Things that I think and do
This week marks the start of the elections for next year’s University Union Exec Committee in Leeds. It also has St Patrick’s Day, which is much more exciting but – sadly – less blogworthy.
It’s a week for which the nation’s entire supply of chalk has been scrawled over every square inch of pavement available between my house and university, and for which a forest vast enough to cover a sizeable European country has been chopped down for the ubiquitous posters all over campus and permanently IN YOUR FACE.
Of course, it’s lovely that we have democratic elections for the representatives of the student body. Also the voting system is one of preferential voting, and because I did AS-Level Politics four years ago I know this to be a good thing.
It’s also wonderful that there are so many candidates for each position in the Exec. I’m told that it’s an increase on last year by quite some way – the Union ‘newspaper’ gave us the difference as a percentage, which I thought was a bit of a weird thing to do. But there we go.
What’s annoying about the whole process is the aggressive amount of canvassing that goes on for a couple of weeks beforehand (although it could have been a month, frankly – I’ve become desensitised to the omnipresent lunatic grins and terrible wordplay).
As if it isn’t enough that most concrete surfaces within a two-mile radius of campus have been graffiti-ed with enough chalk to fill a medium-sized quarry, they’re covered in terrible and cheesy puns.
Some are just a bit naff, like “Get Sam’thing for nothing”, while others are so elaborate they run the risk of becoming nonsensical. It took me almost a week to work out what the large sign saying “Get to Noha” was trying to say.
Candidates also pop into society events and lectures occasionally. We had one guy come to an orchestra rehearsal last week who gave an overly loud and generally quite enthusiastic speech, which would have been fantastic if he hadn’t delivered it with the voice identical to Boris Johnson’s, the ridiculous hand gestures of Tony Blair and the snappy, clipped diction of David Cameron. A combination I don’t find particularly appealing, if I’m honest.
I’m pretty sure that for most students the election campaign malarkey is either an obtrusive inconvenience (putting the ‘pain’ into ‘campaign’ – there’s a tagline for you) or simply goes unnoticed. I also think there are three points of view towards the whole thing on the part of a lot of students:
There must also be a few who will be voting based solely on the manifestos of the candidates, but probably not all that many. It does seem from my three years’ experience of this whole business that unless you or your friend is running, it really isn’t interesting in any way. To be honest, even if you have a friend running it’s still pretty boring.
Now, I’m sure that the Exec does lots of useful and groundbreaking things for the Union and its students. I will say at this point though that I can’t think of anything that has directly, or specifically, affected me – apart from perhaps the ban on selling bottled water in the Union, which was a bit annoying for a while. And increasing the meal deal price, which was just bloody infuriating.
I’m also sure that I’m being completely ignorant about all this, and in fact they change things for the better all the time. I just remember one candidate who said he wanted to abolish all Wednesday afternoon lectures so that sports teams could go and do their thing then. Considering that a] that’s in place now (or as much as it can be) and b] any candidate wanting to get rid of lectures might not be the best option for a Union committee member, that example of particular incompetence stood out for me.
But I digress. As irritating as the whole affair is (and as sick as I am of seeing inescapable scrawly chalk scribbles wherever I walk) there’s a week left of this. Maybe if I go online and vote now it’ll all go away. Worth a go at least.