The University of York YUSU elections may have seen a downward trend in voter numbers, but an upward interest in Part Time Officer (PTO) positions, particularly that of Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Officer.
While the University’s voter turnout has decreased from 34.3 per cent in 2014 to 25 per cent in 2017, the number of votes for BAME officer have more than doubled. This may reflect the increased interest of BAME voters in wider politics, as voting results from the 2017 General Election show that the turnout among BAME voters rose by six percentage points. The winners of the BAME officer vote in 2016, Sophie Flinders and Gabriella Obeng Nyarko, won against one other candidate with 767 votes. This vote increased to 1634 when Demi Daniel and Afoma Ojukwu won in 2017. Although they ran uncontested, if we compare half of their vote (817), this is an increase of 50 individual votes.
The position of BAME Officer also received the most votes in total, when taken in comparison with the other YUSU PTO positions. Whereas BAME had 1868 valid votes in total, when including RON (reopen nominations) votes, the next highest voter turnout of Disabled Students Officer had 1720, and the position with the least had 1200, being that of Mature Students’ Officer. The University of York prides itself in consistently placing within the top ten Universities for student election turnout, so this decrease in total voters is a trend YUSU will wish to stop in 2018.
Regardless of this, the increased interest in BAME student positions is a positive. At the time of writing, there were three nominations for the position. When asked if they had any specific BAME voting statistics, YUSU gave this statement: “We don’t collect data on BAME students voting in the elections due to it being sensitive information, however this year we do have more BAME nominations than in previous years and are aiming for all the officer group nominations to be more diverse than ever and are working to encourage this as much as we possibly can.”
Current BAME PTO Afoma Ojukwu was keen to downplay her success, saying, “Thanks to the efforts of the previous BAME officers, awareness of our network had been increased. Additionally, myself and Demi, although we have friends in common, have a lot of friends in different circles so I feel we were able to pull from lots of places.” She also had a message for any potential candidates this election: “It’s a fantastic role and I’ve really learnt a lot about the power of the student voice in effecting change, not just in the University but also nationwide.”