It may come as a surprise to a fresher that there are indeed elections going on at university right now. To many that joined university this year, the YUSU elections will be the first time students would have voted for anything larger than a secretary in a middle school.
This means that the lack of an obvious incentive for voting will give first-year voters far greater motivation to abstain and stay in bed. On the other hand, some may have voted in the Brexit referendum and the seeming lack of importance in comparison won’t bode well for voting figures.
If YUSU could take the time to tell us why they are significant in the lives of a York student then we might give the campaign materials a second glance. So far, all Freshers really know YUSU for are vodka-soaked club nights in Freshers’ Week. If I knew exactly how the union benefits me on the daily, I might be informed enough to participate.
It may be equivalent to herding cats, but participation is needed in order for the Union to truly represent the people they claim to represent. At the moment you are asking a third of the population to vote for people that they haven’t met, on issues they do not know much about, for effects that they will feel as much as a duck tidal wave on campus lake.
In an ideal world, YUSU would be the guiding hand for all first years so that the election of our new set of hopefuls feels like it is our decision to make. Nothing makes a situation more important than one where we wreak the consequences. So if we visibly see changes, votes will roll in.
A push to participate is what Freshers need to get involved. A good way of doing that would be making it an event on every student’s timetable. This sounds small, but it does genuinely work – on my autumn timetable the history gods that be had put a “film screening” on the agenda, to which around half of the history first years turned up. As soon as we took our seats the trap was sprung and we sat through an hour of a careers talk and 60 paltry minutes of Blackadder.
Despite the disappointment, we still all turned up. If the election event was brought to our attention more explicitly than a long winded email then we might be able to get a few more people to vote.
I sincerely hope that the next administration takes the participation of Freshers in the elections seriously. Be it the College elections, the NSS referendum or the YUSU elections, Freshers like me have been put in the position of ignorance where we only learn of what is happening after the fact. We are in the dark as to how to truly participate in the elections, leaving us part of the disenfranchised.
Hopefully, in time, the YUSU powers that be may switch on the lights.