The two-week campaign period for the LUSU Full Time Executive Officer elections has been criticised for being too long, by some of the candidates, speaking at the election results on Friday Week Eight.
The issue, which was discussed in the winners’ press conference after the results, was thought to not only force the candidates’ degrees to take a back seat for two weeks, but to also take quite a toll on them with the amount of effort involved.
The line of thinking that such a long winded campaign period generates a certain amount of apathy among students was also discussed.
The past fortnight has seen the campus transformed in the course of the LUSU Full Time Executive Officer election campaigns. Candidates for the elections, running for the six positions at the head of LUSU, have spent the fortnight doing their utmost to garner support and raise awareness before the voting opened.
The campaign period started with nominations, which opened on Thursday Week Five and were open to all students. The nomination period lasted a week, in which students could nominate themselves in the LUSU building for any of the six positions. They were then given 24 hours in which to fill out a candidate’s pack, detailing their mandate and policies.
During the campaign period, two candidates who had previously nominated themselves dropped out of the runninng: Neil Smith for VP (EWD), and Erika Vann for VP (Sports).
All campaign proceedings were overseen by the specially created Elections Sub-Committee, formed to police the candidates’ campaigns. The sub-committee met before the nominations period to outline the next few weeks and plan the events. In the interest of fairness, the sub-committee had to approve all posters, flyers and other methods that candidates wanted to utilise for their campaigns.
Making use of visual campaigning, posters and banners are a staple of candidates’ efforts. Each candidate was limited to spending only £30 on all printing, poster creation and flyer production. Certain loopholes allowed signs made from cardboard to be counted as free, seeing a surge in placards made from that. Other materials were also argued to be exempt from the budget, a fact that many candidates used to their benefit.
A large emphasis this year was placed on promoting the elections to more people than has previously been achieved in past years. There was a concerted effort by LUSU to combat the apathy and confusion that often surrounds the elections of six major people working within the students’ union.
Both SCAN and Bailrigg FM ran interviews with the candidates, with one night dedicated to each position on Bailrigg FM throughout Weeks Seven and Eight.
The candidate hustings, held on the Monday of Week Eight, were a fragmented event. The mass participation of the student media, intended to spread the hustings across the campus and to students elsewhere off campus and even abroad via the internet, was responsible for the first delay of the night as an issue with LUTube.TV’s equipment caused problems with the building’s power supply.
Secondly there were three breaks in the evening due to the disjointed delivery of the free food for the evening. The event also ran on a lot longer than had been planned, ending in the small hours of the morning.
VP (FEDS) Andy Johnston chaired the proceedings. Previously this has been the Chief Returning Officer’s role, in this case Sam Johnson, who appeared to have relinquished the role to Johnston while still overseeing the hustings from the same desk.
The press conference after the results had been announced, saw criticisms of the large difference in those who attended hustings and the amount of people who actually voted.
The newly elected officers were united in acknowledging that there is a discrepancy between those who vote and those who make an effort to engage with what the candidates are actually promising. Matt Windsor, the newly elected VP (FEDS), was the first to state that there is a lot of work to be done in engaging students and interesting them in what they are voting for. “I intend for next Freshers’ Week to have a complete de-confusing view of the union straight away to make people aware, because at the moment nobody understands. I don’t think many people care, I honestly think most people who vote are on the JCRs or vote for their friends and that’s not the way it should be,” he said.
A large part of the approach taken to get students involved and to allow candidates to outline what they would do was a series of block runs, where the candidates visited college residences with members of the JCR executives.
The block runs are designed to let students – many of whom wouldn’t know what the candidates were running for – ask their own questions and get involved in intimate conversation with the candidates in small groups, creating a personal element to the mass LUSU and campus-wide coverage.
Another initiative that was put in place to give students a chance to engage with the elections was the idea of series of mini-husts on Wednesday afternoon in Week Eight. The idea was to catch the student population passing through Alexandra Square, and to give the candidates two minutes each in which to outline their manifestos.
Alexandra Square became a focus point for the two days which voting spanned. An hour before voting opened on the Thursday of Week Eight, the square was taken over by the candidates and the current VP (FEDS) in the so called ‘Noise In The Square’ countdown the hour until voting opened. An hour before voting closed, a repeat of ‘Noise In The Square’ started, as a final campaigning push for the candidates to gather last minute support.