Elections at SUSU are changing
Last Wednesday, your elections committee finalised the timetable for all SUSU Elections for the year ahead. SUSU is run by students at all levels, and so it’s vital that we deliver when it comes to elections. Feedback in this process begun from the day the Sabbatical elections ended in March, and through our Sabbatical blog and discussion groups in July.
The discussion picked out several key areas that I wanted to work on:
- An elections timetable that works as a whole, with holistic and clear marketing.
- Valued student leader elections (NOT classing them as ‘second rate’).
- Elections that don’t create apathy amongst our students.
So the tactic we’ve adopted to improve these areas is to reduce the number of individual elections periods. Excluding the upcoming referendum, we’ve almost halved the number of elections periods from last year, which now leaves us with 4.
- Course rep and Post Grad Taught Student Leader Elections (at the same time)
- JCR Elections
- Main SUSU Elections
- Academic President and Course rep Elections (overlapping)
The main change here is the ‘main SUSU elections’, which will feature the Sabbatical and Trustee + Student Leader + Union Councillor elections (check here for more information on what these positions mean).
With the exception of the 1st rep course rep & PGT officer vs. JCR positions, this means that we will have just ONE set of elections for each term. This will give us a massive opportunity in terms of how we see elections throughout the year and create clear marketing for them, so that more students are aware of the opportunities (to run AND vote).
It also means we have a chance to really value our Student Leader elections. In the last 2 years, we’ve been asking students to go out and vote for the main student elections… wait a couple of weeks… and then vote again – the student leader position will always been seen as an afterthought if it’s put after the Sabbatical elections. Putting the two together gives us so many more opportunities to explain what student leaders are about and empower the positions, without creating apathy amongst our students.
No arrangement is perfect, so it’s important that you raise any concerns or issues you think might arise with this system, so that we can look for solutions to them. I am confident this is the best solution to take democracy at SUSU forward.
17/08/2012 at 8:37 pm Permalink
I’m not at home at the moment so can’t do a proper reply, but my immediate concern is how the grouping of the student leader and sabbatical elections can be reconciled with the all of the student feedback (from the union council ideas discussion group and on other blog posts – including a lot of the people currently likely to run in these elections next year!) that was against this grouping?
17/08/2012 at 9:13 pm Permalink
Well I look forward to a ‘proper reply’ when you get the chance 😛
The feedback was very useful and not in vain. Having the number of comments on the blogs and discussion group that we did allowed elections committee to be confident that it was considering the whole issue when debating it.
When making this decision we were able to find solutions to each of the issues raised in the facebook group, which gave us confidence that this method could reach the best outcome for our students. Obviously if there are any reasons that you feel that these wouldn’t work, then feel free to raise it here.
I guess the key point to take away is that just because we didn’t decide on the same outcome as much of the feedback recommended, it doesn’t mean that we didn’t listen and appreciate it. As mentioned above, having that feedback was crucial to being confident with our decision.
Look forward to your reply
18/08/2012 at 2:41 am Permalink
Still trying to keep this short (the big post will come, don’t worry), but if you could perhaps clarify some questions and concerns which I don’t think have been raised yet I’d appreciate it! (lots of the points I was going to raise have already been brought up, here or on the group)
1) Less elections, but is this the right way to do it? Student feedback lead to wanting to have less elections. I agree! There were far too many last year and they all come one after another… What did the feedback say about what to combine, however? If I was asked should there be less elections, there should be. If asked if student leader and sabbatical elections should be grouped, definitely not! There are other ways to group things and most importantly, spread things out, that don’t result in combining sabbaticals and student leaders into one massive election.
2) Considering both audiences: Was it taken into account that the feedback from candidates (both past, present and future) is as import to consider as voters, as I see them both as “stakeholders” with an important perspective to consider individually? Surely any reasonable review would consider equally the voters and the candidates and try to reach an optimal solution for both?
3) Too big! Information overload! A lot of people like to make an informed decision on who to vote for, but if you’re combining student leaders with sabbaticals with union councilors with trustees into one mega-election, that’s a lot of choice, a lot of candidates and an awful lot for one election. If we go on numbers from last election, that’s:
43 student leader candidates
+ 16 union councilors
+ 21 sabbaticals
+ 9 trustees
= 89 candidates
Whether you’re a student trying to vote for 89 candidates out of 38 roles (albeit some which won’t be applicable to every student – maybe 70 out of 30 roles), the media desperately trying to cover this many people with interviews and debates, or a candidate lost in a sea of people, surely those numbers are too high?
4) More discussion? This has come about very quickly and feels like it’s trying to be pushed through over Summer – the calendar taken to elections committee at the start of August had student leaders and sabbaticals separated, so this must have changed following that meeting. Why was this not raised earlier for discussion, before the end of term? Or similarly, being raised next year for 2013? While something needs to be done, we need to make sure it is done right. The significant concerns from people who ran in these elections last year who would have been affected and those potentially running in elections next year who will be affected surely highlights the need for further discussion?
18/08/2012 at 10:52 am Permalink
Morning Oli, thanks for the comment. I’ll try replying in order too 🙂
1) You’re right, there are other ways to group elections together, but we’ve done this too. However, it wasn’t done haphazardly just to try and reduce the number of elections, it was also done so each period of elections could have clear messaging. Semester one (with the exception of the PGT officer) is now all about first year elections, with all first year course rep positions and JCR positions being elected. Semester two is now all about general SUSU elections (all those positions that run your Union). Semester three is all about academic elections – academic presidents and course reps. The grouping wasn’t done half-hearted, and it wasn’t done randomly… and also, it did directly come from feedback.
When asked about whether they should be put together, the main reason for and concern against often boiled down to the priority of student leader elections. People have been annoyed at how little importance they can receive or they are worried about being overshadowed. With this thinking in mind, it seemed, by far, the best option to have them together. Keeping student leader elections after the Sabbatical elections meant that SUSU wasn’t able to give them clear promotion (because we’re always going to focus more on the main elections) and meant that voters weren’t able to give them their time (they had already given voting a chance and then that was over). The number of people who last year, student leader candidates must have approached, who responded with “I’ve already voted” – referring to the Sabbatical elections, two weeks prior. The main change had to include Student Leader and Sabbatical elections… because that’s where the most problems laid.
2) I see this comment stemming from the fact that a number of prior candidates will be in the Union Council discussion group, which by-far, didn’t want the elections to be together.
For feedback to be taken into account, the result doesn’t have to come up with what they preferred. The feedback of the Union Council group (in fact any place where there was feedback) was collated and taken into account. This new arrangement is beneficial to voters, yes, but it is also beneficial to candidates. We can now provide candidates with varying levels of support and responsibilities, based on what election that they are taking part in. As there is only one election, SUSU can be much more supportive of all these candidates as each term, there is only one election to focus on – hence we can provide so much more.
3) The numbers seem high only because we have tried to develop the wrong culture in the past. In the past, our message, because we’ve separately elections has had to be – vote for all these positions, hence your concern over almost 90 candidates. However, that’s not what we should be doing.
We should be encouraging interaction from voters based on what THEY care about. Students should be told that they should vote for a position that they don’t care about. I personally have never really been involved in sport at SUSU, I don’t think I’ve ever joined a club… so I wouldn’t want to vote for the sports sabb and student leader positions (although I would cause I just love democracy so much).
Structuring elections this way means that we can focus on zones of interest that students will have to help them engage in elections – ultimately increasing interaction and therefore getting more people to vote. It’s not a problem if there are 5000 people interested in sport at SUSU and the VP Sports Development gets 5000 votes… but it is a problem when the sports student leader positions get a few hundred votes. That’s thousands of people interested in sport, not voting for their Athletic Union Officer! Although more promotion can help that… it will never solve it.
So really, we’re only increasing the number of people to vote for if they want to. Some people will only care about one area and so might want to vote for 1 Sabb and 5 or so student leaders… others might want more. Holistic marketing, and more interesting ways of engaging students in elections can help those who are interested in more than one area find out that information… but for the majority of students, we’re not just giving them what they want – to be able to vote for what they care about. We need to move away from thinking that elections should be used to get people to care about SUSU… it should be the other way round – we should get people to care about SUSU, so that they then think about elections.
4) Realistically, there was always going to be one meeting where it went from not being together, to being together… and I alone have been talking about it for over a month.
I started the discussion believing that they should not be together – that it was too many elections, then after thinking about it, after seeking all those concerns from students and all those benefits – all the concerns were able to be addressed, but the benefits were too great to lose.
I agree with you though, which is why I’m here… I will be happy to discuss this decision with any student for as long as it takes – because the more I justify it, the more it seems like the right way to give elections this coming year a fantastic opportunity… and I want to give as many students as possible a chance to share that optimism. I understand it will take some time, because it involves a shift in our perception of elections… but I am willing to give that time, if it allows that shift forwards 🙂
Thanks again for writing, Oli, some fair concerns. Feel free to share some of the concerns on those previous matters you’ve mentioned, if you’re not convinced by my justification for anything.
18/08/2012 at 12:36 pm Permalink
One thing I’d add to why Dave said is to challenge the idea that candidate and voter are of equal importance. The vote. Is the most important person to consider as the whole election is run for them, and I say this having been a candidate three times. It’s essential that the elections is as approachable an engaging as possible for them.
The key consideration with the candidate is that within similar elections all candidates have equal opportunity to run, and that the design of the process does not exclude anyone from becoming a candidate. Considerations such as length of election are key in that.
Of course the experience of the candidate is worth considering and supporting, but it should not take priority over te voter experience.
18/08/2012 at 3:05 pm Permalink
To add further support to David and Sam, there’s concerns about the “candidate experience” that shouldn’t be worried about.
Firstly on too many candidates – Councillor elections, by and large so far, have not been contested – 2 elections out of 16 (Humanities and Social/Human Sciences). Similarly the Trustee with Portfolio/ Student Leader positions had a lot of uncontested positions – having the elections all separate, but uncontested – is confusing the voters, and seen as irrelevant, if theyre going to win anyway. If we get to a point where all positions are contested, then it shows that we’re achieving our goal of getting people interested in SUSU in the first place.
