Election Week from the view of a candidate…
I had always thought of election week as an unnecessary evil and questioned whether elections were really the best way to get great student representatives…surely interviews would be a better way to choose who should run the Students’ Union?
However, for those who want to try and change or improve what happens at the Union there is only one way to get involved, and that’s to run in the elections.
Election week for me was one of the most nerve-wracking, exciting, terrifying, fun, strenuous and longest weeks of my life. But from the first lecture shout-out to the last cake handed out I had more fun and learnt more about myself than I ever could have thought possible.
My first big lesson learnt from the week was on the first day when I immediately regretted my choice of fancy dress. Applying black camo paint and wearing layers of torn rags during one of the hottest campaign weeks in recent years made me realise that ‘Oliver Twist’ was a figure far better suited to the traditional wet and miserable weather of Wales, not an unexpected heatwave.
The second thing I learnt was how much fun lecture shout-outs are. Not being well versed in public speaking, shout-outs were by far what I dreaded most about campaigning, but in the end, what I most enjoyed about the week. The adrenaline-rush of standing in front of 300 semi-conscious students at a 9am lecture, and not knowing what you’re going to say or how they are going to respond, is brilliant. Sometimes it was laughter, clapping, and cheers but admittedly it was more likely to be yawns and blank faces.
Lastly, being a last minute nominee as well as the least experienced candidate in terms of my time within Cardiff Student Media, I had resigned myself early on as a third-choice candidate for those who wanted an alternative choice to the front-runners. In fact I spent much of my time campaigning for people’s second choice votes, rather than their first votes. So, on results night, feeling like I was on my last legs following seven days of campaigning and six nights out around town, surprised I think would be an understatement when I discovered that over 1900 students had voted for me. And that brings me to the final thing I learnt about elections, having worked with the winners for six months now, although those who won maybe weren’t the most experienced candidates, they showed amazing levels of commitment and have proved themselves as the best people for the job.
Elections might appear to some as a mere popularity contest; the winner being who knows the most sports teams or who’s wearing the most ridiculous outfit. But the students in those outfits really believe that they can improve the Union and its services for you. So when the elections kick off in a few weeks time and candidates start harassing you at the crossroads and in your lectures, consider for a moment why they are putting themselves through such humiliation – it’s because they want to change things and make the Union better for you.
The anti-Election Week view…
It’s that time of year again! The politically active students are back, ready to polish their CVs once again. They’ll take any excuse to pretend to care about fellow students in order to get a year-long sabbatical position at the top of their CVs.
As if the prospect of more budding careerist politicians aiming to avoid getting a real job for as long as possible was exciting enough. Over the next few weeks we’ll be treated to the sight of candidates dressed up as bananas and beer bottles with their mates doling out Haribo in the vain hope that passers-by will actually give a toss.
Student elections are a shameless popularity contest, taken seriously to a hilarious degree by some candidates. They are typically won by three things: how many people you can bribe with treats on Election Day, how innovatively you can stretch your limited campaign budget, and how many mates like you enough to stick your posters on their windows in Talybont. Bonus points if they can be arsed to log on to the union website and vote for you.
Some might say ‘it’s only a bit fun, lighten up!’. Yes, it’s fun being pestered to vote for your chums the first nine times on my way to lectures, but after Freshers the last thing I want is more junk to throw in the bin, thanks.
So your policies are about fairness, openness, recycling and positive ethical change? You mean the exact same stuff the last five candidates were preaching to me about? You might feel like you’re Obama giving that inspiring speech to a lecture full of yawning students, but frankly a stuffed animal could be elected and nobody would notice any difference. Judging by the costumes candidates run around in, I wouldn’t be surprised if some people thought they were voting for one.
The one who’s just bored by it all…
How much do you really remember about last year’s elections? I’ll be honest, all I can conjure from memory is the Care Bear for Welfare giving me a hug in the Blackweir Tavern after a massive session while watching Ireland beat England in the Six Nations. Perhaps that was just me, maybe I was a lazy student who didn’t get involved as I should have, but I suspect I’m not alone in my apathetic standpoint on sabbatical elections.
The Six Nations was on, I was still reeling from how horrific my marks were in my first semester coursework, I was house-hunting and negotiating with slimy estate agents and landlords; issues every student will have to stomach, and while they were on my plate I had no room for sabbatical elections.
I do, however, remember these faceless people coming into lectures and wandering around Talybont to pitch their spiel, each of them addressing the exact same issues and promising the same changes as the person before them. Not only was it grating, but also painful and awkward to watch them go to extreme and cringeworthy lengths to get our votes, including one boy who donned a skimpy builder’s outfit to flex his machismo and woo the more superficial inhabitants of our pleasant campus.
I also fail to see how who is elected affects our day-to-day life at University. Being involved with a society, I attended the Student Union’s Annual General Meeting which we were informed would be one of the most important meetings we would attend all year. I don’t want to undermine the necessity for such a meeting to discuss important matters that arise but the most important and controversial issue that arose was what to do with the Union’s summer event. In comparison to issues like failing facilities and budget cuts, how important is the Summer Ball?
At best, I view sabbatical roles as a fantastic graduate opportunity for those who are primarily interested in working within an organisation but who also have a passion for student life; at worst, I view them as a popularity contest in an attempt to recreate the kids-on-campus image that was fed to us so fervently by American teen TV in the 90’s.
The Election Week lover’s view…
Izzy Voss & Libby van den Bosch
Election campaign week brings with it a lively, infectious atmosphere of it’s own. Whilst many students quickly tire of their Facebook being plagued by an endless stream of messages from troops of campaign minions, being forced to dodge traffic as they duck out of the embrace of a sweaty rugby player in a onesie or having their faces stamped with campaign slogans by stealthy candidates in Revs. However, it can be easy to overlook the more positive aspects of the week.
For a start, most of the candidates and their crowds of willing supporters will grace Cardiff’s most popular venues every night, meaning there is no excuse not to enter into the spirit of things, treat the week as a self-awarded holiday and head out every night. Besides, the guilt of staying in bed all day will be greatly diminished when you remember that 46 minutes of each lecture that week will be occupied by enthusiastic candidates doing their best to seduce voters with slick manifestos and Haribo. Furthermore, any seminars on Park Place that week will likely be drowned out by music, campaign chants and the shameless abuse of megaphones.
There is also a profitable game to be played by the more well-prepared among us who are able to exploit the freebies offered up by candidates. Last year offered a particularly strong yield, including a variety of E-number infused snacks, pregnancy tests and even Dental Dams (don’t ask – just Google it). Those who are forward thinking enough to take a Tupperware on their daily walk into uni may find they won’t even need to do a weekly food shop and stashing up sex aids means that, come December, you’ll already have a stock of thrifty Christmas gifts to give to young-at-heart grandparents.