With online campaigning officially underway, we take an irreverent look at the battleground issues that could make, or break, a candidate’s campaign:
Let’s be honest, it’s never been about the manifestos. From the mightiest VC to the lowliest ordinary member, most university elections root themselves in likeability and profile. Last year two of the five SABB roles were snapped up by former college chairs, while all four of the top finishers for Prez had headed up either a JCR or a political society. Look out for candidates with pre-existing networks of support and name recognition, particularly in politically active circles that have reason to go to the ballot box.
2. Mental Health
Probably the biggest issue of last year’s campaign, and certainly the most pressing. The mental health crisis sweeping British universities has been well- documented, and York’s Open Door Services have strained under the rising demand. The £500 000 pledged by the current administration may lessen the urgency, but the situation will require management and careful monitoring far beyond their tenure. If you need one reason to vote, this might be it; the SABBs can’t fix the NHS, but they can have a good old go at fixing Open Door.
3. ‘Holding YUSU to Account’
The perennial rallying cry for any anti-establishment candidate seeking to become that which they profess to despise; accountability and transparency have been constant themes throughout YUSU elections gone by. When in office these champions of the common man will keep us up-to-date with the ins and outs of all YUSU’s machinations, forgetting that such ins and outs are invariably mind-numbingly dull. It’s difficult to be a pressure group when you’re running to be the public face of ‘the system’, but a couple of hopefuls will surely give it a go regardless.
4. Free Speech
Getting through YUSU elections without a flare-up over free speech would be like getting through Wimbledon with no rain – there’s no reason why it shouldn’t happen, but you just know it’s not going to. Safe spaces, trigger warnings, no platforming – all the old favourites are liable to appear at any minute and transform civil discourse into madness. If you’re having a dull Friday, go along to a candidate debate, ask ‘would you no-platform Germaine Greer?’, and then lie back and watch the carnage unfold. Free speech has got the lot; political poignancy, vast entertainment value, and most importantly, reams of column inches.
As ever, money talks. Last year presidential candidate Oliver Wilson offered to forego entirely the President’s £18 000 pre-tax salary, a grand gesture that backfired somewhat with unnecessarily snarky mutterings of ‘it’s alright for some’. With the TEF, HE Bill and NSS all high on the agenda (Google them, I have a word count to stick to), tuition fees will once again be in the spotlight after an inflation-aligned raise for all incoming students. Fee-loving candidates have not historically found favour with the electorate, and this looks unlikely to change.
6. Unity Health and Buses
The eternal get-out-of-jail-free cards for any student journo having a slow week, these ever-presents have been in the news cycle longer than any campus goose has been alive. Whether it’s GP waiting times, issues with the new appointment interface or the slow, protracted death of the 44, these are the social media lightning rods that, however many times you flush, just refuse to go down. At least among the cabals of campus agitators that prowl SABB Facebook pages, they’re sure to be vote-winners.