On the candidate experience front – it improves it. I remember Josh Davies running for E&E officer, campaigning away, and I asked him why he was putting out all the stops to campaign – and its because he wanted to feel part of the elections, and did. Currently, student leaders dont give that impression – you dont see anywhere near the same scale of campaigning (good) or excitement on campus (bad!) – and this year, sabb elections were pretty dead, and needed life put back into them. Putting all the elections together would mean that more candidates would lead to a better atmosphere on campus – which is more fun, you feel more part of something, and is actually a positive experience. We cant rely on a Billy Fitzjohn/ Jess Staff style of campaign with over 100 campaigners – we need to think differently about how we get campus buzzing – and this is the best way in my eyes.
On Student Leaders are campaigners for Sabbs – well they can still help out, you can see group campaigning, slates forming, or just joined up campaigning tactics – the common question I had as a candidate was “who else are you voting for in the others” – the perfect opportunity to tout another candidate – so if anything, having your campaign team running in elections as well – it actually gives them an incentive to get out to people and talk to them even more, because they have something to gain too. You cant separate campaigners and assume that because two people are running, they cant help each other out – its in fact the opposite in my experience.
The other points about information overload have been addressed – but the key is that elections are not our opportunity to tell people what SUSU does – it’s the voters opportunity to decide who runs what we do.
But to quickly add to your points, Oli, on 1), there is no combination other than suggested that fits together so well. JCR and course rep elections together would be too early or too late depending on your interest. Councillor and Academic elections is a conflicting message. Putting councillor with student leader, but separate from sabbs – its two elections in the space of 3 weeks – and thats where the major issue is, people hate it. Putting student leader elections in summer term is too late in the year for handover/ clashes with other priorities for SUSU and other elections.
On 2), we considered both arguments equally, and tried to come up with solutions – for candidates, we did, for voters, we didnt, other than this. What part of the candidates experience of running would be detrimentally affected by putting them together?
3) ive addressed, and 4) this has been discussed for a long time on the Council group – and its got to the point where a decision needs to be made so that plans can be put in place. Organising elections takes months of work – starting as soon as the dates are agreed, so by delaying that, we’re damaging the elections.
17/08/2012 at 9:09 pm Permalink
Thank god you’ve grouped them all together – voting once is enough! Would much rather just do it all in one go, make a big night of it all
17/08/2012 at 9:19 pm Permalink
Glad that you’re happy with it.
The final night itself will be magnificent: with the variety of positions to be elected, we should be able to engage students with almost every interest, from every activity and bring the student body together to hear the result.
I’m certainly excited about the opportunities that it opens up.
17/08/2012 at 9:25 pm Permalink
While yes, I agree with consolidating elections, grouping Sabb, SL & Councillor elections is a massive issue, and that’s got to be around 40+ elections all to be voted on at the same time, with the Sabb elections massively overshadowing the other ones.
While in a sense it could work (national and local elections are done together) how will things like Elections Night Live work? How would campaigns week be organised? Many SL candidates are on Sabb teams as well. I just hope some of these issues have been addressed.
Yes, last year was too many (by-elections didn’t help), and it is hard to balance the general interests of SUSU with those who are actually running, but I’ve got concerns certain these won’t mesh too well
17/08/2012 at 9:55 pm Permalink
Your concerns are welcome, David. The main purpose of this blog, besides just being open and transparent about our decisions, is to give people a chance to raise concerns like this and find the solutions to them.
I would say that the Sabb elections massively overshadow other positions already. Realistically, by asking students to research and vote in so many elections they will always be doomed to be overshadowed. However, by sorting these elections together, students can find the elections that they REALLY care about. For example, some students will be interested in the media: for them they can focus on the positions of VP Comms and the Media Heads. In the previous year, the VP Comms position got over 5000 votes, whilst the media heads got at most around 600.
Elections Night Live has many new possibilities opened as well – announcing the successful Student Leader candidates and then their relevant Sabbatical who supports them (or in the case of the President – the board of trustees). This is just an option, but shows the possibilities we have.
Many new possibilities also open in campaign week, which need much discussion. It would be clear that we would not give the same level of budget or publicity to Student Leaders and Union Councillors as we would to Sabbaticals, however, how much so is open. We have time to discuss these variations so that each ‘level’ of election gets the right balance of opportunity, without placing unfair pressure on candidates or damaging the holistic view of the election.
There is still a lot more we can do to help candidates that doesn’t correlate to the timing of elections, which we are already discussing and considering: the length of campaigning / support in entering nominations / support in finding the position that suits them / support in running a campaign. So much that we can explore to improve the experience of the candidate. I’m benefits to the voters and candidates is not mutually exclusive.
Thanks again, man
17/08/2012 at 9:58 pm Permalink
Only a short response as am on a phone. An important thing to remember is that the focus of the elections should be on giving the best possible experience to the electorate, while ensuring equality of opportunity for the candidates.
There is no perfect solution, but this is definitely the best one. Campaign teams of all sizes can be successful, and there are plenty of students to fill them. Some student leader candidates may support some Sabb candidates. Only 3 years ago I ran in a election with both volunteer officers and Sabbs and I felt a part of one big election, and not overshadowed.
Thought would have to be given to the practicalities of elections night live, but I think its right to give our student leaders as much respect. Also, although an amazing event it is not the key aim of the elections, and its the elections themselves that should come first.
I believe that we can make it work, and am glad we’re giving it the chance, there was a key message from students that we had too many elections, and that people were generally very confused as to why were holding another so close to the Sabb elections. This is the only sensible way tp elect them in fewer elections, but gives a really exciting set of new opportunities.
A big one for me is that people can vote for all the positions in their area of interest in one go. Sp for example if I care about sports I can vote for VP Sports, AU officer, and Sports officer in one go, without having to vote twice across.
Finally its worth noting that not everyone will vote for every position
17/08/2012 at 10:51 pm Permalink
I feel that yes that while there are benefits to having them all at once, such as the ability to vote on all fields of interest at once. I don’t by any extent expect SL candidates to get anywhere near Sabb results, and no change would really see that.
While yes, I think almost everyone wanted fewer elections that last year, such a change seems overwhelming. It would be interesting to see how it pans out, and I do hope I’m proven wrong on this matter.
17/08/2012 at 11:15 pm Permalink
I agree with you, David. I don’t expect them to get near Sabb results either, but I do expect an increase. Students’ Unions that have their elections together have positions corresponding to Student Leader getting usually around 1/3 of the number of votes of full-time officers. To put that in perspective, we currently get around 1/9 at best… so unless we break from these trends then it will definitely be a massive improvement.
I suppose the way I’ve written this blog doesn’t help. I’ve focused on telling students the differences that we’ve introduced; whilst, in reality, a LOT of the way elections shall be run are not going to change. I wrote it this way because I didn’t want to hide the information away… I wanted to have a chance to justify the decision and hear what concerns we need to consider.
With that in mind, do you have any other concerns about the change? If it’s any consolation, I started this period of feedback with the opinion that elections shouldn’t be put together, but I was convinced when all the reasons for and against were considered.
Thanks again, David.
18/08/2012 at 12:02 am Permalink
For those who are interested, there is some more informal discussion (including the history of this) on the Union Council Ideas Discussion Group, which is open to all to participate in as well. Thought it might be useful to help link these together, even though it’s useful to comment on the blog as well, it’s good to see the whole picture.
18/08/2012 at 12:27 am Permalink
There is a link to my first Sabbatical blog (on elections) and the discussion group in the article, but good of you to reiterate, since more discussion is occurring since.
18/08/2012 at 10:21 am Permalink
It’s worth noting that although useful this discussion was not the only thing that fed ion the decision. Hours of discussion in elections committee considered te concerns raised on the group, feedback from 2 elections, general feedback from students , and considerations of students more generally.
18/08/2012 at 12:10 am Permalink
Why hasn’t this gone to council?
18/08/2012 at 12:38 am Permalink
There are a couple of reasons that comes to mind, I apologise that they’re in no particular order:
1) Union Council created Elections Committee to organise the running of elections. The committee is accountable to council for its actions and I’m accountable to the student body as an elected Sabbatical Officer. Hence why I’m happy to discuss the decisions from the meeting. Not just whether they were made democratically, but also the logic behind it. I would rather that students agree with me, than just think “I’ll take their word for it” – although at the moment, I’ll take either =P
2) Timing – democracy at SUSU has come a massive way in the past year by getting more students involved in the running of your Union, but the issue with that is that it’s left us with a perceived culture of having elections ALL the way through the year, and an actual culture that is not much different. This has meant that we have been unable to create a holistic approach to elections, where we consider our real aims of democracy and allow our Comms team to tell students a clear message that they can use. This holistic approach has to consider the whole year, which won’t be able to happen if no progress can be made until the first council of the year (Oct 22nd).
With that in mind, this will go to Union Council, because the decisions of Elections Committee are accountable to UC. So come October, as chair of elections committee, I will be happy to stand before council and justify our decision. Again, elections committee was created so that Union Council could make progress in-between Union Council sessions.
For those wondering, elections committee during this period consisted of the 7 Sabbatical officers and the team voted for this change 5-2.
Thanks for your comment, Luke. P.S. was that 140 characters?
18/08/2012 at 12:45 am Permalink
Cheers for the response Mr G, appreciated on a late Friday night.
18/08/2012 at 12:54 am Permalink
That’s more than alright, Luke. It’s good to see so many people passionate about democracy.
18/08/2012 at 10:25 am Permalink
It’s also worth mentioning for clarity that the level of decision was well within the remit of elections committee. As it was not a higher level policy or financial decision over £15,000 council would not be the natural place to take it. Although it feels like an big decision which some peole will be very interested in (hence the blog), there would be the same level of interest around things like society budget allocations, which are also looked after by a standing committee. What’s important is that council does keep an eye on decisions and highlight where risks may be.
18/08/2012 at 11:59 am Permalink
Okay, I’ll begin by declaring that I’m all for reducing the ‘constant democratic flurry’ of the last year to a more concentrated set of elections. I’m all for bringing the elections in Summer term down to one (if not zero), as far from the exams as possible; and yes, perhaps bringing Councillors into the main electoral period’ll make students more aware of both them, and Council. How these ‘Main SUSU Elections’ will work logistically (Elections Night Live going on til dawn anyone…?) is something I’ll look forward to seeing. I’m sure there’ll be problems, and complaints, and the like; so long as Elections Committee commit to an objective assessment of the new mega-election and whether it’s disadvantaging candidates/too much to handle, so long as they seriously consider it against the alternatives in the aftermath, I’ll be happy. I’m sure a review of that sort’d be a fairly reasonable and adroit step for Elections Committee to take.
