Elections a success despite concerns of student apathy

by George Watkins

The Autumn elections in the Students’ Union have elected 5 new campaign officers, as well as filling positions for Student Senate, Scrutiny Committee, and choosing students to represent Cardiff University at NUS conferences in Wales and the UK, despite criticism from some corners about an apathy amongst students towards student politics.

Every role besides the campaign officers are traditionally filled in Autumn, but concerns were raised in February when 5 of the 9 part-time roles were left unfilled. Only officers representing International Students, Black and Ethnic Minorities, Mental Health and Students With Disabilities were in office before this contest, with only the contest for Mental Health Officer topping 2 candidates, as a newly-introduced position. This is in stark contrast to the sabbatical positions, which saw an average of 4 candidates for each position. In these elections 3 of the campaign officer roles saw one person running.

The election cycle was a positive one, nonetheless,with the second largest turnout ever being recorded, with 939 individual voters, despite 47 candidates running, an average of just 20 votes per person, with some candidates receiving few enough votes for nominations to be reopened. In comparison, the February cycle saw 6851 individual voters, nearly 7 times as many. It is worth noting that there a multiple reasons for this disparity, ranging from scale of the coverage on campus, to the types of positions on offer.

However, both overall voter numbers represent a small percentage of the 32,000 students at Cardiff University. In the buildup to the February elections, Gair Rhydd conducted research and found that the majority of students fail to engaged with student politics, something that is perhaps attested to by the participation in voting.

Campaign officers have seen their roles given increased publicity in the 2017/18 academic year thus far, after a senate motion the year before. Submitted by a former Welsh Language Officer, the motion obligated the Union to ensure that efforts of the part-time officers receive greater awareness and support than in previous years, where concerns were raised after the sabbatical and campaign officer teams met only twice in the academic year. Sabbatical officers are now obliged to consult part-time officers on issues that fall under their remit, for example meaning that the VP Welfare would need to consult the Mental Health Officer around an issue such as emotional support provision.

The seats on Senate and Scrutiny Committee were incompletely filled, thanks to some candidates not passing the threshold required to prevent the reopening of nominations. Scrutiny is two seats short of the maximum of 10, and Senate 3 short of the 25 seats maximum, reflecting perhaps on the candidates’ campaigns.

It remains to be seen the effect that these changes could have on both the status of campaign officers and their ability to fulfill their manifestos, and participation in candidates running for positions. For the time being, it is surely a positive thing to see the officer team fully filled, despite any worries.

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