The 2011 election for student trustees, union councillors and student officers is among the biggest seen in Sussex history with over 16 Students’ Union positions being voted on, alongside over 200 Student Reps. The winners were announced last Thursday evening in East Slope Bar.
Many of the roles are brand new and aim to promote equality and support among the student body, as members of the Students’ Union.
There were eleven separate roles available, with some open to be filled by multiple students. Some were specific in their aim to support certain student groups, including the Black Students’ Representative, the International Students’ Representative, the Disabled Students’ Representative, the Women Students’ Representative, and the LGBTQ Students’ Representative.
The other roles were representative of certain age and year groups at the University. For example, a Representative Officer was elected for both Part-Time Students and Mature Students. No nominations were received for the role of Student Parent Representative.
The position of Equality and Diversity Part-Time Officer is also a new role. Kelly McBride, newly appointed to this role, said: “I’m really encouraged by the big turn out at these elections, especially supporting the new representative roles.
Many students seem engaged with the Students’ Union, and I’m very excited to take this new role. I’m really looking forward to working with students to drive forward equality and diversity.”
The voting for McBride’s role was widespread; she received 336 votes out of a total 549 valid ballots. Voting for Postgraduate Union Councillors, however was less prevalent, with only six votes cast and both candidates being elected.
One postgraduate student commented: “I’m appalled by the fact that I was one of six postgraduates to vote in the union councillor election. I have been a student at Sussex for five years now and I always felt that it was very important to get involved with the union and, when the time comes, in the Union Meetings and elections. As students we shouldn’t be giving up our right and duty to be part of a democratic process. It’s sad that students don’t care enough.”
However, another postgrad posed that the lack of votes for this position could be down to the university’s position on unregistered students. He said: “I have applied for a loan for my postgraduate fees and, as these loans are not granted by Student Finance England as they were when I was an undergraduate, it had taken longer than expected to secure the funding.
“Even though the university is aware of my position, they have blocked my access to online services such as Sussex Direct, and this included voting. I would have loved to vote for my preferred candidate, but wasn’t able to do so. My payment is expected soon, and I am still attending lectures and being affected by Students’ Union decisions, so I feel I should have been able to cast my vote.”
Despite these issues, the turn out was generally of a high standard in the other elections. The Black Students’ Representative Officer election received a total of 162 valid votes, with winner Chukwuma Okonko taking 75 of them. Valid votes for the Disabled Students’ Representative Officer totaled 186, with Taz Brookes winning by just three votes.
Other winners included Irene Pournara, who was elected International Students’ Representative Officer, and Jess Bayliss, who became LGBTQ Representative Officer.
Three Student Trustees, Elsie Whittington, Alon Aviram and Adam Cantwell Corn, were also elected. This is a particularly significant role, as there was a large campaign against the adoption of a trustee board. Communications Officer Ariel Cohen said: “the ‘no’ campaign argued that the trustee board would not be democratic, or student led because there would be non-student, non-elected board members that may have external interests. This is the first ever time student trustees are being voted in and we’ve had 13 nominations originally, although one pulled out.”
Despite these concerns, the successful candidates pledged to retain student interests at the heart of their union-related decisions. The external trustees will be appointed in due course.