The Student’s Union has come under fire in the last week on two separate issues, both involving students votes: the case of spoiled ballots in the recent elections and the interpretation of abstentions with relation to the vote on the reformed constitution. Both have shown the danger of how trying to rush through changes can threaten the good work of those involved.
The constitution is a perfect point in question. It is widely accepted that the changes it brings in are a good and necessary step forward. The first constitution was voted on by students and failed to pass: a clear sign of democracy working as the resulting amended document brought back in Welfare posts onto the Senate, granting them the influence they deserve. Although both Armstrong and Thwaites- McGowan, the key authors of the original document, had no role in the timing of the second constitution being resubmitted, the way in which the voting was handled has brought yet more confusion to an issue which most students feel sick of. Simply put, you can’t change the way in which student votes and the implementation of democracy are interpreted, however good or honourable the cause.
The constitution should not have passed, and the discussion of abstentions and whether they count should have come as a seperte issue afterwards. Then it could have been done in an in-depth manner, and avoided accusations that it is all part of a legacy plan. If the ideas are good enough then what is the problem with planning for the long term and putting it through later in the year. Rich Croker has already expressed his support for the plans, so what difference does one year make? If it means getting the process done in a just and democratic way, and avoiding accusations of sabbatical officers wanting to make their ‘visible mark’ on the Union, then it is a surely worth the wait.
Similarly, the role of e-voting has brought into question the election results. Whilst those involved in the complaints, and those such as Colin Hindson who have distanced themselves from any action, are not challenging the eventual result, the fact that students who voted did not understand the system, some finding their ballot paper spoilt, means an air of distrust has been created around the whole process. Again e-voting is a good idea that will save the Union valuable funds in the long term, and has also boosted participation, but elections are just too important for these questions to be hanging over them. The vast majority of students accept Croker as their President-elect, but problems resulting through haste have once again devalued and overshadowed the positive work that is being done by this years team.