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Since its inception a couple of weeks ago, the LUSU cow has been swift and decisive in its polarisation of student opinion. Rampant, even. Like a bull in a china shop perhaps (I’ll try to cut down on the terrible puns). The cow’s mission was simple: to increase awareness about the upcoming Full Time Officer Elections. Whether you support the perhaps beefy amount of money spent (or invested) on it, it is undeniable that this bovine beauty has got tongues wagging.
Almost exactly a year ago, SCAN conducted a survey with frankly damning findings: 82% of students did not even know what an FTO was, while 74% of students questioned did not even care who won between the two men running for LUSU President. This apathy is astonishing and goes some way to justifying the need for some kind of big brash (one might say bullish) initiative to get people to their laptops and click for who they want to represent them for the next academic year.
Of course this break from tradition will rattle a few cages and may prove something of an easy target for people to butcher (too far?) but the simple fact of the matter is that the student body’s apathy is one of our biggest enemies. While JCR elections turnout last year were in fact over 20% above the national average, the undeniably larger and arguably more important FTO elections were floundering in the doldrums of mediocrity.
The LUSU President, George Gardiner, attained his role last year with 1,973 votes across all three choices. VP (Activities) Marc Handley won his election with 1,371 votes across five choices. In a university boasting over 12,000 eligible voters this turnout is frankly abysmal. Personally I feel that introducing a visual embodiment of the LUSU elections is an excellent way of getting heads to turn and getting people to vote.
While the cow has indeed cost the princely sum of £800 this is no four week advertising campaign, no flurry of meek and mild posters that blur into the background alongside the army of people selling Carleton tickets and the latest developments at Sugarhouse. This now legendary livestock is the property of Lancaster University Students’ Union; a tangible symbol of cross-campus democracy that may well in future become as synonymous with student life as Bowland Tower or the annual cut price poster sale. Who knows what else this cow could become?
No matter what the results of this year’s FTO elections, one thing is clear: the statue of democracy incarnate is here to stay at Lancaster and will not be cowed into retreat. Instead of crying over spilt milk perhaps its pertinent presence will inspire students to vote for change or even run themselves. Make sure your voice is herd (!).