I must admit, though, I’m not happy about the timing of elections in the autumn term. Admittedly two of the three elections (JCR and 1st year CRs) are relevant to only one year (Fresher-centric, if you will), and the third’s not earth-shatteringly vital for vast swathes of the student body. Nonetheless, we’ve really got four elections in the autumn term, one of which is arguably the most important one of the whole year: the Referendum.
Working from http://minutes.susu.org/files/election_elections_timetable_autumn.pdf, I do commend the two weeks allowed for the Referendum, but I’m cautious that it’s scheduled too close to the (entirely unrelated) JCR elections. The above timetable does resemble the ‘constant democratic flurry’, particularly if you’re a first-year: and of all the yeargroups where we should work hardest not to generate voter apathy, surely it ought to be those with the longest time left at Southampton, in their first weeks? And surely the logistical issues of moving the Referendum a week later, the JCRs a week (or two to ensure they directly follow on from the course rep and by-elections) later are inconsequential? The incumbent JCR officers would have a longer period of handover, the newly-elected JCRs would have longer to get to know their roles and each other, plan their year, be trained – and, crucially, there’d be only one set of elections prior to the main electoral event of the year.
Given also that this Referendum is (hopefully) an extraordinary event, the combination of CR/By-election/JCR needn’t follow on into the year 2013/14 – but I would seriously suggest it as an option for this year, or risk overwhelming this year’s Freshers and harming their turnout permanently.
18/08/2012 at 12:55 pm Permalink
Cheers for the comment, Markus.
Haha I don’t imagine Union Councillor and Student Leader positions getting the same time that the Sabbatical positions will, but whatever we do will still be an improvement on the exposure they get at the moment – even if it’s just bringing the successful student leader candidates relevant to each Sabbatical on stage before the announcement of the Sabbatical position – loads of opportunities and some really exciting potential – worth a whole blog in itself =D
Your concerns there (with regard to reviewing) are shared – there will be no point trying this new initiative unless we prepare ourselves to exam the good points and the bad points, look ourselves in the eyes, and decided whether it was the right change to make.
With regard to the referendum, it’s date is slightly different from that, and a blog will come out next week specifically on that. It’s important to notice that there are distinctions between an election and a referendum, but I understand your reservations, and can confirm that there is more of a break between the JCR elections and them. Also, the referendum is not restricted to a campaigning period, so some discussion might be ongoing through the period of JCR elections too.
With regards to the Course Rep and PGT (and by-elections) positions, they take up office as soon as they are elected, so it’s important to have these elections early – however, the JCR positions don’t take up office until semester 2. Also, it’s very important for first years arriving at Southampton a chance to see that JCRs are more than just the people that run Freshers’ Week. It’s a year long position that supports up to thousands of students in their most vulnerable times and thus potential candidates need a chance to understand this.
With that said, I agree with your reasons for moving the two together, and it was discussed, but because of those problems, we thought it would be best not to this year. Hopefully, through the different communications channels, the referendum will reach different students than the elections that term (that only will focus on first year students) and thus the interaction will still be there. If you think that any of the issues above with regards to what we need from the first elections vs. JCR could be solved then please let me know… Because one election per term just has such a nicer ring to it, doesn’t it? =P
Cheers for your comment, Marcus.
18/08/2012 at 3:52 pm Permalink
So before I give my comments on the actual decision made, I’ll raise my concerns on how the decision was made.
Firstly I just want to say I have no doubt that those present talked at length during elections committee about all the issues and concerns.
However I am concerned that such a huge decision was made when elections committee was not complete as in it only involved the sabbs, when normally it would contain 5 union council reps (and correct me if I’m wrong) and 2 student leader trustees.
The structure of the trustee board is done so that no one group (sabbs, students or external) have a majority. The structure of union council is done so that the balance of union councillors to those in leadership positions is roughly balanced. I feel that the same principle should be here- that the decision should not lie with the sabbs alone. Usually there is an equal balance between sabbs and students, when you take into account the union council reps and student leader trustees.
The makeup of this standing committee is like that for a reason. There are elected representatives other than the sabbaticals and I think that they should be able to fulfil their roles as well in line with the constitution (which says the membership of the standing committees) because otherwise the sabbaticals could effectively become dictators.
SUSU always says that it is run by students. But is it really considering this decision was not made by any actual student student representatives. Yes the sabbaticals are elected student representatives but I believe that actual students should also be a part of every standing committee. It just feels like this decision has been rushed through over summer, with only a select few people around. I do understand the reasoning why, but I think it would be better to take the decision properly and implement it in the year 2013/14 rather than what has happened now.
The thing that really got me is that if these 5 union councillors had been there, they could have swayed the vote in the other direction.
I feel that the same thing applies to any standing committee that takes place over the summer (constitution committee I think is one).
If you believe that this decision is so right, then surely the same conclusion would be come to by any group of people, so why not wait until the first one once it is a fully elected committee and see if they come to the same decision.
18/08/2012 at 4:18 pm Permalink
You’re right, Jade. Elections committee, once term begins, will have 5 Union Council representatives on it… and if any member of the committee wishes to discuss the timetable then they are able to, and I’ll encourage that, so we can all have faith in what goes ahead. With that in mind, I look forward to your thoughts on the debate itself 🙂
However, I do not see benefit in leaving a whole year of elections to suffer the same feedback they did last year. One of the main benefits of this forward thinking and change is that we can communicate elections in a holistic and clear manner, time spent delaying this decision would sacrifice that for a whole year. Elections Committee has the remit to set the elections timetable… It is not a matter of it being rushed. There is a constant balance between involving students in decisions, collecting feedback and using those arguments when forming a conclusion, and simply having to make a decision to make progress.
Change can seem scary, but it is necessary to improve as a Students’ Union, and ultimately some things are subjective – sometimes you just have to try something and see how it goes to be able to convince people it was the right decision.
18/08/2012 at 4:41 pm Permalink
Yes elections committee does have the remit to set the elections timetable, but its membership should also contain 5 union council reps, that is the problem that I have, none of what you said above has made me feel any less concerned about it.
Why not only create the timetable for term 1 and then in November review the timetable for terms 2 and 3, when the committee is more representative, if you’re worried about timing. Because yes I agree that leaving it until November would have a huge negative impact on the Autumn term elections but I think that would leave enough time to properly plan the Spring and Summer term elections.
Look at who the people are that are supporting this decision the most- the sabbaticals. Look at the people who have the most problems- student members of union council. I just feel very worried that this decision has been able to go through with only sabbatical involvement.
I am not saying that student feedback wasn’t looked at, just that I feel that such a decision should be made with a full committee, otherwise I see little point of there being any other elected representative officers on standing committees other than the sabbs. Because if that’s the attitude that’s taken, why not just get rid of all the other representative roles and just let the sabbs decide everything.
I do definitely agree that something needs to be done, and I’ve never actually said that I disagree with the decision, just how it has been made or more specifically who by or who not by.
18/08/2012 at 5:07 pm Permalink
Hehe I think we’re agreeing on most points here, but just using different wording.
When elections committee elects the rest of its membership in October, they will be able to review the whole timetable (almost, as you said, the autumn term elections will already be partially completed by then). However, I slightly disagree with your point about having enough time. We might have enough time to put on the elections, but we won’t have enough time to make them as amazing as they could be.
I don’t entirely understand your thinking though… do you think it’s okay for Elections Committee (as it stood, with just the Sabbaticals) to create the timetable for term 1, but not for term 2 and 3? What’s the difference in your opinion?
I’m glad that you agree that something needs to be done. Apologies, if it sounded like I assumed you were against the decision, I was just interested to hear your thoughts on the decision itself either way 🙂
Thanks for the comment, Jade.
18/08/2012 at 5:36 pm Permalink
My justification on why its ok for the timetable for term 1 to be created was because your justification for not waiting until creating the whole timetable in November seemed to be that it would be too late by then, and I agree it would, so I think in that case the decision does need to be made and the negatives of delaying making that decision outweigh the negatives of making the decision over summer.
I think this problem is not just for this decision, I feel that any committee that wants to take place over the summer, should have elected union council reps to it before the end of term. Yes logistically that could be difficult but I do think it is entirely possible. Even if they were just temporarily for over the summer (ie the people who would be willing to commit to attending committees over the summer) and the permanent ones were elected in the first council of the year. Because we have already held the elections for the majority of council members.
As I said before it does concern me that we are letting such important decisions be just made by the sabbaticals and this stretches to all decisions made during these standing committees over the summer not just this one and in my eyes is a whole other debate that needs to be had. Because to me how our union is run (eg decisions are made fairly, sabbaticals aren’t dictators), is more important than getting an extra few hundred votes.
18/08/2012 at 11:36 pm Permalink
Sorry for the delay in my reply, Jade.
Hmm… it’s an interesting thought. It wouldn’t be too difficult to simply extend the role of Union Councillors so that they would run until the end of the Summer, but this then excludes Councillors who would have graduated… and more importantly, it’s not right for us to expect students to be here in Southampton over Summer… and by giving them responsibilities over this period, that’s what we’re doing. I’m not sure if that’s fair on those students… do you?
Also, as Sam mentions below (and he’s written it much better than I can, even if I copied him), Sabbaticals shouldn’t be seen as so far away from student officers. We are elected by students in the same ways that Union Councillors and Student Leaders are elected. I agree that having more voices at the panel is a good thing, and that’s what why I think this is something that can be reviewed when elections committee has a full membership, but I don’t think it’s in this case the better option.
