Across both campuses a few posters and cut outs are morosely just about visible in the lake. As a Sports candidate once sagely said ‘the winners have won, the losers have lost’. So ends the YUSU elections for another year.
Turnout was down on last year. After a mighty initial surge, voting numbers tailed off after the first day. Many of this years Sabb candidates were well “networked”, plugged into parts of student life, and able to mobilise their core vote. Outside of their colleges, sports clubs or seminar circuits they failed to set the student body on fire. Coupled with a Presidential election being a pale shadow of last years: the question being more how big the scales would be to weight the winners ballot papers, rather than who would win. A race unenlivened, even, by the presence of a clash of visions for what YUSU should look like. Inspired a slogan as it was Tom Banks was not the only candidate campaigning for ‘moderate changes, to make your life moderately more pleasant’. With a couple of honourable exemptions all candidates were. Clearly most of those who voted made up their minds a long time before voting went live.
The relatively high number of ballots cast across all positions sends out quite a message as does RON’s strong showing. It’s clear that, in 2012/13, awareness of the existence of YUSU has been heightened, but that as a collective, the student body hasn’t necessarily liked what they have seen. Hence why nominations where down 40% on last year, hence why so many students felt they should vote, but when confronted with the ballot paper pumped for RON, hence why the election in terms of campaigning and the ties between individual candidates, looked more like the internal elections of a society, than a poll to decide as YUSU’s fuzzy elections advertising put it ‘who gets to lead a representative charity with a budget of over £1million’.
Cumulatively this is strange, strange and thrice strange. Never before in my university career has discussion about the role of YUSU and wider movement on campus, off campus and in delivering for members been higher. At York the mushrooming of exciting publications like Free Lunch, extensive discussion via these pages and the pages of Vision and The Yorker. Increasing talk in political circles about how YUSU can be used to fight battles over drugs, objectification and housing, to name but 3, suggests a strong appetite for inspiring student unionism. On campuses nationwide, growing criticism from students of their unions be it The Tab on the right, or the NCAFC on the left suggests a national trend.
These elections highlight the gap between the reality of our Union and the wants and desires of students. Its almost as if the system has been rigged. But who would benefit from that? Win, lose, draw as we move into the next year, engage with our new officers, they’re our delegates. Help to shape them in the image of the student body and show them that they both can and should, soggy cardboard aside, demand the impossible.