Opinion writers Kirstie Smith and Philippa Ako consider if the Cardiff University Elections are not taken seriously enough.
It’s Student Elections Week! How many manifestos have you read? How many of you made it to hustings? Exactly.
This is my third Student Elections Week in Cardiff, and each year I have been a part of a campaign. It is a hilarious experience – bothering people at the crossroads and in halls, elaborate campaigns with fantastic slogans and even better videos, and of course, being out every night in order to ‘reach the voters’.
The problem is however, while I know what the candidates stand for, not many of the students voting do. It is a massive popularity contest, and this needs to change. What people do not seem to take seriously is that we are deciding the future of both our university, and the soon to be decided Student Elected Officers. There is a lot of responsibility at stake, and while some candidates are just playing the game to win, quite a few of them don’t really know what they are in for. Their manifestos really highlight this, with some candidates making unrealistic aims, and others not really addressing the problems within the role that they are running for. It’s a bit of a shambles.
The university has already taken small steps to change the way Student Elections Week operates. After the 2011 elections, budget rules were tightened to start the campaign on a even playing field. This year, the ‘week’ has been shortened, with voting lasting four days and campaigning five. This has meant that people have been feeling less harassed than usual on the crossroads, which can only be looked at as a good thing. But there needs to be more. Hustings needs to be more than just a formality; it needs to become a huge debate, attracting the same sort of numbers as the AGM. Candidates need to be challenged on their manifestos and it needs to be stressed that these positions are serious jobs, not just a stopgap for people after graduating.
Voters also need to step up their game and be more involved. These elections are put in place to benefit us, and there’s no point wasting a vote on an uninformed vote. Many students DON’T vote because they think the whole process is poor. We need to make sure we know as much about these candidates as possible, and choose the best people for the job. Otherwise we may as well let the university interview and choose the Officers themselves.
Am I being boring? Maybe. The gimmicks of the current Student Elections are a great laugh, and there is much more visibility this way. But shouldn’t we all be trying to grow up a little now? There needs to be more focus on the issues.
Oh, and I hope you voted! PA
For years politicians have been exhausting various ways to gain voters. Nick Clegg targeted students through the policy of battling the rise in university fees. From a young age we have all been taught that getting involved with politics, be it a school council, student union or as an MP was always great experience. The Student Elections looming once more over Cardiff University leads the way for bombarding campaigns. Taking occupancy at the Park Place crossroads and student union there is no escape for passing students.
Every year there is an array of costumes ranging from togas, robots and morph suits. This is just the beginning. The campaigns are plastered over walls, facebook groups and they even go around the cafes to increase their voting potential. In my mind a good campaign is one that will stick in your head. Referring back to Nick Clegg’s campaign, as a new voter I was captivated by his concern for students, hence why he gained my vote. Of course the end result of the university fee policy lost support for the Liberal Democrats, possibly forever.
The use of glamorous costumes do attract student voters, particularly the ones who go all in and paint themselves from head to toe or wear a bull costume in peak summer conditions. Luring students like the villainous child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with sweets is not always a bad way to approach a campaign. Yes it looks like bribery but it does gain the attention of 18+ year olds. Plus food is a yummy way of getting through the often dreary and boring topic of politics.
Cardiff University had a huge student population and for someone to get their name out there to those people is a massive challenge. People ignore emails. People do not necessarily go to the student union every week and everyone throws away leaflets that are put through the letterbox. A shouty campaign is better than a campaign that is ignored from lack of awareness. Putting up stalls, cracking out the megaphones and offering sweets is a way to get noticed. No one pays attention to an email entitled “vote for me”, but someone’s apparel screaming in your face is quite enough to get you noticed by the public. Getting people to pay attention to you when no one really cares is a hard and gruelling task and if it takes a morph suit and free Haribo then that is what must be done. Rome was not build in a day and elections certainly are not won by doing nothing. KS