All by myself; how it feels to be uncontested while re-running for your dream job


Current Academic Officer, Matt Johnstone, on re-running for the role

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Image by Matt Johnstone

By Matt Johnstone

In the (nearly) four years I’ve been at York, I’ve never seen an uncontested Sabb candidate. I’ve seen races with two candidates, I’ve seen races with nine candidates, but never just... one. I dug through YSTV’s Elections videos and the last time this happened seems to have been 2012.

It begs the question, why now?

Being a Sabb is never an easy job. Whether it’s the renowned “Sabb flab”, or James Durcan’s incredible rate of hair loss, you end the year a changed person. A constant tune can be heard across the UK at the moment, however. Union staff members and returning Sabbs are, for once, all in agreement on one fact - this year has been a particularly difficult year to be a Sabb.

All year the five (now four) of us have had the better part of 20,000 students hoping we’d get them a safety net, have them released from their rent contracts, make sure they have a stable internet connection, secure them a tuition fee refund, get them back on campus safely, and win against a government that seems determined to demonise our student population. That’s a lot of pressure.

There’s a cliché here somewhere about diamonds being formed by pressure, or “the hottest fires forging the strongest steel” (which by the way is absolute tosh) - this isn’t that kind of article.

After an impossible year and two very intense past election races (with only one being successful), I’m counting myself lucky to have one less thing to worry about right now. It wasn’t until Monday that I finally started my online campaign - six days after everyone else, with voting being open from Friday night. I was running on fumes last week, so having some time to breathe and recharge was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Union staff members and returning Sabbs are, for once, all in agreement on one fact - this year has been a particularly difficult year to be a Sabb.

Maybe after watching us Sabbs this year go through hell, the student body just sat back and thought, “nah, seems like too much effort”. I don’t buy that. Apart from anything else, being a Sabb provides a year of security as we go into this impending recession. We’ve also seen numerous candidates pop up at other Unions and Guilds despite arguably worse situations, not to mention the number of candidates for other Sabb positions we’ve seen here.

So why York? Why now?

Honestly I don’t know. Maybe people guessed I’d be re-running (weird, given that I wasn’t even sure!) and were put off. Maybe the position of Academic Officer just seems too boring when the Activities Officer role is open. Maybe “fighting the good fight” doesn’t seem worth it when every day is enough of a battle already. Maybe it’s all just pure coincidence.

What I do know is that, provided I beat RON, the fact that I’m uncontested won’t change how I view my role. It’s not going to change the eight-hour Zoom sessions, or the evenings spent reading papers for upcoming meetings, and it’s certainly not going to encourage me to walk out of the door earlier than July 2022.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this little insight, and please go and vote. For every unique voter the University is donating 75p to charitable causes, and there are a few prizes for randomly-selected voters too!