The results are in for this year’s Students’ Union election, which saw 20 candidates standing to be the voice of the student body at Sussex.
Turnout for the elections was 17% of the student body, the lowest in recent years.
This comes despite student numbers increasing over the last decade and a sustained effort by the Union to encourage students to vote, including giving away free porridge and pizza to those who voted and a dinosaur roaming campus.
3043 students voted in this year’s election, a stark contrast to 2015’s peak of 4725 students.
The election saw close races for Postgraduate Education Officer and Activities, with wins by only two and 13 votes respectively.
An all-female team of full-time officers was elected for the second year running, with the representatives singing “power to the girls!” after they were announced.
Candidates put their platforms across numerous events around campus, which included the candidates exhibiting their music taste at East Slope and UniTV holding their annual “Candidate Question Time”.
Frida Gustaffson won a shock victory against incumbent President Annie Pickering with 400 votes in the first round.
Ms Gustaffson, who was Womens’ Officer last year, told The Badger: “I’m so surprised, Annie fought so hard and has been an amazing President; I didn’t expect to win”.
Ms Gustaffson beat four other candidates in addition to Ms Pickering. Asked if she planned to take on board the policies of opponents, she said: “I really liked Will Law’s policy about debating society – it is interesting to take debating into the Union. I also like the idea of longer cafe opening times”.
When asked if she would adopt Annie Pickering’s manifesto point on democratic review of the Union, she said: “Absolutely, I’m a Politics student! This is why I wanted more focus groups and student surveys – to try and find out why turnout was low and, although I am grateful for every single vote, turnout was indeed low”.
Aisling Murray, elected Society & Citizenship Officer, won with the highest proportion of any elected candidate this year, with 68% of the vote.
She told The Badger she was “over the moon, thrilled and exhausted”.
Ms Murray believed she won in part due to her manifesto’s emphasis on affordable housing, citing involvement in the Cut the Rent campaign on campus as something that “resonated with a lot of students”.
When asked about challenges she expects to face in achieving her manifesto, she told The Badger: “Something we really need to work on is engaging more students and making people realize how important the Students’ Union is and how important it is to get involved”.
The new Undergraduate Education Officer is Lulah Strathearn Brady, a second year who shall take a year out of her degree. Two candidates stood for the position, with 54% of students voting for Ms Brady.
She told The Badger: “Jack ran a great campaign” and that she was “dazed but very excited” to have won.
She pledged to campaign for changes to assessment procedure, telling The Badger she aimed to “address the reasonable adjustments scheme and exceptional circumstances, so they treat students fairly”.
Sarah McIntosh won Postgraduate Education Officer, beating Jordan Taylor by only two votes. When asked how she felt about the results, Ms McIntosh said: “I’m in shock mostly”.
When asked what she would do first, she said: “I will make good on my manifesto promises. Not a single thing [in the manifesto], no matter how outrageous, is unachievable”.
When questioned on her manifesto promise of decreasing and eventually phasing out tuition fees, Ms McIntosh responded: “It’s not going to be easy and I certainly won’t achieve it on my own, it will take a lot of campaigning and work”.
Lucy Williams was elected Activities Officer by a tight 13 vote margin. The position involved the most rounds of voting with the most candidates put forward, numbering seven.
Ms Williams won on the fourth round of vote redistribution, with 50.4% of the vote.
She said: “I feel absolutely humbled, I feel so thankful and thank you to everybody who voted even if I wasn’t your first choice candidate”.
Asked why she thought she won, she said: “When I was talking about campaign tactics, I spoke to people who wouldn’t normally vote in the SU elections and that really helped me”.
She added: “Absolutely the most important thing in my manifesto is to increase disability sports provision and make Sussex a place for everyone. I’m going to lobby our university, who sit on a huge pile of cash, to make sure this happens”.
Grainne Gahan, incumbent Welfare Officer, was re-elected at this year’s Students’ Union election with 1106 votes, 63% of the total cast.
When asked how she felt about the win, Ms Gahan told The Badger: “Amazing! Very, very glad… A bit different [from last year]”.
Regarding her plans for the future, Ms Gahan explained, “right now I’m probably going to have a dance but when I get back to the office on Monday I’m going to carry on fighting for students’ rights and boycotting the NSS!”.
Students also cast their votes for part-time officers and student trustees including, for the first time, a Trans and Non-Binary Officer.
Henry Tee will become the Student Union’s first Trans and Non-Binary Officer, with Liz Gladden elected as Women Students Officer, Chris Lewis as LGBTQ+ Students Officer, Fi Halfacre as Students with Disabilities Officer, and Simin Wadiwala as Ethnic Minority Students Officer.
Anthony Latka, Mena Harbi and Ivayla Bodurova were elected to the three student trustee positions.
Some students took to Facebook to complain about the voting system, which allowed some candidates who won the first round to eventually lose after votes for others were redistributed.
Referenda on the Union adopting a Fairtrade clothing policy by 2021 and on opposing the government’s Prevent legislation both failed to attract enough votes to be binding.
Several of the NUS Conference delegates were elected automatically, as they didn’t have a candidate running against them.