Wednesday, 27 February 2008

HUU Elections - voting day 2

It seems that there was more of a campaign presence on the Hull campus today. This is possibly because it's getting closer to the end of the voting period, so the candidates have to everything they can to persuade people to vote for them.

campaign pic

However, I still think that more of the candidates should have been doing this straight away. As I said in my last post, it would get you noticed and increase the chances of people putting you as their first choice in the relevant election.

I also saw some people around the library, which was a refreshing change. In previous years there have been huge numbers of people there. Whether the library is a polling area or not (technically, it still is because of the computers), it's a place where many students go, so you should be there for as long as possible.

Once again, I didn't hear a huge amount of noise from the campaign teams. Some students would cosider this a good thing, but only because it's often accompanied by people shoving flyers in your face. However, you can still make a noise without resorting to those practices. Without it, there isn't much of an atmosphere and some students may fail to realise the importance of the event.

Anyway, that's all about the Hull campus - what about Scarborough? For those who aren't familiar with the University of Hull, it might seem strange to have a campus in an area that isn't Hull. However, it's quite common to have multiple campuses in different areas - it's something that has happened for years. For instance, before 1954, the University of Hull was actually a college that was part of the University of London.

According to a comment that was left on my last post (presumably by a campaigner), the candidates for the position of Vice-President (Scarborough Campus) were out in force and I'm guessing the people running for other positions were out there too. I say 'other positions' because this year is a rareity - we have Scarborough based candidates for more than just one exec position. This is in addition to the positions available on the Scarborough Executive Committee. I think this is really good news and I hope the same happens in future years.

So, what about the possibility of the dreaded 'student apathy™'? Yes, you read that correctly. Once again I've mentioned that phrase that makes the sky go dark, makes babies cry and also makes executive officers so stressed their heads explode. Well, it could happen. No matter how hard unions across the country have tried over the years, voter turnout has been consistently low.

At Hull, we've had highly visible themes relating to such things as Superman (last year) and Heroes (this year). These themes are an attempt to engage the student by using something that relates to them, instead of making it dry and verbose.

After talking to a reliable source (the President), voter turnout was at about 700 (this was at lunchtime today). I expect a lot of people will leave voting until the last minute, so there could be a sharp increase and this would mean the individual turnouts of the previous three years would be beaten - a great result. Apparently, there is a target of roughly 2000. Last year, around 1600 people voted, which is roughly 10%. 2000 would be a big achievement.

There are a couple of things in Hull University Union elections which make them different from those which take place in some other unions. The first is that HUU does not allow 'slates'. A slate means that multiple candidates would be campaigning as a cohesive unit. I have always had a big problem with them because firstly, it can only increase factionalisation - which also increases the chances of there being an unrepresentative exec. Secondly, there could be potential problems if only part of the slate is elected. It could lead to a divisive exec and disjointed decision making. I am glad that slates are not allowed.

In some unions they are perfectly legitimate. For instance, at the 2007 NUS Annual Conference, Student RESPECT had a slate that had four people running for different positions (Rob Owen for President, Assed Baig for National Secretary, Clare Solomon for VP (Welfare) and Siobhan Brown for VP (Further Education)).

The second difference between HUU elections and those in some other unions is that the full-time executive officers can only stay for a single one year term. In many other unions across the country, officers can campaign for a second year, which is the maximum that is allowed.

This HUU policy is something that I have consistently disagreed with. Although you can make numerous changes in one year, you could make even more of a difference and implement more long term policies if you had two years. This can be especially crucial when dealing with a university, as their hierarchies are typically much slower to respond.

However, there is a way around this problem. 2007/2008 was the first academic year where there were part-time officers on the union's executive committee. You could get elected into one of those positions and then be elected as a full-time Vice-President (or the President) for the following year. Even though that is case, you could still have a situation where the majority (or all) of the executive changes every year.

So, who is the person on the exec that is responsible for the elections? At HUU, it's the job of the Union Secretary & Treasurer (currently Jay Webster). Unfortunately, Jay is currently suspended from his duties, which means more work for the President and other exec members. Hopefully, the problem that lead to his suspension will be resolved quickly as it has a potential impact on the handover for his successor (among other things).

I must also respond to an anonymous person who commented on my previous post (about the first voting day). It is true that the sabbatical team should be able to encourage students to vote and therefore increase turnout year on year. I must also thank him for mentioning my awe-inspiring victory last year. However, I must disagree with him on one point - I think the 2006/2007 sabbatical team were much more attractive (especially the person that was responsible for Academic Representation!).

The next post will have news of day three and the results.

Technorati tags: Election, Politics, Student Unions, Students