The Union elections are rapidly approaching, banners and students campaigning have sprung up all over campus, and as I was walking into the union earlier this week I was stopped by a very nice girl, our conversation went along the lines of:
Campaigner: “Are you planning to vote in the student elections”
Me: “Sorry I’m a Post-Grad”
Campaigner: “Oh, does that mean you can’t vote”
Me: “I have no idea, no one’s mentioned it”
Campaigner: “I should probably find that out!”
Me: “Good luck campaigning”
After this conversation I realised that it’s much more my responsibility to find out if I, as a Post-Grad, am allowed to vote. So I did. A very quick search through the Union Website led me to the election pages, which you can find here, and scrolling down the page I found the following:
Can I vote?
If you’re studying at the University of Leicester (on campus or as a distance learner) you can vote. In fact, we’d really REALLY like you to…
Ok great, as a PhD student studying at the University of Leicester I can vote in the student elections, now the more important question of do I want to vote? I am purely talking about the student elections here, I have no doubts about voting in the upcoming general election. So why does my desire to vote not extend to the union? Well because I don’t really feel it affects me. I don’t have a desire to change the SU as I don’t really feel like it impacts on my life. Of course if the provisions within the actual Percy Gee building disappeared it would hurt (no starbucks 🙁 ), but reading through most of the policies the candidates have they just don’t affect me. £2 pints is a great gimmick for getting undergrads to vote for you but not top of my priority list (don’t get me wrong I enjoy a glass of wine or two it’s just not what I’m looking for from my Uni). On top of that the personal tutor system doesn’t affect me, I don’t have a timetable and I’ve never lived in Oadby student village so a book return service from there sounds great but definitely doesn’t change my life. This isn’t an exhaustive list in any way of the policies candidates have, and I’m not trying to be negative about anyones campaign. Some of the candidates look well qualified and a lot of the policies seem to be dealing with real problems undergraduates, and probably taught post-grads, have to contend with. Unfortunately for campaigners I view myself as an employee of the university (regardless of whether or not I officially am) so I’m not looking for the same things as undergrad voters.
Choosing not to vote feels slightly wrong, I always did as an undergrad, but it’s not my place to be voting on issues that don’t affect me. I know the SU is working hard to improve support for post-grads however I don’t think they’re there yet. This doesn’t mean I think the University are neglecting PhD students, in fact I have first hand experience of how hard the Graduate School works to improve things for us (you can read about it here).
If you’re an undergrad or a taught Master’s student and feel these issues do affect you, then please do vote, all the information you need is on the union website.