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Why should you vote in the 2024 Student Union Officer Elections?

Why should you vote in the 2024 Student Union Officer Elections? By Charlie Landenberger

From Putin’s performative elections in Russia to the United States’ potentially decade-defining decision between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, it is clear to many why 2024 has been dubbed the ‘year of elections’. Indeed, in the UK, an election is expected in the autumn with Rishi Sunak’s government set to face a fierce reckoning at the ballot boxes. 

However, closer to home, here at the University of Bath, we also have elections taking place for our Student Union Officer roles. While they don’t have implications for global or national politics, they are vital for the direction our Student Union takes and the issues it chooses to champion. 

Throughout this week, you will be able to vote for an SU President as well as Community, Sports, Education and Activities Officers – all of which have a decisive influence on our student body and community. In addition, post-graduate students will be able to choose an officer to represent their particular concerns. 

In total, 18 candidates are vying for the six available posts – leaving you, the voter, with plenty of choice as to who you would like to see elected. However, if you’re not happy with the selection for those particular roles you can choose to vote to re-open the nominations, allowing others to put themselves forward for the role. 

The most senior position up for grabs is the SU President post. The SU President is the figurehead of the Student Union and has significant responsibility in determining the strategy of the Union. They coordinate the team of four other officers as well as chairing the Board of Trustees, which includes senior figures from across the university such as the Vice-Chancellor, Treasurer of the University, and charity figures. 

The most important remit of the SU President, however, is representing your concerns. They should take the lead on issues which matter to students – to ensure that you and your viewpoints are engaged. That is why when the polls open you should use your vote to decide the candidate you believe will best represent the issues that matter to you – whether that’s bus fares or prices of meals on campus. 

Below the President, we found our team of four officers. As their title suggests, each one has responsibility for a specific area of the SU. The Community Officer is vital in representing the student community and ensuring their general well-being. Jimena Alamo and Hannah Hajzer, sitting SU President and Community Officer respectively, have recently been championing the issue of student housing to both local stakeholders and at a national level with a recent trip to parliament. 

With six community officer candidates to choose from in the 2024 SU Elections, finding someone who best represents you may not be a problem. In addition, expect transport and cost of living concerns to be at the top of any Community Officer’s agenda after last week’s Bath Time survey demonstrated these were among the most salient issues for students. 

The other candidates’ roles include our Sports, Activities and Education officers. Over their specific remits, each officer has a significant responsibility. Whether that’s our Sports officer delegating resources for our sports clubs and ensuring the development of BUCS and recreational sports, our Community officer developing the university’s sustainability work and guaranteeing a flourishing arts community at the university, or our Education Officer who chairs the Academic Rep system and sees to your educational welfare. 

As Cambodian-American human rights activist, Loung Ung, explains “When we vote, we take back our power to choose, to speak up, and to stand with those who support us”. 

Therefore, when the polls open on Tuesday, make sure you are one of the first to exercise your opinion and, in turn, determine who you want to see running our Student Union and shaping our student experience here at the University of Bath.

Why you should vote in the SU elections, according to our SU Officer candidates themselves by Elliot Rose

I visited the carnival of democracy that was the Parade on Tuesday afternoon. There, he found several candidates vying for student’s votes. To help spark student engagement, I asked each candidate that was present the same question: ‘Why is it important to vote in the SU election?’. The responses were diverse, but each candidate unsurprisingly echoed an overwhelmingly positive sentiment about voting in these elections. Amber Snary, the lone candidate for Education Officer (sorry not sorry RON!), said that there were ‘a whole bunch of reasons’ why students should vote, most importantly that it allows students to choose the policies that they want to be enacted in SU policy, and that an active ‘endorsement of the student population really means a lot’, signalling to a strong swell of support for a candidates policies. This was a point taken further by Zuber Lakhani, running for Postgraduate Officer, who said that elected candidates exist as a proxy for the interests of the students who voted for them; ‘If they (students) choose a perfect candidate according to the manifesto then I think it is in turn their voice being represented in the coming year’’. 

Peter Irvine, running for President this year, remarked that the act of voting in this election is the best way to ‘get your voices heard’, further arguing that choosing to not vote in these elections and then complaining about university issues which matter to you is effectively ‘causing your own issue’. He finished by saying students should look for ‘realism’ when choosing a candidate, ‘forming a middle ground’ relating their vision of what university should be like with that of an SU candidate’s manifesto. One of his opponents, Jimena Alamo, said that the SU ‘has a lot more influence over students’ lives than people realise’, and that their influence often leaves a decisive impact on ‘regional and national campaigns (…) that defend students’ rights’.   

Other candidates also demonstrated faith in the power that the SU has to mould students’ university experience. The enthusiasm for democratic participation was high, and perhaps unsurprisingly no candidate used their response to explicitly promote themselves. They demonstrated a certain level of respect for the democratic process, acknowledging that each student’s participation in the election was a good thing even if that may lead to an extra vote for an opponent. Admittedly this may be considered a pretty low standard, but it is one found few and far between on a national political level. 

Respect between political candidates and a belief in upholding democratic processes; has the world gone crazy?

A remedy for SU election apathy by Elliot Rose

It is fair to say that many students feel a certain antipathy towards the SU elections and a pessimism towards the achievability of change. This is understandable, and more should perhaps be done by our student bodies to acknowledge these frustrations. Cultivating the student voice is a two-way street, and if we want students to make themselves heard, we need to make sure that students already feel they can be heard. 

To those who see voting in these elections as an ultimately futile practice, I say that perhaps they are not entirely wrong. Likely, some of the candidates’ manifesto pledges will be recycled by other candidates next year when they are left unachieved. But, when speaking to the candidates, I felt that each of them was ambitious about improving the lives of students and therefore demanded respect. Even if I felt sceptical about their ability to achieve some of their manifesto pledges, I still experienced a compulsive desire to provide them the opportunity to try. It is through attitudes such as these I believe that our more apathetic members of the student community can participate in these elections. We can all work to ensure that our student representatives are amongst our most intelligent, empathetic, and ambitious, regardless of whether they eventually achieve what they initially intended. 

Interested in voting? Click the link here to do so. As of right now, you have 19 hours!

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