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Concerns have been raised about the amount of positions that need filling in the upcoming LUSU Part Time Officer by-elections. It has emerged that the majority of the people leaving are third years who cannot complete a full year in the role.
Suggestions have been made that some students ran to bolster their campaigns for Full Time Executive Officer, previously referred to as Sabbatical Officers, or for future career prospects.
“Part of the reason so many people go for these positions in the knowledge that they won’t be able to serve the full term is because they are planning to make an election bid to become a sabbatical officer in Lent Term, and as such wish to prop up their LUSU CV with the ‘experience’ of different positions held and roles fulfilled in the Union” said Aidan Williams, Equality Campaigns Officer.
However Robbie Pickles, University Council rep and LUSU President-elect, defended the Part Time Officers, saying “it’s fair to say that some of our most experienced officers are likely to run for Sabb, and they often gain that experience from filling a Part Time Officer role. So whilst one could view it as Sabb candidates gaining election points, I think it is more likely that the experience of a Part Time Officer role encourages individuals to run for Sabbatical office.” On a personal level, he added that “it is certainly not what motivated me- I only considered running for President some months after starting my role of University Council Representative.”
Pickles said that he would like to see more first years get involved and run for a full term, but the benefit third years can bring through experience is beneficial for the Union. “Although it would be extremely refreshing to see more first and second year students run in these positions and complete a full year in office, the experience provided by many third year part time officers is invaluable to the student movement as a whole.”
This opinion was also held by Williams, who went on to suggest that this shows a significant issue on the Union’s part, by them not encouraging involvement from the wider student population.
“The fact of the matter is that LUSU still isn’t engaging with its membership – for all its talk of engaging with students, its idea of what that is is pretty much just putting up posters at election time and promoting higher turn-outs – when in fact we should be trying to get passionate students to actually turn up to the committees in the first place, contribute and we can all work together to try and achieve something – that’s what used to happen here years back, and it’s what happens at most unions across the country.”
Williams went on to refer to an “old guard” of long-standing officers within the Union, resulting in both reduced discussion in bodies such as Union Council and in LUSU becoming “cynically bureaucratic.”
Some of the officers who are leaving gave reassurances that they are happy with their achievements in their short terms in office. Pete Macmillan, Welfare Campaigns Officer and LUSU Vice President Equality, Welfare and Diversity (VP EWD)-elect, pointed to the SWAG card and being an “active member of the team” that brought BBC GrubClub to the University last year. He added that his “general capabilities” have been improved by attending NUS conferences and training days through the role.
Chaz Ginn, Liberation Campaigns Officer who narrowly lost out to Macmillan in the running for VP EWD, said that she has mainly helped to facilitate the ideas and campaigns of others, although she was involved in Lancaster Womens’ Day and the execution of the Lent term International Mixer event in Grizedale bar, along with several other events.
Sam Johnson, leaving her post as Elections Chair, said that she was “happy with her decisions,” adding that she has “achieved things personally and developed some skills.” Johnson was unable to comment on motives for running in third year, due to her position as an impartial elections co-ordinator.
The positions currently up for election are Chair of Elections, Liberation Campaigns, Societies and Events Group Chair, Sports Chair, Media Board Chair, Post Graduate-Taught Representative, Chair of Student Media Board, Academic Campaigns Officer, Equality Welfare and Diversity Council Chair, Welfare Campaigns Officer, University Council Rep, Science and Technology Faculty Rep, and Inter College Chair.