Maybe I haven’t talked about it enough, but there is a LOT that we can put into this one general SUSU election, and for it to reach its potential, the planning has to start now. So I guess, I believe that it’s acceptable in the same way that you think that the decision of the timetable for term 1 is acceptable. Still… I share your concern, and want people to believe in this decision, hence why the committee will review it in November 🙂
Now, you going to let me in on what you think of the decision itself? Would very much appreciate your thoughts, Jade. Thanks for commenting… again =P
19/08/2012 at 10:25 pm Permalink
Well there are already elected members of next years union council, so that removes the problem of those who have graduated. As for expecting students to be in Southampton over summer that’s why I suggested making temporary members or just tell people the expectations of them and they choose whether to take it or not. You say about giving them responsibilities over this period, but you already do. I mean look at the people who were invited to the standing committee review, most of them students. And if I remember correctly there was an equal balance of sabbaticals to students there. And I’ve been invited to budget meetings put over summer so how is that fair? I still went and I am sure that there are other elected officers who would come back for an elections committee meeting if they wanted to. I agree that no student officers should be expected to be here but I don’t think that should prevent them from having the opportunity.
The membership of elections committee is the way it is for a reason. So to me this is an on-going problem that needs to be looked at, separate from just this decision. Yes sabbs, student leaders and union councillors are elected in the same way but why is union council and standing committees made up of a mixture of these groups? In the same way that union council is made up of 30 reflective members, because different people in the different roles have different perspectives.
And if I thought that the sabbaticals had made this decision in a conspiratorial way, then trust me I would have said, I just think it should have been made with a full elections committee, with its variety of membership because I still think that this is a very big decision that requires that.
I’ve posted my thoughts on the actual decision separately because to me the process of making the decision and the decision itself are two separate things and I would have a problem with how the decision was made regardless of what the decision itself was. (If that makes sense!)
19/08/2012 at 10:46 pm Permalink
Ah yes… you’re right at the UC elections – my bad.
I take your point, and perhaps it’s not that different and worth giving people the opportunity… but there is a difference between inviting people along to a review meeting or a budget meeting, compared to electing them to a position where they have responsibility. It’s another level of expecting them to be there. Although, I suppose as long as the expectation was well advertised before the election, it could work. Good suggestion.
Thanks for the separation in comments, Jade 🙂 It’ll be useful. Hehe I’m glad you don’t think that we’re conspiring. I agree with you – it would have been better if the full membership of elections committee was there (and maybe that’s a good reason why we should look into electing some members for over the Summer), but in this case, they weren’t there. And I’ve already tried to emphasise how important it is to begin planning and communication to help this project realise it’s full potential. However, as I’ve said before, elections committee has the opportunity to revisit this decision at any time (i.e. when we elect the full membership).
18/08/2012 at 6:11 pm Permalink
Come on guys everyone knows having loads of elections is sooo 2012!! This year we’re going to undermine student award by having as many awards ceremonies as possible!!
18/08/2012 at 11:45 pm Permalink
Hey Kim, cheers for the comment.
Exactly, been there, done that, got the Carly Rae Jepsen t-shirt.
With regards to awards ceremonies, you’ll be happy to know that improving the size of the SUSU Media Awards is part of my Sabbatical Plans for the year.
Here’s a blog where you can read more about it – http://blogs.susu.org/sabbs/2012/08/14/vp-comms-plans/. It’s a great chance to recognise and thank those student volunteers from SUSU Media who give up hours of each day to supporting other student groups, entertaining and information students at the University of Southampton and supporting SUSU in communicating to and creating community with our members. They’re an incredible part of the elections process last year too (come full circle).
I’m getting excited about it already.
18/08/2012 at 6:40 pm Permalink
I get the fear that no students were present, but the problem with deciding in november, to go further than davids comment, actually negatively impacts students.
In freshers – with a complete timetable for the year, we can deliver a consistent message, make it clear when students can run for positions, advertise them appropriately, and talk to people about running. leaving the decision till november leaves it with uncertainty, so if someone is interested at the start of term, our message is “its in term 2 sometime”, and thats before the conversation of what elections theyre running in:
“how do i become head of surge” turns into “in term 2, might be just before easter, might be with sabb elections” – for those wanting to plan their campaign, theyll want to know when to have certain things done by, like manifestos, campaign teams, etc, and not knowing when the election actually is, really throws you as a candidate who has enough to worry about.
theres also the impact on staff in susu who have to organise things, book venues, prepare the website, discuss rules – if the two elections are together, a big part will be to discuss slates/ group campaigning, which will need to happen pretty soon.
yes we could move it back a year – but why wait? in the grand scheme of things, this isnt actually that big a change -not like a review of the positions being contested or something, and its easier to review something if weve tried it – any discussion now would be a repetition of whats already been written here. weve done it before in a smaller scale (7 exec members rather than 36), but it worked fine then, and theres nothing that made us think it wasnt scalable to the student leader structure.
19/08/2012 at 10:34 pm Permalink
In regards to your comments on leaving uncertainty. I personally do not see this as a problem. A sabbatical said to me in October “in january there are 8 seats for our council”. This ended up being in February and to me, that is just as vague as saying that the student leader elections will be in February/ March. Not knowing when that election would be didn’t put me off, I think if you know you want to run for something, you pretty much will do regardless of timing. It’s the same for the student leader elections, I didn’t know when they were going to be in fact I only really decided the week before that I wanted to run and I don’t think that put me at a disadvantage. I don’t think that potential student leader or union councillor candidates should be encouraged to start planning their campaigns months in advance because I don’t think they should be on that scale. Sabbaticals candidates maybe, but not the other two. I personally had no idea at the start of term what I would end up running for and I think that’s the same with a lot of student leader candidates, so I really don’t see that there are huge benefits to knowing exactly when the elections will be. Obviously enough time does have to be given in order for people to do the planning required and to make sure that they keep up to date with coursework, general uni work etc, but I don’t think that needs to be at the beginning of term.
19/08/2012 at 10:59 pm Permalink
On your point about how prepared student leader candidate should be I would disagree. I can see no problem with a student leader candidate planning in advance to fun for a position which they may have been wanting for years. These are extremely important positions, with substantial responsibility. That’s not to say someone can’t come in last minute (I only finally decided to run for Socs officer 2 days before deadline).
The aim this year is to engage with students earlier, and not to put on a last minute campaign to get candidates.
18/08/2012 at 6:50 pm Permalink
I share Jade’s concerns. It is simply the Sabbs that made this decision…where is the democracy there? This should have been opened up for a vote atleast at Union Council before a decision was made. This decision has been made far to quickly, and I’d advise SUSU to really consider making this definite.
I am all for student leader elections being “more important” for use of better words but I do not think this is the way to do it. Sabbatical elections will ALWAYS be more important that SL and this just makes us even less important and less noticed than we are now.
I ask Dave why this decision was made now…without true input from the people that elected you. The students. I’m really disappointed in the way this decision was made.
18/08/2012 at 6:58 pm Permalink
And to add, you called it “Your Elections Committee” If it truly was our elections committee this vote would have been made with a full committee.
18/08/2012 at 10:17 pm Permalink
On the point of where is the democracy. The Sabbatical Officers are democratically elected into their roles by the students, and making decistions such as this is a part of that role. They are also elected in the same manner as student leaders, so there is little to differentiate, and 6 officers, elected in separate elections categories made the decision.
As for timing, summer is almost always when the elections timetable is confirmed. There has not been a dramatic change in which positions are being elected, or radicle change to the rules, only the shifting of the timetable.
Its also worth noting that the two student leader trustees will have been invited, and if they were unable to attend they could have sent thoughts and concerns to the meeting. I was unfortunately unable to attend myself, and so did exactly that, sending my thoughts by email to the chair for the committees considerations.
I’m feeling a worrying trend in thinking that the sabbaticals are some how very different to the average student, and are out to conspire. Or that this were a secret and hidden decision which set out to get round democracy. It was carried out in accordance to the rules of the Union, and went further in trying to engage through blogs and posts.
20/08/2012 at 11:02 am Permalink
Loving the Irony of the Union Officers tab on the democracy section:
“Union Officers – they work for you”
well unless of course they disagree with you then they’ll just gang up on you and berate your comments on the susu officers blog.
“Vote for the man who promises least; he’ll be the least dissapointing”
20/08/2012 at 12:24 pm Permalink
It’s important to note that in this debate there are students who side with both sides of the decision – therefore no matter what was decided, it would disagree with someone.
I apologise that I wasn’t able to respond to all of the comments on this blog – as it was the weekend, some of my fellow Sabbaticals offered to help me out in making sure that we could dignify every student’s opinion with a response.
I’m sorry that you have such a bleak outlook on student representation. SUSU does some amazing things for its members (a lot of those things are done by students too) it’s just sometimes the case that it takes the decisions to be carried out before some people can see the benefits of them.
Thanks anyways, Kev
20/08/2012 at 12:28 pm Permalink
I think it’s also important to say that the Sabbaticals are glad that there is a place where students can share their concerns on these matters – if we didn’t then we wouldn’t blog so frequently.
I personally don’t think that any of the officers, responding to these comments have done so in an offensive or aggressive manner, and if you do then it’s quite a serious issue.
We value every comment that we get on these blogs, and will often open conversation with that person whether we agree with the content of the comment or not.
20/08/2012 at 2:32 pm Permalink
It’s not that comments are offensive.
It’s more that there is an undertone in frustration from the male sabs that have commented here. The sabs made a decision, think they have the correct one, it would seem that from the feedback you ahve had on this blog alone that people are unhappy.
Rather than putting your hands up and saying, right we’ve obviously gone about this the wrong way be that how we came to the decision or how it has been communicated. The sabs have decided to agrresively defend their position.
For what it is worth I think go ahead with the timetable to have “Freshers” elections in first term i.e. JCRs etc.. but elections committee should meet in the new term, once UC and trustee reps have been elected and then discuss the rest of the timetable.
20/08/2012 at 2:55 pm Permalink
Okay… I can understand that…
I think that the reason why we’re commenting back is because this is a fairly big change – it takes a while to be able to show people how this would be better.
The concerns that have been raised by the dozen or so people that have commented on this blog have been helpful to see what people are worried about, but none of them are unable to be resolved. That’s why people are replying to the comments… because there are solutions to the concerns.
Elections committee will meet again throughout the year, and undoubtedly, this decision will be part of the discussion – but I am convinced that this is the best decision to take elections forward.
20/08/2012 at 4:46 pm Permalink
Just to reassure you that there is no intention to be short, or give an undertone of frustraition, although many of these posts are very late into the night, and so may not be worded perfectly. I’m hoping that its better to post right away then wait if thats possible.
