Only 612 students took part in this year’s Students’ Union Student Rep elections.
This marks the lowest percentage turnout in recent years for Student Rep elections and is almost a thousand votes shy of last year’s total of 1,482.
Over 95 per cent of the 13,000-strong student body ignored the election, despite an extensive marketing campaign which saw all Union staff wear “vote now” t-shirts.
SU placards were left attached to lampposts four days after voting had closed, leading some students to wrongly believe that they could still vote in the election.
One placard near Library Square, wrongly urged students to join “thousands” of other voters, with the prediction that thousands would vote turning out to be well off the mark.
Many positions were left unfilled, and one email which went out to History Masters students before voting had finished included a message in the title which read: “First to reply will be appointed”.
One postgraduate student, meanwhile, claimed that the Students’ Union’s online system gave them the ability to vote for first-year undergraduate candidates, leading some to doubt the integrity of the Students’ Union’s election process.
Meanwhile, a student complained to The Badger that the turnout was “pathetic” and that an organisation “which prides itself on democracy” suggested “students [are] dissatisfied with the Union”.
A Union spokesperson, explained to The Badger: “The Student Rep Scheme is jointly run between the University and the Students’ Union, and every year there are around 290 positions available, of which about half are typically filled via elections and the rest are filled by each school at a later date.
“This year, the staff team from the University and the Union went through some changes over the election period, with a University staff member leaving during Freshers’ Week.
“As a result, the elections were not as well publicised as they should have been via schools and departments and there were fewer nominees than last year. Consequently this led to a corresponding fall in voter numbers (as there were fewer people to vote for).
“We’re disappointed by this fall in participation and will be reviewing how the scheme is promoted during the nomination period and throughout the year. Students’ Union staff and officers welcome any ideas or suggestions on improving Rep elections in the future.
“An error offered a small number of students the option to vote for an incorrect role. When notified, we were able to quickly resolve these issues and have already planned how to ensure this doesn’t happen in future elections.”
One third-year student who recently became a student rep praised the scheme but questioned the promotion of the elections by the Students’ Union and the University.
“Being a student rep is fantastic, I just wish more people voted,” the newly elected rep told The Badger.
“Although many Union volunteers went around in pull-overs with VOTE written on them not many people actually did [vote] because not many students know what a rep does and how a rep can help them.”
The Student Rep scheme is co-run by the University and the Students’ Union.
Student Reps meet with staff in their school and some Student Reps are elected to hold positions on University committees and Students’ Union’s Council, meaning that they can raise issues at a higher level.
Student Reps also sit on Senate, the highest academic body of the University which is chaired by the Vice Chancellor Michael Farthing.
By Paul Millar