elections. One could argue that funds could have been spent else-where. That said, admittedly YUSU has other electoral goals beyond turnout.Overall, how great was this achievement if less than one quarter of the University students voted in the YUSU elections.At the end of the day it seems YUSU had good intentions for the student body and the local area.It is a shame that it came up with a cheap solution to another one of YUSU’s never ending goals of appearing democratic.

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