Also, i’m a little concerned by your comment that the Male Sabbs have somehow responded negatively. Only 3 Sabbs have posted (myself, Sasha and Dave), myself and dave more so, as we are very involved in elections. This has nothing to do with gender, and I’d be worried if it came across that way.
18/08/2012 at 11:56 pm Permalink
Also, just a side point, Josh. Feedback WAS taken from students. The majority of this feedback was informal, from the many people who were fed up with elections… and some of it was from the Union Council discussion group and my first blog. ALL of it was listened to… all of it was used.
In elections committee we went through each argument that was presented (in the UC discussion group against this idea), and found a way that it could be resolved. That IS using that feedback. Unfortunately, as not all students could be there, I’m currently compiling a document, which shows said solutions to each of those concerns.
My aim is not to convince you to just ‘trust us’ about this… but to convince you it’s a fantastic opportunity to take elections forward with so many amazing other discussions to be had about it from what it opens up! =)
19/08/2012 at 3:42 pm Permalink
“In elections committee we went through each argument that was presented (in the UC discussion group against this idea), and found a way that it could be resolved. That IS using that feedback. Unfortunately, as not all (ed: no) students could be (ed: were allowed to be) there, I’m currently compiling a document, which shows said solutions to each of those concerns.”
In a debate or discussion, if you completely remove the other side, it is always possible to resolve all their issues. After all, government is a lot more productive when you remove the opposition.
19/08/2012 at 9:53 pm Permalink
It is worth pointing out that the decision was not unanimous. There were strong views on either side, so I’d be confident that both sides of the debate were put across. 2 out of the 6 at committee voted for separate elections, and 4, a majority, for together.
19/08/2012 at 10:51 pm Permalink
Hehe thanks for the comment, James – I do love a good game of ‘spot the difference’.
As Sam has tried to demonstrate above, this was not a decision that the Sabbatical team had set out to make. In fact, I entered this meeting with the thinking that we should keep the elections separate; however, over the discussion we had through those 2 hours, my position was swayed. Every concern that I had could be answered and some great reasons to try it out were given.
Some of them are mentioned here (which is the document I was talking about), feel free to have a peruse and pick up on any responses you have concerns with – http://tiny.cc/SUSU-elections-doc
19/08/2012 at 10:52 pm Permalink
hehe sorry, couldn’t resist – here it is – http://tiny.cc/SUSU-elections-document
18/08/2012 at 11:44 pm Permalink
Will the new change be open to discussion once these elections are out of the way? Seems a long way off now, but I guess we can’t get it right until we have tried a variety of options.
18/08/2012 at 11:50 pm Permalink
Of course, Josh.
it’ll be open to discussion throughout, and systems will be in place, so that we have targets and measurables to determine where we had success and most importantly, not just where we had failures, but WHY. That way, when looking at the process for the following year, we’ll know why we need to change things.
I think in some cases that’s exactly the spirit. You can never know whether something as big as this will be successful until we try it, I can give all the justification in the world, but sometimes we just have to realise that change is necessary to further and develop.
Thanks for your comment, man.
19/08/2012 at 10:29 pm Permalink
Firstly I just want to say that I do agree that something needs to be done. Last year there were way too many elections and a lot of feedback I’ve heard supports that students were getting very fed up.
I can also see that there are a lot of benefits to what is stated above. However I have a few concerns.
Firstly, why are the academic president elections and course rep elections overlapping? Because to me, using the reasoning you’ve given for putting the sabbatical and student leader elections together, it would seem ideal to put them together. I mean wouldn’t it be better to have people vote for them at the same time. Stop people from saying well I voted last week? Help people to understand the academic representation structure more? Increase engagement, profile of both roles and number of votes?
Secondly, you say that the number of elections needs to be reduced, yet for first years they have 2 elections in term 1 and a referendum. Yes elections and referendums are different but they still both involve voting and I’m not sure how many people will really see a clear difference, a lot of people I’ve spoken so certainly can’t. Do you think this is right? This also shows that all other years, will only have the referendum in term 1.
So trying not to repeat what has been said before, I have concerns that the negative impact of holding the sabbatical, student leader and union councillor elections at the same times outweighs the positives of doing so.
Firstly, as has been mentioned elsewhere, it stops unsuccessful sabbatical candidates running for student leader positions or union councillors and stops unsuccessful student leader candidates from running for union councillors. Many people said to me that if I was unsuccessful in my student leader campaign that there are plenty of opportunities to run elsewhere. If this happens, then there isn’t really unless you’re interested in academic representation, which not everyone is. And if you are about to go into your final year, then that’s it you can’t run for anything else, which could mean a lot of good lost talent.
It has been said that candidates could run for multiple positions. I see many potential problems with this. Firstly, how would a candidate be able to cope with running multiple campaigns? Wouldn’t it be a bit confusing to the voter? Most importantly, Standing order 6, 6.1 a says “No person may hold more than one of the positions of Sabbatical Officer, Trustee, Student Leader or Union Councillor at the same time.” So what happens if you are elected to both? You obviously wouldn’t be able to take up both positions so what happens then? When do you decide what position you would rather have? Is the position you decide not to take up giving to the candidate that comes second? If we continue to use AV then I think that this wouldn’t work, because the candidate that comes second may not have come second if the first place candidates first preference votes were giving to the candidate that was the second preference votes (if that makes sense). Is a by election called, which would just increase the number of elections not reduce it?
I don’t think that it is fair to expect student leader and union councillor candidates, who are running for voluntary roles, to do campaigning on anywhere near the same scale as sabbatical candidates, who are running for a full time paid job. I would have never run in the student leader elections this year if they had been at the same time as the sabbatical ones. I would have never considered running to be a student leader this year if I hadn’t been involved in campaigning for Sam in the sabbatical elections, but under these new plans I would have had to wait under year before getting a chance to run. I think it’s very unfair to expect first years, who have been at uni for 5 months to have to be involved in elections on such a big scale. I think it just would add too much stress to people. If you look at Sams goals blog he says “I aim to support VP Welfare and Communities in ensuring that all students have the potential to become successful in winning a SUSU election” and I think by putting the elections together will prevent this. Yes you can say that you can win an election without a big campaign, but one thing that one of the successful sabb candidates told me this year was that you pretty much have to do what your competitor is doing. I think people would still feel pressured in to do a much larger campaign and even being involved in such a large scale election, in terms of numbers of positions and numbers of candidates, would stress people. Also if you look at the ‘Volunteering Development Strategy’ it talks about removing any potential barriers of getting students to volunteer and I think this form of election will only increase it.
From speaking to many people, I think that for the average voter they would just be too confused by what they were voting for. I don’t think it would help people understand the structure of the union, in fact I think it would confuse them even more. I think people would get fed up with even more candidates coming into their lectures, I definitely got more annoyed when I had 5 or 6 candidates in my lectures then 1 or 2. I also got really annoyed in halls when candidates keep coming to have dinner in our halls and this would only increase with an increased number of candidates. I think it would lead to greater voter apathy as the voting would seem harder work. You say that people will be encouraged to only vote for what they care about but in reality how will this actually work? Do people understand enough about each position to know if they care? How will people be able to remember which candidate that they heard was running for which position?
And because it’s a Sunday evening, that’s all you’re getting for now!
19/08/2012 at 11:03 pm Permalink
Thanks for the comment, Jade.
1) To be honest, I spoke to this about Sasha the other day. The main reason that we saw as them being different is that every student who is eligible to run for a Acad Pres position is also eligible to run for a Course Rep position, so every unsuccessful Pres candidate could then be a course rep (unlike sabb and student leader where only non-final years could). Whether that’s a good enough reason not to be changed is another question, but I wasn’t too pressing, because I wanted to focus on one change at a time 🙂 In short, I thought the same thing and it’s something to possibly look into if this new method works in the Spring Term.
2) Again yes, this is a concern, but unfortunately needs to happen. Students will see the referendum as being very similar to an election, hence why we put it as part of the election timetable – so we could see it from the perspective of the voter. With the case of course rep and JCR elections, it’s just a case of timing. Course reps need to be elected early because they begin their position right away and can start making improvements to their course, but JCRs don’t begin until semester 2 and need a chance to see what the position is really about (otherwise we have people running for JCR positions that think it’s only about organising Freshers’ Week – and not a year long support network for sometimes over 1000 students). In my opinion putting them together would be more detrimental (especially as they’re very different in remit too) – what do you think?
I’ll respond to the spring term election comments separately 🙂 Thanks, Jade
19/08/2012 at 11:43 pm Permalink
1) I’m pretty sure that all student leader candidates are eligible to run for union councillor too. So to me, if you are trying to look at elections in a ‘holistic’ way, then the same reasoning should be applied to both. You either separate the union councillor and student leader ones or you hold the academic president and course rep ones at the same time. So I think you should apply the same logic to both otherwise the decisions are inconsistent and if that starts happening then I think there is a real problem.
2) No I agree that needs to happen, I was purely pointing it out.
20/08/2012 at 12:34 am Permalink
It’s a shame, cause it really would be great to just have 1 election period per term.
I basically agree with you on the first point. I think it’s slightly different because the work and responsibility that a Course Rep has is very similar (albeit more specific) than the work that an Acad Pres, whilst although the SL position includes Union Councillor… many students see their roles for their specific remits and therefore wouldn’t necessarily be passionate about a councillor position if they didn’t get a student leader position – still whether it’s a great enough difference to warrant not having them at the same time… I don’t know.
19/08/2012 at 11:31 pm Permalink
Righty then… =D
1) Students can volunteer and get involved with SUSU even if they don’t have a position. In my second year I attended every Union Council and worked with sabbaticals even though I wasn’t a Sabb, Student Leader, trustee or Union Councillor. You are commenting on this blog, not as the Societies Officer, but as a student – you still get a voice here, at Union Council, in the Sabb Officer, whenever you email us, wherever… students who really want to do something will always be given a way.
2) Hehe yeah the multiple campaigns scenario is a-whole-nother conversation in itself – it hasn’t been decided yet whether it would go ahead, but it’s a possibility that we now have. It allows candidates an extra freedom. I can imagine a student running for both a SL and a UC position and just telling students that they’re running for two positions – it’s a choice that they have to make. If they are worried that they won’t win one position then they can risk running for another to increase their chances (but at the same time, confuse their message and therefore potentially damage both campaigns). With regards to the electing process, if someone won both, they would pick and the unchosen position would go for a by-election at the same time as the Academic Pres elections (therefore it wouldn’t increase the number of elections).
