OUSU election changes

first_imgNominations opened on Thursday for the forthcoming OUSU elections, after the introduction of electoral reforms to attempt to encourage increased voter turnout.Candidates will have three weeks to campaign after nominations close, with the election to be held during 6th week. Plans for this period include an increased number of hustings both within common rooms and at neutral venues, with the hope that this will motivate those who attend to cast their electronic vote in a few weeks time.    Campaign rules are also set to make it easier for candidates to publicise themselves. Rules restricting the use of social media have been relaxed, whilst candidates are now allowed to interact more with the student press. In addition slates (where candidates run together but each must be elected individually) can now contain four candidates, providing one of these is standing for the position of Vice President for Graduates. The previous limit was of three sabbatical officers per slate.   Returning Officer, Jonathan Edwards, told Cherwell that there is really no limit to how candidates could promote themselves, “The starting point for the campaigning rules is that anything which is not actually prohibited is allowed. The main restrictions are an expenditure limit, intended to ensure fairness and limitations on the use of email, primarily to avoid election-related spam.” He described the campaigning rules as “liberal,” although practices such as false-statements, bribery and intimidation are treated as ‘illegal.’   In last year’s election, just 23% of undergraduates made the effort to vote. However OUSU hope that this year their increased promotion of the elections will see this number increase substantially. They have taken out full page advertisements in the OxStu, will be publishing manifestos free of charge and have already emailed students to tell them that an election is coming up. OUSU also intends to publish election details more extensively on its website, to encourage a greater interest in the election process.    Jacob Diggle, standing for President, explained why this election should capture the imagination of Oxford students, “This year will see at least three full slates of candidates, including presidential candidates from non-traditional backgrounds,” suggesting, “This will hopefully help to improve engagement and help students to feel the power of their choice.” He urged all undergraduates to take interest because this election could change “how you are taught, where you live, who you can turn to if something goes wrong.” Diggle concluded, “OUSU elections are very important because they will decide the future direction of the student union – a body with real powers to shape every student’s experience.”   However, many undergraduates did not share Diggle’s enthusiasm about the forthcoming election. George Heppel, a Mansfield 2nd year, commented, “It’s a popularity contest. Who can honestly say they’ve read any of the manifestos of any of the candidates? The only reason anyone votes is because they’re friends with them, or a friend of a friend, or are in the college, or they’ve been pestered into voting.”Martha Mackenzie, current OUSU President urged students to vote for reasons greater than personal pressure, claiming, “Student politics can be very important. Whomever is elected in the upcoming contest will represent students not only to the most important members of the University but often also to the outside world, they will also be charged with making sure your student experience is the best it possibly can be. Furthermore, Oxford is in the privileged position that it is able to really contribute to national debates and has the power to effect substantive change.”   Meanwhile Ben Manley, a Worcester fresher, was not even aware that there was an election coming up. He responded to the question “What do you think OUSU does for you” with the answer “Not a clue.” Another student explained why this may be the case, “The general feeling among Oxford students is that OUSU is not important to us. The elections are never well publicised and are certainly much less significant than JCR Bench elections in colleges,” continuing, “The JCR Bench at my college has a much bigger impact upon my university experience.” To such criticisms, Mackenzie asserted, “Without a student union there would not be anyone representing students to the University and the departments. Crucial decisions are constantly made at this level, particularly decisions that will seriously impact upon the student experience. Similarly the central union provides a significant amount of services and support that allow common rooms to work to the best of their ability. Both these factors make it all the more important that OUSU is working as hard as it possibly can to reach out to students and work to make its priorities relevant.”last_img read more

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