A new amendment to campaigning rules in this year’s YUSU elections in clubs has been introduced. This policy means that candidates will be asked if they want to ‘opt-out’ of club night campaigning for all or certain club nights. If a candidate chooses to ‘opt-out’ of club campaigning, then all other candidates for the same position will not be allowed to campaign in clubs, or the specific club(s) the candidate has opted out of.
Community and Wellbeing Officer Mia Shantana Chaudhuri- Julyan told Nouse: “the opt out system has been introduced in direct response to student demand and in particular, calls to ensure that the elections are as accessible as possible.”
The amendment is especially beneficial for disabled students, as all venues for official YUSU club nights except Revolution do not have wheelchair access. Furthermore, club campaigning is inaccessible to candidates with other disabilities: such as those which affect energy or pain levels, hearing or visual impairments, and any disability which could lead to sensory overload, such as autism. Before the change in policy, disabled candidates running in the elections who could not or preferred not to enter the clubs were at a disadvantage in comparison with their abled competitors.
The proposal for this policy was submitted by Disabled Students Officer Aisling Musson, who told Nouse: “I submitted the policy because disabled students are at a massive disadvantage in most parts of the election process. YUSU has been working on improving some parts of the process this year to moderate the amount of physical activity required of all candidates in campaigning, but the most inaccessible part of campaigning was the club campaigning – hardly anyone enjoyed doing it but most felt like they had to do it in case their opponents did it.
“It has a negative effect on candidates who are already campaigning all day, it involves a lot of environments that are extremely inaccessible to a lot of disabled students, and securing votes off drunk people is pretty questionable anyway. The policy is specifically worded so that if everyone in a certain race is okay with campaigning, they can still do it – but that if someone’s going to have an unfair advantage over their peers, that will be readdressed by the rules, which I think is only fair. I was really glad to hear through the policy feedback process that most people agree.”
This policy change also seeks to address the wider welfare issues of club campaigning. Not all candidates, disabled or abled, want to or have the ability to campaign in clubs, so it ensures that candidates are not being forced to do something they do not wish to do, simply to gain votes. It also raises the disputed point, in terms of democracy and morality, of securing votes from drunk students, whose inhibitions might be impaired.
The policy states that breaking this amendment will lead to proportional penalties or sanctions. YUSU has also said that it will develop a set of rules to outline acceptable behaviour when campaigning in clubs towards those under the influence of alcohol.