3) It’s important to separate this thinking. Just because student leader elections are at the same time as Sabbatical, doesn’t mean that they have to do the same level of campaigning. If you need to look for an example – think of this year gone with Trustee candidates. They didn’t do as much campaigning as the Sabbatical candidates because SUSU was able to support them in training, give them a specific budget, and give their position exposure too. Yet they weren’t pressured into heavy levels of campaigning – I don’t think I saw a single trustee do a lecture shout-out (although there might have been one or two).
Also, at the moment, SUSU isn’t able to really support students into running for the Sabbatical and Trustee positions because we have so many elections to focus on – we have to just use these elections as a chance to show students what elections are (you seem to be an example of this). However, if we have just one election in this term with months to prepare for it, then we can have a much stronger communication message for getting students to nominate themselves, understanding what the different roles are (which we can better do, because we can communicate SUSU positions in their place in a structure, rather than by themselves, abstractly).
It’s not an easy task, but it’s also something that we shouldn’t shy away from. We shouldn’t think that just because some students might not understand the structure of volunteers at SUSU that we shouldn’t bother explaining it to them. The students that could be inspired by a 2 minute video explaining how the structure affects all areas of student life could be the next Student Leader or Union Councillor.
It’s true that if we had 100 sabbatical candidates then it would be a huge impact on students on campus, but we don’t. We will have a similar number of sabbatical candidates to last year… and then a number of other candidates. We can be smart in how we encourage students to campaign – giving them support, so that lecture shoutouts isn’t all that they know.
The reason that students think that they have to vote for all the positions at the moment is because we tell them that – we say “look how important all these sabbaticals are” and then a few weeks later, a lot quieter “look how important all these student leaders are”. Although this is true, we can be a lot smarter with our messaging because student leaders and union councillors have more specific remits. People might not know if the VP Student Engagement affects them, from its name, but they will know if the RAG Officer or Union Films Manager affects them. It’s that specific remit that student leaders have that mean SUSU can change its elections marketing from ‘vote for everything’ to ‘vote for what you care about’. It’s harder, but will be much better for engaging your average student.
Thanks for the feedback, Jade
19/08/2012 at 11:17 pm Permalink
On the scale of elections. Putting them together does not mean that student leaders will have to run sabbatical style elections. However these are positions of great responsibility, and although they are voluntary they are a real commitment, both in time and effort. The roles are worth that, and are extremely rewarding, but it is for this reason that we always recommend to not take on any other responsibilities.
It’s also worth noting that there is so much more work we want to do to transform these elections, and allow them to live up to their potential, while creating something that can truely engage with all our students. Currently we put the sabbaticals on a pedestal, barrage everyone once a year, fatigue their interest, and then a week later attempt to do something similar to a pn electorate which has already had enough.
What we will do is work to create the right culture around these elections, put in o,ace the right structures to support all the different groups running in unique ways, rather than treating them all the same. This will drive up interest and will have a positive result on SL in particular.
The biggest single problem I think we have with the elections at the moment is that we currently have the vast majority of student leaders elected in with votes in only double figures. This to me is an extraordinary democratic deficite and better promotion a week or two after Sabb elections for student leaders, to an electorate which is severely disinterested is not going to work.
Apologies if any of my responses are fairly brash, it’s fairly late, but hopefully I’m getting the meaning across.
20/08/2012 at 11:57 am Permalink
First of all, thanks to everyone for discussing this and for all the question answering (particularly over the weekend)! To avoid repetition and going in circles, I’m going to wrap up (I’m sure you’ll be glad!)
I know I’ve been focused on the concerns so far, as I do think they need answering, but I want to clarify that I do see some of the benefits of the proposal and realise there are some advantages:
– The number of elections does need to be reduced and the way they are done needs to be rethought
– The student leader positions (and their elections) need to come into their own, rather than feeling like an afterthought
– The idea of zones – supported by descriptions of the zone, the involved roles and what they mean and voting for candidates in that zone
However, for me, I do worry that some of the concerns and the impact that this will have at the moment outweighs the positives, or at least gives need for further consideration and discussion before a final decision is made:
– By increasing the scale, it is increasing the expectations which I have significant concern will put up barriers to certain people being able to run and thus they will lose the opportunity to get involved (it’s not a question of passion or dedication, but often time and academic commitments or just the level of expectation which could be very daunting to a first year wanting to get involved, for example)
– By grouping all the main elections together, a person failing to get one position basically loses their chance to be involved with the running of SUSU for an entire year (as a student leader, or even as a union councillor)
– The effect on the average student of such an increase in the amount of people campaigning may be negative rather than positive, in terms of being on the receiving end of close to 100 people campaigning (zones don’t help with regards to campaigning and people were getting annoyed with just the sabbatical candidates last year)
– The difficulty for the average candidate in trying to campaign amongst 100 other people campaigning to the same audience
– That the SUSU media groups losing the lead in the elections coverage will greatly detract from the experience, both for us and for them, the one time of the year where they come together and work together in a large-scale student-lead project and that their members will be given the difficult choice between getting involved or running in an election.
– Noting all the other concerns that have been raised by others who are involved as well
– It seems too much emphasis is being placed on elections as a solution to a wider problem of student engagement where SUSU would be better spending time to communicate with students on what SUSU offers and how to get involved with SUSU
– It would be helpful to see the minutes of the elections committee where this was decided and the student feedback used to make this decision
– That there has been sufficient concerns raised and discussion to warrant re-examining the decision and taking the discussion further
21/08/2012 at 9:14 pm Permalink
Ok well this is a discussing that’s dragging on but I’ll throw my two cents in.
On the actual matter, there are a hell of a lot of pros and cons. Looking through this discussion and that on the facebook group, the grouping of elections isn’t actual my biggest concern, it’s how its been pushed through and the way the opposition to the changes are being spoken to that concerns me. But more on that later.
As far as elections go, either way somebody is going to feel undervalued, but from a personal point of view, elections should be kept separate with elections committee looking at ways to re vamp them. When you put all elections together student leader positions are going to be de-valued. The budgets will be less, the campaign teams will be smaller and less people are going to vote. Student leader campaigns are going to be lost, shout outs become meaningless with 10 people shouting various elections spiel about different positions. It’s well known that people either tick random boxes or pick a name they’ve heard of when voting, I know from speaking to an awful lot of people who semi care about elections that this is the case. I doubt people will just vote in sport elections, etc, I think they’ll see the amount of positions and not bother at all.
Also you lose your Rachel Stockeys, your Oli Bills and your Adam Maloneys. These guys run for sabb elections, don’t quite make it but make fantastic student leaders, evident from Oli’s role in this discussion. By grouping the elections you lose these candidates, they either don’t run for a sabb position (lessening the quality of that election) or they run and then miss the Student Leader elections. Either way grouping them lessens the quality of candidate in the elections. It also means that re running candidates are more likely to succeed as less people will run against them. I completely disagree that the biggest and brightest campaigns don’t win. Citing Billy and Jess is looking back a few years, Yes Sam’s campaign wasn’t the biggest or brightest but Shane’s, Sasha’s, Dean’s and David’s were.
So if it were me I’d keep the elections separate and improve the promotion the student leader elections get. Putting them together wont liven up the atmosphere on concourse, it will just end up with more campaign teams looking each other and a longer conga line on the last day.
But what worries me about this discussion is the overriding sense that this decision is correct and final. When I read this; ‘There is no perfect solution, but this is definitely the best one’ I get worried. Looking at the amount of comments disagreeing and talking to people across SUSU I don’t think this is the perfect solution and I certainly know other people who don’t think it is. During this discussion I feel like people who have disagreed with the committee’s decision have been thoroughly patronized and had a lot of their comments brushed over. I’d hate to see a sabbatical team that think their opinions are the only ones that count. I completely agree with Jade’s point that elections committee has been without a lot of its elected representatives. There is the distinct impression that this decision has been snuck under the radar. The amount of people who simply disagree means this needs to be brought to council, whether it’s a constitutional issue or not it doesn’t matter. SUSU is a democracy, let the Councillors, let the members decide, don’t push this decision through without letting everybody discuss a fundamental change in how the union is run.
No offense meant by this post, I just don’t like the way this discussion has progressed.
23/08/2012 at 9:34 am Permalink
Thanks for the comment, James. I have no concerns with the discussion continuing on here (even if some of the issues get repeated – we’re not expecting everyone to read through 60 comments before adding their own). One very serious concern is that you feel people are being responded to unfairly(?) on here. If you could give an example or explain that in more detail that would really help – it’s not something to be taken lightly.
The problem that we were addressing this year was that it wasn’t just an issue of ‘revamping’ or increase publicity to improve the impact of our elections – many students have said that they were tired of hearing about elections; that there were too many. That is one of the main issues that increasing publicity would only have made worse, but this new system allows us to improve.
The other main aim was increasing the value of our student leader positions. Their budget would not necessarily decrease. Why would it? The only argument that I’ve heard for how campaign teams would be smaller is because there would be more campaigns – in which case there would be at least the same number of campaigners, therefore there is no reason that votes would decrease (of course, this is all theoretical, but what do you have to base your judgement upon apart from theory?)
In this year’s elections, very few (if any) student leader candidates did shout outs. The reason for this is the voter apathy that was created after having a major election meant that they would not have been at all welcome in lecture theatres. In this new system at least there is the expectation that for one week there will be mass-campaigning, therefore the student leader positions can finally be part of that expectation – not just some add on. Many students’ union around the country hold their elections together and their part-time officer equivalents to our student leaders get votes in the thousands (not hundreds like ours do).
Voting at the moment, in the Sabbatical elections, sends you through a list of positions to vote for. With the new system we can list areas of interest for people, so they only click on the area(s) that interest them. People ‘tick’ boxes when we send them through a series of positions without choice.
On the note of unsuccessful Sabb candidates running for student leader positions, I agree in some ways we don’t make it as easy for these students to get a position. However, it’s important to realise that in the current state, these students are spending 3-4 weeks campaigning, which is a huge amount! With the new system, they have more options – they can pick between the position that interests them most OR run for both (which is currently allowed in the constitution – but the shaping of elections means that nobody goes for it). It’s a genuine option which the candidate can choose or not.
