The spring elections for the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) have seen a record number of students turn out to vote.
4,084 votes were cast in total, making it the most hotly contested election since 1992. This beats last year’s turnout of over 2,000, which was already the highest turnout in the last five years.
Commenting on the turnout, current President of the SRC Tommy Gore was pleased with the level of interest the election had gathered.
He said: “We're very pleased with how the elections went, with such a large number of contested seats, and a large number of candidates in the Sabbatical constituencies. We're particularly pleased with the turnout, which we feel is a recognition of the importance of the role the SRC has to play on campus in the current climate that Higher Education finds itself in.”
One of the main reasons for this year’s record turnout is a change in the way turnout is calculated. In previous years, total turnout was taken to be the number of votes cast in the President constituency, but further analysis of the turnout statistics taken this year shows that votes in this category, coming to 3,048 in total, are over a thousand less than overall turnout.
The new SRC Executive team is composed of Stuart Ritchie as President, elected with 1,417 votes, while Vice Presidents include James Harrison elected as VP Learning and Development with 775 votes, Amy Johnson as VP Student Support with 1094 votes, and VP Media and Communications being won by Iain Smith who was elected by 938 votes.
Speaking to Guardian on his election as President, Stuart Ritchie stated what he was expecting from the role.
He said: “How do I feel having won the election? Relieved is think is my overriding feeling. The work of the SRC will continue, it will mean that we won’t have a huge policy shift which moves us away from the needs of Glasgow University students to a national agenda which is not the SRC’s priority.
“I am looking forward to greater involvement with students across campus. I am particularly looking forward to working with the unions, it will be interesting to see who the new QMU president is first, mind. I would quite like us to make more money out of the weeks we organise, particularly RAG week, and hopefully we can work with the unions better to help raise more money.”
Ritchie went on to outline what he saw the main challenges to be in the forthcoming year.
He said: “The challenges will be coming to some kind of agreement with the University regarding the cuts to higher education provision and I think that could be very difficult. I think people are going to lose their jobs and I think we are all going to face budget cuts. And its about finding a way that allows us to continue to run the services that we do run within that budget.”
Several incidents overshadowed the campaign, with one candidate being disqualified before campaigning began. John Donaldson, a VP Media and Communications candidate, sent out an unsolicited email to student webmail accounts leading to his disqualification.
The email, which was sent to students whose first names began with the letter A, encouraged students to vote for him in the elections.
It said: “In the upcoming Glasgow University SRC election I am running for the role of VP Media and Communications.
“I've got the best manifesto and the most experience.”
Commenting on his disqualification, John Donaldson posted an official announcement calling for the rules surrounding the elections to be updated.
He said: “I believe that my disqualification was unjust, and that considering why reveals some important issues with the general running of the elections which need to be addressed urgently. “
The election was also marred by accusations that members of the Glasgow University Union Board of Management, vandalised President candidate James Foley’s campaign posters. The GUU responded with accusations that Foley's supported attacked them.
Overall, despite the scandals surrounding the election, Tommy Gore thought that campaigning had been positive.
He explained: “Although there were some nasty elements within certain campaigns, I felt overall campaigning was carried out with the good-natured spirit it usually is and that a very positive image of SRC elections, and the SRC in general, presented to the student body. With regards to the disqualification of John Donaldson, the Returning Officer and Assistant Returning Officer felt that there had been a serious breach of the election rules, and with substantive evidence supporting this, had no choice other than to disqualify him.”
The sabbatical officers for the year 2011-12 will take office on July 1.