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Following Week Eight’s college and cross campus elections, Bailrigg’s News team have carried out a survey to discover what Lancaster students really think about the election process.
44 students completed the survey, with 18% of those being postgraduates and 82% undergraduates. County college formed 20% of the students surveyed, followed by 18% Cartmel and Graduate students, 14% Fylde, 9% Furness, 7% Bowland and 4% Grizedale, Lonsdale and Pendle students.
When asked whether they were aware of their college JCR and what it does, an 86% majority answered yes. 82% were also aware of the position of LUSU Cross Campus Officers and what they do.
Although, regarding the 14% and 18% of respondents who were not fully aware of these positions, one of the students surveyed suggested that “small communication can go a long way.”
“CCO’s will never live up to the expectation if students don’t see them. LUSU could devote a section of their website to CCO’s [with] pictures [or] videos of what they do,” they said.
In terms of voting, a respectable 75% of those surveyed said that they would be voting in the forthcoming elections. Pendle College had the highest voter turnout of 36%, followed closely by Fylde with 35%, Bowland at 29%, Cartmel and Lonsdale with 27%, County, Furness and Grizedale with 24% and Graduate College at 5%. CCO elections saw a 6% turnout.
Vice President (Events and Democracy) Olly Trumble stated that “Lancaster University traditionally has a higher voter turnout than many other Unions in the UK, something which is positive, but there is always room for improvement.”
“It’s important to remember that some positions were uncontested. This can, but shouldn’t, affect the amount of effort candidates put into their campaigns and, in turn, the voter turnout” he pointed out.
This year’s elections have improved in some areas, as Trumble told SCAN that “we have seen a 150% improvement on the turnout of Graduate College rising from 2% to 5% this year and a greater turnout by international students.”
“[There is] also a larger number of international students in JCR or Cross Campus positions which is great and the hope is that we can work with all student officers towards creating an even more diverse intercultural understanding as a result of this,” he added.
Bailrigg’s survey also found that 49% of those asked did not feel that the elections were important, and a staggering 82% felt that they were simply popularity contests.
One respondent suggested that “there needs to be a list of the candidates available somewhere. I want to know who’s running before I actually get to the ballot paper – and I don’t want to have to scour Facebook!”
This concern for greater publicity was also addressed by another respondent to the survey, who stated that the elections “need to be better publicised so they don’t turn into popularity contests” going on to say that the main thing they want to know is if the candidate has “got a plan, if [they are] capable and have the time to do the job being asked of [them].”
Another student also claimed that “some candidates present no ideas or examples of why they wish to have the role, but instead choose to crack jokes and display themselves as the most ‘likeable’ candidate.”
However, Trumble said that he “would question the validity of this survey due to the fact it did not encompass a proportionally wide range of students out of the 12,000 plus students we have at Lancaster. However, I do understand that sometimes the act of being an elected officer can appear as a popularity contest.”
“I would urge any student who feels this to confront their officers and question what it is that they actually do. Many people stand in an election because they are passionate about issues that affect students and want to make a positive change,” he concluded.
Despite concerns over student awareness and popularity contests, one respondent encapsulated the positive aspects of the election process, commenting that “the JCR and CCO elections are a great part of the Lancaster University experience […] and the roles and jobs which elected members carry out are of a great importance to everybody within their respective college and within the university as a whole.”