As mentioned before, I don’t think its practical to just say that we’ll increase the promotion of student leader elections – especially when a lot of feedback from the voters is that they don’t want this. This new system gives us a chance to achieve just that because student leaders will be campaigning when there are thousands of students watching and listening. Also, I genuinely believe that increasing the number of campaigns will liven up the atmosphere on campus. We can’t just rely on having massive campaign teams from Sabbaticals any more, because it won’t always happen.
I agree – I don’t think this is the perfect option (I don’t think that there is a perfect option; but I definitely think it’s a step in the right direction, which comes directly from what students told us last year. They wanted less elections, a higher profile for student leader candidates, and some clear organisation of elections – this option achieves those 3. Other suggestions might achieve some of these and if another was put forward that did consolidate the three, then we could use it.
I think it’s fantastic with the comments we’ve had on this blog and in the Union Council discussion group, however it’s important to realise that this feedback is from relatively very few people compared to the numbers that asked for change after elections this year. I don’t think that publishing a 2 blogs with over 1000 views and 70 comments in under the radar. The purpose of elections committee is to decide the timing and running of elections for the year… however, I agree with the concern that it has not had full membership (as Union Councillors aren’t on it over Summer), however, the committee has chances to adjust these decisions throughout the year. It is not final, neither is my opinion personally on it.
Every comment that this blog has received has been responded to, not because we wish to patronise whoever commented, but because we value it and believe in deliberative democracy. The more we discuss this issue, the better we can understand the perspective the other has come from and even agree.
No offence is taken, James. I realise that there were a lot of points to respond to in this comment, which means that I haven’t been able to go into as much depth as I would otherwise like, if you wish to discuss it more (beyond this blog), feel free to swing by my office or send me an email. I also apologise for the delay in responding to you. I have been away on a democracy conference since Monday.
26/08/2012 at 12:41 am Permalink
Sorry if this has already come up but there is NO WAY I’m reading 62 essay-length comments on this. I’m absolutely stunned that the “main elections period” includes SL and Sabbs at the same time.
You asked the Councillor group on Facebook whether they should be held separately or together. 30 said separately. 8 said together. Dave, you go on about democracy but COME ON, WHAT IS THE POPULAR OPINION HERE?
It’s all well and good this goes through elections committee at the moment, but right now it’s only sabbs actually on the committee, far from the opinion of the student body. I’m shocked that this has been let through, put simply, regardless of my opinion of the matter.
26/08/2012 at 1:41 am Permalink
Hey Moggy, thanks for the comment and haha no, it’s okay. I’m not expecting people to have to read through them all before giving their own opinion.
Well you are right about the majority… however, that Facebook group isn’t the only thing the discussion was based on, although it was a part of it. There was also a large amount of feedback, whether it be formal or anecdotal, that was collected from the end of elections this year gone. So, firstly, I don’t think that it’s right to only talk about the feedback from those 38 students. Secondly, as interesting as the vote was in that group, what was more interesting was the comments and justification those members gave 🙂
The comments agreed with the general overwhelming feedback we had received, which mainly separates into 2 subjects – 1) SUSU had too many separate elections last year. 2) We undervalued our student leader positions last year. When this discussion occurred in elections committee, we literally brought up the comments from the Facebook group and went through the concerns to make sure that there was nothing that couldn’t be resolved. It’d be great to hear your opinion on the matter generally, especially with regards to whether you personally agree with that feedback?
Mmm… I agree with the concerns about elections committee over the Summer… in that there are Union Councillors sitting on the committee for the rest of the year for a reason and therefore we should have a similar membership over the Summer, however I don’t think it’s fair to say “far from the student body”. The last time that I had a lecture was the same time that you last had a lecture; Sabbaticals aren’t suddenly distant from understanding students – I’m still hip and down with the kids.
30/08/2012 at 10:46 am Permalink
Just to pick up on one of the points, with regards to undervaluing student leaders, perhaps it would be useful to more closely examine the role and value of student leaders?
What do you see the role of a student leader as being? Is a student leader similar in level to the old executives officers? How independent are student leaders? Are student leaders there to work for their sabbaticals, or are the sabbaticals there to work for them, or should they work together? How important is the say of a student leader?
It’s a new system and I feel we’re still trying to find out footing, so by asking some of these questions, we can hopefully understand the problem better before trying to answer it 🙂
30/08/2012 at 12:27 pm Permalink
hehe quite a lot of wide questions there, Oli.
I think you are right that it’s always useful to know what we expect of our officers, however with these questions I don’t think there is a set formula that is true for all student leaders as some will have different expectations and some will have different relationships with their Sabbs. I believe this is a massive topic for another day, but I will say this – Student Leaders are accountable to the entire student body, they represent huge groups of students, and have the resources, right and responsibility to make massive changes in their specific areas. We have an opportunity for our elections of student leaders to reflect that importance, rather than an afterthought. We have an opportunity to show students what a student leader actually is – not as an afterthought to the Sabbaticals, but with them – defining the different roles within SUSU together, rather than separately.
A student who loves their sports club should vote for the Athletic Union Officer – not just the VP Sports Development. A student who would love Post Grad representation should vote for their Post Graduate Student Leader – not just the Sabbs who mention them in their manifestos. By putting the elections together, we can truly say – if you love anything at University, then you will have a position to vote for. And if you don’t – then SUSU needs some work =P
30/08/2012 at 1:10 pm Permalink
Just throwing the questions out there – not expecting answers! I know they’re not simple and the answers vary, but I think they’re good to think about and explore – as you say, if SUSU is to show people what student leaders are, then sooner rather than later, we probably need to work out what they are ourselves 😉
30/08/2012 at 3:19 pm Permalink
It is very important, but I wouldn’t say that we don’t know. I think it’s a case of reaching and encouraging our expectations. We all know that our student volunteers should be empowered and supported – they should have responsibilities and mandates to achieve massive things… and every year we discover new ways that we can help them reach that expectation (because we’re not there yet). It’s just that this year, one of those things is how they’re elected…
28/08/2012 at 8:05 pm Permalink
Obviously I’m late to the party but is this a decision that’s been made already? Or is it worth voicing an opinion? It’s not clear so I assume it’s the former.
29/08/2012 at 12:15 am Permalink
Hey Simon, thanks for the comment.
The decision has been made by elections committee – however I’d still like to hear what you think about the decision? 🙂
It is not unchangeable, and more importantly, whatever goes ahead needs to have people behind it, supporting it, so I’m always happy to talk through the logic and thinking if it means people can be more comfortable with any outcome.
29/08/2012 at 12:59 pm Permalink
Hello, Mr G
I just get a sense that this hasn’t been particularly thought through from the point of view of people who aren’t already involved with SUSU.
The way the voting system works, voters get given each position in a random order, right? Say all the sab positions and SL positions are grouped together. The average voter wants to vote for their friend, maybe has a vague opinion on a couple of other positions, then log off and get on with their day. If I had to hunt through thirty different separate elections, say, to find the couple I actually give a toss about, probably I’d give up or just click randomly until I found what I was after. Either way, I think we’re worse off?
What is important about the SL elections: the actual numbers of votes cast? Or is it that those that want to have their say can have it? If this change is implemented, voter numbers will increase for the SL elections unless something goes drastically wrong, will that be hailed as a success automatically? Because I think there’s a big difference between putting a cross in a box and actually looking into it, developing an opinion and making a difference with your vote. Like you say in the original post, there’s an apathy problem. How are you going to measure success in that?
The issue of getting strong candidates is a big one – in doing this aren’t you going to miss out on the people who have been inspired by involvement with the sabb elections? Obviously my fiance Katy was only dragged into it by me but now has a SL position and is on the welfare committee too, there are other examples like Jade who I don’t think would have been a SL without Sam’s passion and enthusiasm inspiring her to go for it. For me it’s that sort of thing that’s the real value of the sabb campaigns, getting more people involved at all levels is more important than anything else. How will you compensate for that effect? Or has it, as I suspect, not really been considered before this post went up?
Anyway I don’t want to write a book but you get the idea. Any response to this would be appreciated.
29/08/2012 at 2:18 pm Permalink
Well I apologise that you get that sense, it’s a hard balance I had to try and achieve between informing students about our thought process and not boring them =P I think it’s important to understand that just because this decision was made confidently, doesn’t mean that it was made lightly – hopefully my responses to the following will help indicate that.
In Sabb elections currently, they’ve been in a row because there were so few, however, if you take the Student Leader elections, as an example, the positions are listed and categorised so that people only have to click on the position for which they wish to vote for. The new system would definitely take this approach, so people only have to vote for the positions they want. More importantly, they finally can vote for the positions that they want, which relates to your second point.
I would say that for SL elections: both are important! In previous years, the people who care about e.g. societies have voted for their VP Student Engagement (in their thousands), but then those same people haven’t voted for their Societies Officer. This is because we aren’t giving students a chance to really all vote for what they care about… but just the Sabbaticals. Having an election just after the main Sabbatical elections means that it is overshadowed and under-promoted. Therefore this new system allows candidates for positions like societies officer to be given a much bigger platform where over 30, 000 check out our elections page and 1000s go to vote – and thus reach students who care about that area.
However, also, the number of votes means that those student leader and union councillor candidates can be voted in with a much bigger mandate from the student body. Considering these student volunteers are representing 22000 students, it is not right that some of them get elected with so few votes.
Further, I think that it’s important to not try to determine what makes an informed vote and what doesn’t. The character of a candidate that is known by their friends – the number of people that they reach through campaigning – the ideas in their manifesto… these are all useful…who are we to decide that a vote is worth more?
With regards to your final point… and apologies for the numbering, if it appears blunt 🙂
1) they can run next year
2) SUSU shouldn’t rely on it’s elections to get people engaged with SUSU – and this new system forces us to improve our engagement with students throughout the year, which is what we should be aiming for. We shouldn’t use involvement in elections to get people engaged… we should get people engaged so that they get involved in elections.
3) SUSU doesn’t end at Union Councillors – there are hundreds more ways that people can get involved in the running of their Union! HUNDREDS =P take a position on Welfare Committee for example.
