Unsafe Space

Change, Change, Change: Election Week is in need of a revamp

It’s over. It’s finally over. After a week of piss-poor fancy dress, crazy promises and hijacked lectures, Elections Week is behind us for another year. You can finally walk past the Woodville on a Monday morning without being asked about your opinion on the sanitary towel tax. The streets are safe again.

Union elections are weird. On one hand, they’re one of the most important ways that students can affect real change within their university. So every student has a duty to go and read a little bit about each candidate, and then elect the one who looks and sounds the least like a clueless moron. Especially when over £100,000 of your tuition fees are being spent to pay the officers representing you.

And yet, the union elections are a fucking circus. Candidates dress up like dinosaurs or Mr. Monopoly or something equally insane to convince us that they’re responsible, articulate adults capable of making reasoned decisions on our behalf. They do this knowing that if they don’t, they stand no chance of being elected, because nobody bothered to read their lovingly crafted WordPress blog detailing every point on their manifesto. And then, students have to basically be bribed into voting (“We’ll give a cash prize to the AU club that has the most voters!”) because they’re fed up of being constantly accosted by onesie-clad weirdoes. Who are only there because nobody read their manifesto.

It’s time for a change. I’d hesitate to question whether the current system is entirely broken, but it’s certainly become joyless for all involved. Even the guy who was campaigning in a smiley face acid-house poncho looked totally miserable. We need some new rules to make sure that we’re not dreading Elections Week this time next year.

First and foremost, NO ONESIES. If you’re going to have a gimmick costume, you better put some damn time and effort into it. Adopting a onesie as a costume says to me, “I have no original ideas”. Why should anyone vote for you can’t even think of a decent costume? This year, there were at least two candidates that attempted to dress up as bears, but wore onesies instead. And this, quite frankly, is a grave insult to the proud and noble bear, the most glorious of God’s creatures. I know that candidates work on a budget, but I expect my future officers to be resourceful. If you’re a wasteful bear-hater, you have no business running anything, let alone an institution of higher learning.

On the topic of costumes, this next proposal may have future candidates thinking carefully. As students, we don’t always give our elected officers as much flak as we should when they don’t follow through on their promises. Gair Rhydd runs a check at the end of the year, but by then it doesn’t matter because they’re already on their way out. In light of this, I believe that if elected, candidates should be made to wear their costume every day, until their manifesto is completed. Every. Single. Day. To meetings, to events, to the Lash, everywhere where they go they should be dressed in whatever ridiculous garments that played a part in getting them elected in the first place. This would be effective for so many reasons. Students would be able to see whether promises were being kept or broken. Candidates would start to set achievable aims, rather than promising to run affordable trips to the moon or whatever. And we’d see a marked decrease in awful puns and bad costumes.

Next, if you’re going to give out free sweets, they must be a recognisable brand. Call me a snob, a corporate shill, whatever, unbranded sweets are the absolute worst. Branded sweets will still give you diabetes, but at least they’ll taste good while doing it. Actually forget it, no sweets at all. They’re lazy. Shoutout to everyone who gave away home baked goods this year. Most of them tasted miserable, but the thought was there. Give me sad-tasting thoughtfulness over mindless E numbers any day. And to the person who gave out liquorice sweets, I hope you never get put in any position of responsibility, because that was a catastrophic error in human judgement and you should be absolutely ashamed of yourself.

Also, election videos are now too long. Although there were some good ones this year, I didn’t have the time or the willpower to watch every single one. Therefore, all campaign videos should have a maximum length of… 6 seconds. Coincidentally, making them perfect for Vine! If you can’t make a good case for yourself in 6 seconds, you’re clearly not DYNAMIC or INCISIVE enough for the crazy pressure cooker world of student politics. Think of the Vine as sped up version of ‘the elevator pitch’ concept. Only instead of an elevator in a skyscraper, you’ve got a trampoline in a shed.

Finally, a rule for the students voting in the elections. There are some candidates that are weird, some candidates that are clearly in it just for the money, and some candidates who are hilariously unqualified to do absolutely anything at all, but you still need to vote. No matter what. If you don’t engage with the University, they’re not going to give you any of the things that you want. This – short of kicking down the vice-chancellor’s door and demanding that he bring back The Lash – is one of the best chances you’ll get to make positive changes for you and thousands of future Cardiff students. It can be a chore to sift through all the shitty candidates because there are so many, but it’s a chore worth doing. You owe it to yourself.

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