A new campaign has sprung up for the Spring Elections: is a new Facebook page. One that reflects the sentiments of many students. We spoke to the creator of the page Emily Shepherd, a Third year studying Computer Science, to talk about why she started the campaign.
What is the RON vote?
RON is a voting option which is rarely publicised – it stands for Re-Open-Nominations and it’s your way of saying “I don’t like any of these candidates”. In an election, “RON” is treated as a real candidate in that they can be voted for and win. The difference is that when RON wins, the election is essentially completely thrown out, and people are given another chance to nominate themselves.
How would it help?
You may have heard of the term “SUSU clique” which is used to describe the group of people that are active within the Union – unfortunately it’s not always easy for outsiders to get involved and bring their ideas to the table. This is because the Union does not actively try to educate and engage freshers in the political side of the Union. Voting RON does more than rerun the election – it sends a message that we aren’t happy with the job the Union is doing.
SUSU has a £7 million annual turnover and its Sabbs sit on important committees – it has the potential to effect incredible positive change for the students but sadly year after year we are let down by candidates not making good on their election promises.
It’s not the candidates fault though, they still have valid campaigns?
Rerunning the elections doesn’t hurt the candidates – the positions begin in July so they could easily rerun before then. If their campaigns are good then there’s no reason to suggest they’d do any worse than they would now. This isn’t a campaign against them, it’s simply an attempt to get more people involved.
What if the new candidates are even worse?
Well, that’s the nature of democracy, isn’t it? But what really counts as a bad candidate? Whoever wins the election is the person that the most people wanted. We can trust the student body to vote for sensible people if SUSU makes an effort to tell them what’s going on. With 23,000 students at the University, I find it hard to believe we couldn’t find even one or two that aren’t at least equally as good as the current candidates.
What would you suggest to get more involved?
Much of the elections advertising comes from the candidates themselves – which means everything you see is politically charged or unstructured. SUSU itself should do a better job of publicising its democratic processes throughout the year, not just when an election is happening.
The problem at the moment is people who aren’t involved with SUSU will hear nothing of the election all year then be bombarded with semi-meaningless slogans and phrases. It’s very hard to know who to vote for DCI, for instance, if you don’t know what that stands for (it’s Democracy and Creative Industries), what the job entails, how SUSU democracy works or what the “Creative Industries” are. For instance nobody ever advertises the Union Council, which any student is welcome to go to and vote on important decisions, but does any regular student even know what it does?
Why didn’t you run, isn’t that the best way to solve the issues?
Perhaps I should have run for DCI but then again it would be unfair on the “Creative Industries” I don’t have any idea on how to support them. As much as I’d love to do it for the democracy side of the job, and the tasty £20,000 salary, I’m not the perfect candidate. I’m not claiming to be. But people should call on SUSU to find the candidate that is, for every position.
What are some of the things you think need to be immediately addressed?
First impressions. Everyone knows they are important and that they stick, and SUSU does a good job at putting on nights out for freshers but they focus solely on it. They even rebranded their Facebook page to make themselves look like a club promoter. We should make better use of our JCRs and Course Reps, who do great work, and getting them talking about what SUSU is all about and how to get involved from the beginning.
If we were to rerun the election this year, the first thing SUSU has to do is put its hands up and be sincere – I think people would react positively to the Union saying, “OK, we haven’t done very well at this. We recognise that and we’re going to improve” and then jump straight into a proper campaign to educate as many people into the workings of SUSU as possible.
Will you be voting RON? Is it SUSU’s fault that people are disconnected from the elections? Let us know in the comments below!