So this week the Leicester Student Union has just finished it’s 2015 Officer Elections; basically this is where the student population vote for who they want to represent them for the next year. Quick background info: there are 5 main positions (president, education officer, engagement officer, student development officer and wellbeing officer), voting was open Sunday 22nd Feb to Wednesday 25th Feb and the results were announced last night at the weekly Wednesday night Letdisko.
All through these past two weeks you’ve had flyers being thrown at you left right and centre as you run between lectures, you’ve been distracted by the brightly coloured posters hanging in interesting places around the university campus and you’ve seen candidates coerce their friends into putting on vote … t-shirts and roaming round campus and the student village with them – one candidate even had someone in a full on minion costume with the x-large t-shirt over the top, which flooded the students of Leicester Uni social networks with numerous ‘look at me with the minion’ selfies.
The one thing I didn’t get at first was what exactly does a president/ engagement/ education/ student development/ wellbeing officer do? To quote the Leicester students’ union website: http://leicesterunion.com/elections
President: ‘Leader of the Trustees and spokesperson on all matters, the President also helps shape the future direction of the Union. A bit like the captain of a ship.’
Education: ‘As you’d expect, the Education Officer is concerned with the main reason you’re at university – your degree. The Education Officer aims to ensure you get the best possible education while you’re at University. And develop the skills to get a job when you leave.’
Engagement: ‘This job is about two-way communication: seeking out your views to make sure that the things that matter to you are on the Union agenda. And then keeping you informed about what’s going on’
Student Development: ‘This officer makes sure you make the most of your time outside of your studies – providing opportunities to socialise with other students and to learn or develop a skill or hobby’
Wellbeing: ‘This officer has responsibility for all the other things that make a difference to how much you enjoy your University years. Decent and safe housing; staying healthy and getting help if you need it.’
I actually knew one of the candidates running for Student Development as he was the Club President of the Rowing Society and one of the other candidates for Student Development was the Social Sec for the Mixed Hockey Team (the hockey clubs: Ladies, Mens and Mixed, all tend to support each-other). So my facebook pages were flooded on both sides with a little bit of ‘support your club vote…’. It actually got me thinking thought about what we were doing in class the other week. It was in our Comparative European Studies lecture – ‘Poli Sci’ as my USA housemates terms it – and it was about the structure of our legislatures (ie. In the UK our parliament) and how European parties tend to have ‘strong parties’ (one party tends to dominate the decision making process in parliament) which is achieved by voting unity, party cohesion and party discipline. Voting unity is the extent to which legislators (MP’s) from the same political party vote the same way in regards to bills. Cohesion is where voting unity is achieved because all the legislators (MP’s) have the same ideological preferences so the ideal decision is obvious. Voting discipline is the ability of the party leadership to enforce common voting within the party in the legislature (houses of parliament) and they do this with the ‘carrots & sticks’ tactics (ie if you don’t conform you endure a negative consequence and if you do conform you receive a positive reward).
Now I’m not saying that we’re forced to vote for people we don’t want to – please don’t take it that way – I just found it quite interesting if you analyzed it from a political perspective. If a candidate were a crucial member of many societies would they potentially have more success in winning a vote than someone who isn’t? And if there were to be a diabolical evil genius trying to take over the union by getting the allegiance of different societies, could the societies at Leicester Uni achieve voting unity. Furthermore if they were able to, would it be because certain hobbies attract a certain personality, so they would all have the same ideal candidate in mind (ie. Someone who would benefit the society they are apart form for example by allocating more resources to them) or would the society committee have to resort to discipline, with carrots and sticks, (ie carrot = included in the social events that week, sticks = isolated from the others in the society).
I just found it a little interesting to think of the influence of our societies’ on the way we voted in the recent student elections. Now I’m sat at my desk laughing trying to think of what a ‘party whip’ – the person who enforces voting discipline – would look like at a university, especially say the Baking society (I’m now imagining someone running round after you in a chef hat waving a wooden spoon at you), or the curry society (the sneaky threat of adding of the super hot chili’s into your curry to ensure you conform to their votes) or even the Quidditch society (who would turn round a hex you in Draco Malfoy/Harry potter duel style situation).
Anyway onto a more relevant note the winning contestants were only told the results at 00.45 (Education), 00.55 (Wellbeing), 01.05 (Engagement), 01.15 (Student Development) and 01.25 (President), before they had to traipse up onto the infamous Letsdisko stage at 01.30. Which I would have found incredibly nerve-racking the entire night – I mean how are you meant to go out on your social and go to Letsdisko for 45mins before you start to find out whether you’ve won your fairly important competition which you’ve been campaigning for 2 weeks for!? And to sum off my blog post, I’ll just let you know who the winners were Lily Patrick (education), Rosin Gallagher (wellbeing), Alex Mitchell (engagement), Ayesha Hamilton (student development) and Rachel Holland (president).