Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
To the raucous cheer of a patient crowd, the Chair of the Elections Committee announced there was a record turnout of 4,247 students in the SU Officer elections. 28.0% of eligible students voted. The Elections Committee, the regulatory body that oversees elections with the Students’ Union, thanks all candidates for their hard work over the new 11 day campaigning period, who delivered this historic turnout with their tenacity and endurance.
Drawing its membership from various executive committees, this year’s committee comprised of Jordan Kenny, Rhiannon Norfolk, Nick Hill, Amy Gardner, Lucy Woodcock and I, as well as all of the current SU Officer team, since none of them sought re-election. In these elections, our Chief Executive Ian Robinson acted as the Deputy Returning Officer, also dwelled on the committee. Jamie Scudamore of the NUS was the Returning Officer, who attended a meeting with the candidates before and after the campaigning period – validating the vote.
The election rules for this year could be broadly simplified into two principles: ‘Be respectful to others’ and ‘You may not do what other candidates cannot do’, meaning there should be equality of opportunity between candidates. With regards to online campaigning, the second principle meant that posting in closed Facebook groups, and posting as administrators of pages on both Facebook and Twitter, violated the rules. It was established that candidates should not spam online, so tagging people into photos, and inviting people to Facebook events in support of your candidacy were disallowed. Reflecting wider changes in society, it was these online infractions that consumed the vast majority of the committee’s time. There were also single cases of the following: missing a compulsory meeting, early activism, and negative campaigning.
In a drive for transparency, the Elections Committee wanted to highlight when a candidate and their team had broken the rules. The Deputy Returning Officer agreed that the bathstudent.com/voting website should display a yellow card next to a candidate’s name if they hadn’t obeyed the election rules, which revealed the relevant details when clicked upon. A common complaint about this system is that it drew a false parity between a candidate who broke one minor rule and a candidate who repeatedly violated the election guidelines, which the committee will review specifically next year.
The Elections Committee will consider the last election carefully, what we may learn from it and how the turnout may rise further, thereby yielding an even more representative Students’ Union. The length of the campaigning period, the efficacy of the new debate format and whether to stagger the starts of online and offline electioneering, are to be discussed amongst other proposals. This season of contemplation overlaps with the NUS membership referendum. For this referendum, the Chief Executive of Southampton University Students’ Union Jaki Booth will be the Returning Officer. The question to be asked is:
Should the University of Bath Students’ Union continue to be affiliated to the National Union of Students (NUS)?
Despite a constitutional mandate to gain the consent of the student body periodically, this year’s referendum will the first of its kind for the University of Bath Students’ Union. The open meeting for this referendum will be on April 11th.
Note: This article was originally written the University of Bath student newspaper bathimpact.