Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
After another flurry of elections in our Students’ Union, it should be discussed why voting is so important. This year, the University of Bath Students’ Union garnered another record turnout for their Officer elections of 4,563 students, or 29.1% of the electorate. Initially, this turnout seems quite low, but it was one of the highest amongst student associations in the country. The 2009 European Parliament elections had a turnout of 34%, but we can improve. The Elections Committee, the candidates and the wider union all work to induce and encourage students to vote.
(Video: University of Bath SU)
A higher turnout intravenously translates into more legitimacy for whoever is elected. This is fundamental when the President and other Officers represent the student body to multiple University committees and the Vice-Chancellor. In an email to all students, Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell said: “The well-established system of student representation which exists here at Bath is vitally important both to you as students and to the effective running of the University as a whole.”
There have been many successes over the years for the SU and the University of Bath, which was considered to be the ‘Best Campus University in Britain’ by the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide. As an understatement, it has been fairly publicised that our University achieved the highest scores in the 2013 National Student Satisfaction (NSS) survey, with an overall satisfaction rate of 94%. The Student Centre was fiercely lobbied for by the SU, providing a great relaxation space and a grand house for our vital and essential Academic Representation Centre. On the day the Student Centre’s doors slid open, former SU President Daniel ‘Dot’ O’Toole noted that – much to his pride –students sat in the new building “as if it had always been there”.
On academic matters, there have been great strides made regarding feedback. According to the NSS survey, the average positive rate for feedback questions was 61% in 2010; 66% in 2011; 70% in 2012 and 75% in 2013. Both of the candidates for the Education Officer role wanted to continue this great momentum, representing your crucial concerns about the University’s feedback policy.
Another exhortation, occasionally heard from postgraduates, is that their abstinence from the SU means they can refrain from voting. The Community Officer – as well as the other members of the team – highlights student concerns to the wider community, such as the local council. SU campaigning ameliorated the limitations placed on shared housing, which is commonly used by students at all levels of study, in the city of Bath. The Education Officer leads the Research Academic Council, which considers prominent issues for postgraduates like procedures relating to the student-supervisor relationship. If postgraduates drive for accreditation for their tutoring work, this would be achieved through the Research Academic Council and the Postgraduate Association.
Lastly, the final toll for apathy is that all the candidates are the same. Despite differences in priorities, methods and values, these common similarities may seem as if the candidates are separate protruding limbs of a single amoebic blob. If you feel that the present composition of Officers is unsatisfactory, then I dare you to do better. To wet your tongue for student representation, be an academic representative, or seek election as a Faculty representative or on executive committees for societies and sports. Being an event manager for Freshers’ Week or One Bath will give you excellence experience, as well as allowing you to find your prospective electorate’s needs, tastes and concerns. You can get involved in the Media Group, where you will learn many things about your SU through osmosis, or you can just shout ‘Sport!’ whenever you see the current SU President.
This is our SU, and I urge you to step forward.
Note: This article was written for the next issue of bathimpact, the University of Bath Student Media newspaper. The comment section is edited by Helen Edworthy.