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The introduction of critical campaigning will allow Full Time Officer (FTO) candidates more freedom to put forward their opinions in the up and coming election period.
In previous years candidates have been restricted from commenting on their opponents manifestos, focusing purely on their own policies. This method has been criticised as being too restrictive, since it has not allowed candidates room to have a constructive debate. The introduction of a panel debate will allow candidates to engage with their opponents opinions and be critical of policies that have been set out in manifestos.
“Critical campaigning, clarification of rules and a lot more ability for candidates to shout what they are about rather than having to tread carefully around a stagnant by-law” are some of the changes that have been introduced this year, said LUSU VP (Finance, Events, Democracy, Societies) Matt Windsor.
The gruelling campaign period has been reduced from 14 days to 12 days, to reduce candidate exhaustion. The previous time scale was seen as “too long”, by Windsor. He added, “some may argue that if you’re running for an FTO position then you should be made to jump through hoops to do everything and anything. Wrong. You should be doing everything relevant and useful for students. There is no point in candidates getting shattered, not eating and falling behind on their dissertations because they feel that they haven’t got enough cardboard on campus”.
Student apathy is seen as an issue during election periods, particularly during FTO elections, since some students find it difficult to engage with the candidates. Therefore, candidates will be encouraged to find more inventive ways to interact with students, such as one to one interactions in college bars or through anonymous surveys.
“Robbie Pickles had an interactive Rubix cube last year that students wrote all over regarding their views. This had more student input than any general meeting than I have seen in four years,” said Windsor.
The relaxation of campaigning rules will give candidates more freedom to be inventive with their campaigns.
“Expect a lot more cardboard, Facebook pictures, bed sheets, shout-outs and hopefully some more inventive structures or initiatives around campus. To a degree, the elections will only be as exciting as the candidates make them, so we’ll be encouraging people to go all out”, said Windsor.
The FTO positions are elected in Week Eight of Lent Term every year, and the chosen candidates take up their paid role from the end of Summer Term for a year. The positions available are those of President of the Students’ Union, and five Vice Presidents, covering different areas – Events and Democracy; Academic; Media and Communications/SCAN Editor; Equality, Welfare and Diversity; and Activities.
Vice President (Events and Democracy) and Vice President (Activities) are relatively new roles, being elected for the first time this year, and formed from the previous positions of Vice President (Finance, Events, Democracy and Societies) and Vice President (Sports). Societies and sports teams will now be under the care of the VP (Activities), with events and democracy remaining part of the same role, but giving that officer a more manageable task.
Nominations for FTO positions will be open on Thursday, Week Five at 10am and will close on Wednesday, Week Six at 6pm. This will be followed by a candidates meeting and workshop at 7pm on Wednesday, Week Six. The campaign period opens at 10am Sunday, Week Six and continues until voting closes. Hustings, which includes a panel debate, is on Tuesday, Week Seven and voting is from 10am on Thursday, Week Eight to 4pm on Friday, Week Eight. The results will be announced on the evening of Friday, Week Eight. All voting will be done electronically through Mi-Voice.
Last year’s FTO elections will be remembered for the problems with the elections of the Vice President (Academic) and Vice President (Equality, Welfare and Diversity). While all the results for the other positions were announced as expected on Friday Week Eight of Lent Term last year, a problem with voting codes being sent to Graduate College members meant a revote had to be held for these positions.
Due to the risk of some people being able to vote twice, it was deemed that the results of these two elections were too close to announce, and so a re-election was held the following week.
Last year’s elections were also notable in that Robbie Pickles and Marc Handley were uncontested when they ran for President and Vice President (Sports) respectively. Handley had initially been contested by Erika Vann, but she dropped out prior to hustings and the vote. In previous years, positions have had at least two people vying for the role, with people prone to dropping out nearer the time of the vote, similarly to Vann. Two uncontested positions was unprecedented, and this year will see more of a push to get as many people as possible standing in the elections.