Editorial: The answer to the campus democracy crisis is you

Published

credit: SRC

Georgina Hayes
Editor

Student elections are a bore – we won’t condescend our readers by pretending otherwise. If you don’t have a friend running for a position – and often even if you do – the constant bombardment of flyers outside the library and Facebook campaigns all over your feed is mind-numbing at best and irritating at worst.

But the question of why student elections inspire such little interest on our campus is more hotly contested than an SRC sabbatical position (quite literally). With our recent survey revealing that less than half of students plan on voting in the upcoming elections, though, perhaps the problem lies less with the SRC and more with us.

Now, there’s hardly an institution left on campus that The Glasgow Guardian hasn’t had an acrimonious relationship with at some stage, and the SRC is no exception to this rule – but we must give them credit where it’s due. Campus was plastered with posters advertising the Spring Elections, targeted advertising was deployed online like never before, and SRC sabs were even seen commenting on “Glasknow” posts encouraging sarcastic students to get involved. Still, these efforts seemed to have made little difference – 72% of all positions for these upcoming elections are unopposed or have no candidates at all.

It’s easy to decry the SRC as undemocratic and uninspiring when so many positions go uncontested, and we wish it were as simple as that – but it isn’t. The SRC is what the students make of it, and election turnout at this University is abysmally low; the current SRC President, Lauren McDougall, was nominated with just 1017 votes out of a student body that nears 28,000. But that isn’t the SRC’s fault, it’s ours.
The power to make these elections interesting enough to be contested lies purely within the student body itself. All major institutions on campus – the QMU, GUU, SRC and GUSA – are all (for the most part) student-run, and to pedal the idea that they “don’t do anything” is lazy and complacent. Most positive changes made within the University can be attributed to SRC’s campaigning and representation, from learning and teaching (they’re still trying to get more lectures recorded) to equality (they run the Mind Your Mate and sexual violence prevention workshops).

If you’re pissed off that you’re paying £9000+ a year to not even have your lectures recorded, or you’re wondering why you have to wake up at the dark side of 8am to maybe get an appointment at University Barclay, then getting involved with the SRC could be a way to actually enact positive change. If you think that the University is still too tied up in bureaucracy, good PR and profit-making over genuine student care, then you might be surprised to see how much the SRC quietly campaigns to change this.

The SRC isn’t without its faults – it has many, and we’ve been very happy to point them out over the years. The SRC could and should publicise its campaigns more so that students know exactly what they are and aren’t doing, it’s sometimes erred on the side of caution on controversial campus issues, and it’s damaged by not being a council/venue as with most universities (call us cynical, but I wonder what voter turnout would be if the SRC had its own bar).

The answer to changing that, though – and to changing the University itself – lies with getting involved and voting. You can’t complain about the representation you get if you don’t bother to vote for it in the first place. If voter turnout increased, then the candidates running for office might actually get a little worried – and that’s what we should all want. The higher the turnout, the higher the expectations and interest.

The Glasgow Guardian does not plan on giving any candidate in these upcoming elections an easy ride, whether they are unopposed or not. We will be interviewing every major candidate across all of the student bodies for everyone to see, and we’ll be officially endorsing candidates in an editorial in time for voting to open. If we don’t believe that a candidate is up to the job, we will recommend reopening nominations. In the meantime, we would strongly encourage our readers to keep an eye out on our social media channels – interviews will commence in the coming days, and we want this be an election worth watching.