With aggravatingly alliterative, shamelessly tawdry slogans and an overbearing presence on your Facebook newsfeed, it’s probably quite clear by now that the JCR campaigns are upon us. For the next few days, your campus life will no doubt be inundated with posters, poses and haughty ploys in order to garner your precious votes. And for what? A neat £0.00 income and an extra line on someone’s CV.
Given the paltry 36.8 per cent turn out for YUSU’s elections in March, I can only assume this is the sort of cynicism that must pervade our student body. Indeed, it is a sad reality in York that unless you or one of your mates is running, you probably won’t show up to vote.
But while the inquiry “Do student politics matter?” tends to be met with laissez-faire and meek shrugging; faced with a more specific question such as “Does your sports club deserve more funding?” the response is unexceptionally more positive.
This indicates that students do actually care about the issues, but for whatever reason they don’t care about the person whose self-appointed mission it is to solve them. To some extent this is remarkably like politics on the national scale; and how often do we hear people claim that they do not care about an election because the result will not affect them, only to loudly complain that they hate the government a few years later? Oh, you wanted a Wii in the JCR? Maybe you should have voted.
The role of unions is primarily to give students a voice, but having a voice is of no use if those you are speaking to have no ears, and it is even less useful if you have no hands to implement the policy suggested. Our unions are only as strong as we make them; and subject to our choices, they can be a significant contributor to our experience as a whole; or they can be irrelevant, inward-looking and just for show.
Too often student politics is dismissed as isolated and extraneous to the wider community, but this is to forget the number of events made possible both on and off campus by our very own JCRCs.
And if you’re thinking of boycotting the elections because they’re too cliquey and rear the wrong sort of professional student politician, consider this: careerists get results. Whether it’s protesting, or port and cheese dinners with the provost, a candidate with ambition (and probably one eye on a green seat) will invariably get the job done.
Finally, if nothing else, student elections are fun. Milked media coverage, amusing campaigns, pseudo-scandal and the novelty of celebrity if only for a couple of weeks; they’re an entertaining aspect of any university practice and something we should really embrace. Viva La JCRC.