A lot of thought has gone into this… and it’s that process that has convinced me that it’s the best way to take elections at SUSU forward, from my position a couple of months ago (when I thought that they should be separate). I appreciate that this includes some culture shifts, therefore I’m always happy to respond to any more thoughts you have – sorry for the novel 🙂
30/08/2012 at 10:32 am Permalink
Hi David and Simon,
Some good points raised, although I’d like to follow up on a few of them:
1) Will the zoning include the sabbaticals, or will the sabbaticals be voted on as in previous years and the zoning only used for student leaders?
2) I find the wait a year response rather saddening – a year is a surprisingly long time, particularly in university life. A year later, and the situation for that person might have completely changed. A year later, and after having to wait a year, they might have become disengaged with SUSU. A year later and they might not even be here. Why make people wait a year when we don’t have to? It almost feels like a punishment for those who are not involved in time or who are unsuccessful.
To put it in computer game terms, you get 3 lives with regards to getting involved in the running of SUSU, rather than the 9 you get at the moment. The game with 9 lives is a lot easier – why make it harder?
3) “SUSU shouldn’t rely on it’s elections to get people engaged with SUSU and this new system forces us to improve our engagement with students throughout the year, which is what we should be aiming for. We shouldn’t use involvement in elections to get people engaged”
I agree with this point to a massive extent and it’s great to see it raised! I think *this* should be our focus, not the elections – let’s put the time and energy into going out and talking to students when it’s not elections, to helping people realise what SUSU is and how they can get involved, to showing people how amazing SUSU can be.
As you’ve said it’s not elections to get people involved or engaged with SUSU – we want to build this up from the beginning, we want to get people interested enough in SUSU that they want to vote, that they want to run, that the roles mean something to students. Surely this is the target of what we want to improve? Why do we need to change elections to “force” us to improve this? If you improve engagement with SUSU in general, you’ll improve engagement with elections rather than needing to force it. The ultimate fix to apathy is to give people reasons to care…
I for one would love to see a blog post on how SUSU is working towards this from the beginning for next year
4) With regards to getting involved without a position, would you say that SUSU make this easy and has a good relationship with those that want to get involved but don’t hold a position?
Do we encourage elected officers to work with others who are interested in getting involved?
I was in this situation for a while last year, and despite my best efforts, it wasn’t easy – begging for agendas to know what was going on in meetings, being told I couldn’t be included on the committee mailing lists without holding a position, having to bug the poor people in democracy to find out where meetings where being held and when, actively asking to be included in projects which I found interesting, only to be left out. The only thing I can say is it wasn’t through a lack of trying…
Now I have a position, I’ve quickly become aware as to the amount of information circulated round to those with positions – information which generally isn’t communicated to those without. Please correct me if I’ve got the wrong impression, but information seems to be carefully controlled in SUSU. If you don’t know what’s going on, it’s hard to get involved!
30/08/2012 at 12:15 pm Permalink
1) These discussions will happen in elections committee, but in my mind, I see the Sabbaticals being part of the zoning.
2) I agree with you – it is a long time, but it is still one reason of three that is worth noting. Not winning an election does not mean that you are shut out of SUSU, and the other reasons I gave allow people to stay engaged, and then to potentially run again the following year.
3) You’re right, Oli, they’re separate things… and I’m glad that I got a chance to talk to you about this point. The first point of this blog was about holistic marketing and communications from SUSU… the reason for this is that by having election periods throughout the year, SUSU is damaging its chances to get real communication out to students about everything else that affects them. I think that it’s also important to note that I am part of a team of Sabbaticals. One reason to change elections is so our communication channels can be clearer throughout the year, which means other Sabbs have a better chance to do what they want to. We can better support Chloe’s Campaigns, student involvement in Sam’s master plan, the student voice from Sasha’s course rep structure… that’s why you won’t hear the whole story here… but it will affect the whole story.
4) If you look at the amount that students achieve (who don’t have a position in the standing orders (Sabb, SL, UC or Trustee) then I would definitely say so!) – look at the EVA results… the variation is incredible.
I think it’s probably worth tackling those issues one-by-one, when I was in my second year, I was able to get massively involved in Surge, other Media Departments and Union Politics – without having a position in the standing orders. Since having a position, the main thing that has changed is that I am aware of the admin side of SUSU’s activities more – i.e. what staff do. From my experience, of what first years do, SUSU gets easier to get involved with every year.
31/08/2012 at 5:18 pm Permalink
Firstly, with regards to getting involved, I was focusing on the broader SUSU side of things, rather than including societies and groups as well, which I believe are a lot easier to get involved with (although could always be improved – it’s sad when you hear people wanting to join a society and saying they’ll need to wait for next year to join). I’d argue that the roles in SUSU, standing committees, union council are quite different. They can get involved in Media (which is great!) or a society but what if that’s not what they want to get involved in? (Not my standpoint, I love societies and SUSU media, but it is one I’ve heard from others). Why should SUSU democracy be any different?
Your example of the media I think is a good one, but not necessarily for why you used it as an example – our media groups feel a lot more open and a lot easier to get involved and they make the effort to get people involved. As you said, you don’t have to be in a position to be included, if you’re enthusiastic and interested, you won’t be left out, and most importantly, look at the amount of time they spend engaging with people and trying to get them involved! This often leads to people getting more involved in SUSU itself – how much does SUSU owe to the media groups to the involvement it gets?
Just to pick up on your last point, “From my experience, of what first years do, SUSU gets easier to get involved with every year.” – is there no concern at all (and again, I’m just posing the questions I believe are good to think about) that by having a bigger, grander, larger-scale, single one-chance massive election, it might make it harder for first years to get involved? Try to think of yourself as a first year, here for about 5 months, just getting into university life and try to imagine going through something on the scale of the sabbatical elections, not even as a campaigner, but as a candidate.
If you miss it, try again when you’re a second year.
31/08/2012 at 6:29 pm Permalink
It’s an interesting distinction, which I suppose is natural. Let’s stick with the example of SUSU Media, if that’s okay with you. It’s very easy to get involved in the output and content of the departments… however, if you want to get involved in the decisions of the committee that run those stations, it’s not as easy – that’s because those committees are part of a democratic structure and have been elected to represent the views of others.
In a similar way, a lot of the positions within SUSU democracy are elected representatives (or reflective positions, if you look at the Union Councillors), which means that they have the responsibilities invested in them. It’s the way democracy is. There are ways that students can have their own voice – by attending council or standing committees (as a non-voting member), in the SUSU elections, AGM and referenda that we hold or by voicing their opinion to their elected representatives. However, there is also the other level, which is people running in elections to be elected representatives and taking on responsibilities.
You know all of this, but I’m just emphasising how the democratic system means that some decisions will have to be made by representatives, and any student has a voice by holding those representatives to account, rather than making the decision themselves.
With regards to the last point, I don’t think I can agree with that… you’ve made it a bit too simplistic.
1) that all the contests will be on the scale of the Sabbatical elections, which just isn’t true. You just have to look at the difference in campaigning last year between trustees and sabbaticals to see how different contests at the same time can be very different.
2) that if you miss it, you just have to wait a year. It gives you a year to get involved in all of those many areas outside of the standing orders that we spoke about, it gives you time to develop with those opportunities, so you can come back to the elections having gained something – rather than just trying again in a few weeks.
There’s also the point that, we now have a chance to really focus our efforts as a Sabbatical team and through our communication channels on getting students aware of their opportunities before the elections period, rather than just relying on the Sabbatical elections to get people involved in the Student Leader + Union Councillor ones.
So, from the candidate perspective we are breaking down that barrier that you have to be involved with Sabbatical elections to know about any further ones + the barrier that you won’t know about the Sabbatical elections until it’s too late – and this isn’t even mentioning the benefits to the voters in terms of reducing apathy, having a clear message, and letting them vote for what actually matters to them, rather than just a group of 7 positions that we say are important.
Cheers Oli 🙂 Hope that helps
02/09/2012 at 2:13 am Permalink
the one side i havent seen mentioned yet in all this is the question: do we want student leaders to be students first time volunteering in SUSU? obviously yes – there are examples of it working very well where people with no experience have come in and done well, and i never held a position before becoming a sabb, but then also i know there are some who have already found it confusing not knowing what their role is, so their opportunity to have an impact is reduced in having to learn more. again, thats also manageable and dealt with through training – but if you had the choice of a perfectly run union – youd hope a higher percentage of student leaders come a position where they have experience in the area, and now want to lead it.
currently, with this sabb election momentum, the first message we say is “well student leader positions are coming up” – which is putting people right in the deep end, and its the only thing on our minds, given the timescale to squeeze in the elections, so we forget all the other opportunities – plus the student leader elections currently run over the top of many of them.
wouldnt a better message be “so this is the group who will lead the union, but just before easter we have society and club committee elections, we have academic ones after easter” and all the other committees, with a simple way of how it all feeds into the sabb/ student leader system. yup – those just engaged half way through 2nd year will “miss out” in that sense, but then thats where we try to engage people from the word go, and weve seen a HUGE increase in 1st year involvement, and i think this years student leader elections will be even better than last year because of it, because were developing students with a passion for areas and experience within them.
ive not even read the other comments, just know you two will undoubtedly read this – thought id add it to the mix, because the way i read your argument (oli) about people being enthused is the right line, but for the wrong set of positions, and in fact this way could help show that susu isnt just a bubble of 36 elected peoples, but actually they lead over 1000 other elected reps in various guises. can you imagine the power of the post-elections publicity looking at all these areas, rather than having to panic about student leader/ council elections, because they’re our visible positions so naturally want to fill them up to avoid a hit on our reputation. if someone said we didnt care who was a society president, and only cared about the socs officer… we couldnt really argue against it that much, because we dont do anything to help advertise that process, or explain what the roles entail – hence the clique reputation.
to play devils advocate too with the “if you lose a sabb, you cant run for a student leader” – well currently, you cant run for a society president in time if you lose the student leader race – unless its held at a funny time. its just the unfortunate case that we will sometimes lose good people – but there are plenty of other places for them to get involved elsewhere, and we need to make that more clear – which this current system doesnt allow us to do in my view
02/09/2012 at 10:54 pm Permalink
Sasha has some thoughts he’d like to contribute to your comment here, would you mind hearing them as well?
Thought I’d ask before I approved it 🙂