72% of representative positions on the SRC have, in the upcoming elections, gone uncontested or will remain vacant in the lowest amount of nominated students since 2009.
Two of the uncontested positions are for the paid sabbatical roles of SRC President and Vice President (Student Support), which in all likelihood will be filled by Jess McGrellis, current VPSS, and Louise Graham respectively. VP (Education) and VP (Student Activities), the new roles replacing VP (Media & Communications), have received three candidates each.
The past three years have seen all four sabbatical positions contested, with last year’s elections seeing fourteen candidates running for the four total available positions. However, this year is still higher the the 2009 elections which saw SRC President uncontested, and VP (Media & Communications) not receiving any nomination for the position.
Only half of the Welfare & Equal Opportunities Officer positions will be contested this year; next year’s Gender Equality Officer will likely be Clopin Meehan, President of the Feminist Society, whilst the Charities, Clubs & Societies Officer position will probably go to Gintare Masiulyte. Race Equality Officer and Age Equality Officer received no nominations.
Of the four College Convenor positions, three are uncontested and the position of Medical, Veterinary and Life Science Convenor is vacant. Four of the five Postgraduate Convenors also remain vacant, with only Lorna Macbean running for PG Convenor of Arts. Nine of the School Representative positions are also vacant, whilst four are uncontested.
James Harrison, current President of the SRC, was pleased that some of the School Representative and Welfare Officer positions were being contested. He said: “In Spring 2011 only 2 school rep positions were contested, compared to 5 contested positions this year. As the Autumn elections hit we usually have lots of students putting themselves forward to fill the remaining places, so I’m confident most positions will be filled in October.
He continued: “It’s a shame that a few of the sabbatical positions are not contested. We know of several students who had intended to submit nomination forms, but decided not to shortly before the deadline, due to reasons including study and employment opportunities elsewhere. Also, the fact that a few campaigns seemed to have begun before nominations closed, may have had an impact in putting off potential challengers. In addition to this, there’s been a lot less controversy and division on campus this year than in previous years, so the desire for many people to put themselves forward doesn’t seem to have been as strong this year.”
Donald Mackay, a General Representative for the SRC, expressed disappointment over the low number of nominations. He said: “Low takeup of positions on the SRC is always disappointing. I call on the newly elected sabbaticals to do everything possible to ensure the positions are filled in the October by-elections, because without positions filled on the Council at School level and other roles, it becomes increasingly difficult to engage students in what the SRC can do.”
The low number of nominations for positions suggests students are either apathetic towards or even misunderstand the importance of the SRC in shaping student life.
Steph Baross, a first year Chemistry student, explained she feels unconnected to the SRC. She said: “I know absolutely nothing about it, other than there are elections. All I’ve really been told about it are a couple of emails that I, and I assume most other people, have just skipped past. But we haven’t had anyone in lectures to tell us about it, like we do for every other thing that happens, and we haven’t been told about what positions there are. So I think most first years have just assumed it’s nothing relevant to us.”
Emily Wheeler, a third year English Language student, feels the SRC needs to be much more personal to increase engagement. She said: “I think the SRC is useful and a brilliant thing when it works. However it’s just that – The SRC. I don’t think anyone not directly involved with it actually knows who anyone within the SRC is, and that means that the elections just come off as some sort of popularity contest – who’s got the most flyers and the brightest tshirts? I’ve never voted because I’ve never understood the point – to me anyone who’s got the guts and integrity to stand for a position will probably do a good job, and how much is the views of one person going to change the way the university is run? I think we need better representation of the individuals within the SRC, what it is they do, and how it’s useful and connected to our experience of university.”
More students had been rumoured to be running for various positions on the SRC prior to nominations closing. These potential candidates pulled out of the contest for reasons unknown.