Looking back on Cardiff Students' Union Elections 2013 - the Results!
So, that time of year has been and gone, when you can't pass the Park Place crossroads without contending with a crowd of costumed contenders for the Students' Union elections. Big on creativity and enthusiasm, have this year's winners also got substance and policies?
If you want a more detailed examination, we recommend the ever-insightful Elect-Twit, but here are the winners with some reflections on the campaign.
President – Cari Davies
Cari Davies was this year’s Athletics Union President, and now she’s succeeded in making the jump to the top job as President of CSU. She ran with the slogan “Keep Calm and Cari On”, making good use of an old meme. Her campaign promises included better transport links, more on-campus cashpoints, and pushing for university lectures to be recorded and made available online. Astonishingly, it’s 10 years since the Students’ Union last had a female president. Last week was International Woman’s Day, but this fact alone suggests that even among Cardiff students, there’s a long way to go to having equal attitudes to men and women. More on that later when we discuss the campaigning overall…
Education – Ollie Wannell
Where’s Ollie? In first place, it seems! He’s been an academic rep for the last three years and has pledged to name and shame underperforming lecturers and fight for better library funding. He’s the first man in the Education role, which was created around 5 years ago. He also won the Spam Award for Most Facebook Notifications!
Welfare – Helen Dent
Campaigning as Helen of Troy, she may not have launched a thousand ships, but she garnered over a thousand votes, beating Sophie Hayden 1079 to 922. A Law student and president of RAG, her policies include a focus on exam timetables, textbook costs and raising awareness of ‘dodgy’ letting agents. We know how important it is that students find reliable letting agents and avoid the bad apples that give the lettings industry a bad name, so all the best to her with that.
Sports and AU – Edore Evuarherhe
Edore will be taking on responsibility for the Athletics Union, having campaigned as “The Fresh Prince of the AU”. He promises to continue to lobby for improvement to sports, make more use of social media, and introduce an online minibus booking system.
Societies and Campaigns – Elliot Howells
Elliot “Elly Bean” Howells is the new incumbent of the Societies and Campaigns role, winning with 1170 votes. Elliot was previously part of Only Boys Aloud, the choir that reached the final of Britain’s Got Talent 2012, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that his campaign won the unofficial Glee Award for Best Performance.
Heath Park – Gemma Wheeler
Ever since Cardiff University merged with the University of Wales College of Medicine back in 2004, it has been a challenge to bridge the gap between the Heath Park and Cathays campuses, and the experiences of medical students and the rest of the student body. This two-way race saw “Midget Gem” emerge victorious, taking on the role of representing Heath Park students.
Media and Marketing – Tom Eden
Journalism student Tom Eden ran with a figleaf costume and the slogan “You’d better Adam and Eve it” in one of the most tightly fought battles of the campaign, winning by a mere 55 votes. He promises to hold the Union to account in what they do, recognising the all-important editorial independence of the student media. But will he be able to solve the age-old problem of how to get Gair Rhydd, Quench, Xpress Radio and CUTV to all work together nicely across media? Among his competitors was “Jack the Ripper” who possibly had the most tasteless campaign gimmick, and claimed that he is “Read to Kill for our Union” – srsly?
Part time roles
I won’t discuss these in detail, but congratulations to all of those who were elected to part-time roles:
- Women's Officer - Emma Carragher
- Welsh Students' Officer - Cerith Rhys Jones
- Students with Disabilities Officers - Rachel Jones
- Postgraduate Students Officers - Matt Beckett
- LGBT+ Officers - Adam Duce
- International Students Officer - Dharu Sooriyakumar
- Ethical and Environmental Officer - Rosie Little
The campaign trail
Whether you win or lose, running in the SU elections is great fun – a whirlwind of lecture shout-outs, hitting the streets, explaining your manifesto, and ill-advised dance offs. These days it comes with the obligatory online campaigning, as each candidate tries to out-spam each other on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube – take a peek at #electionscsu to get an idea. It’s strange to think that these have only become ubiquitous in the last 5 years or so, but that’s a lifetime in student politics.
Campaigning can turn nasty though, despite the prohibition on negative campaigning between candidates. This year a spat broke out as Edmund Schlussel, currently the NUS Wales International Students Officer, accused “iVote” Claire Travers of racism, which she denied – you can read more of the story here.
Another concern this year was some of the offensive slogans used by some candidates:
Since when did offensive stereotyping and eating disorders become acceptable campaigns tactics? #ElectionsCSU— Samantha Reid (@SamanthaAlice19) March 7, 2013
#electionsCSU member of an AU campaign team wearing a Tshirt endorsing rape. Not okay.— Beth Button (@EducationCSU) March 7, 2013
This raises troubling questions about the whole process. You’d hope that the students running for election would be among Cardiff’s brightest and best, so it’s worrying that some candidates seemingly consider it acceptable to demean women or other groups as part of their campaigns.
What’s the point of the elections?
Despite these problems, and as tempting as it may be to laugh the Students’ Union elections off as just a glorified popularity contest, they play an important role. They give the potential movers and shakers of tomorrow the chance to have a go at articulating a message, getting together a team, and mustering support.
With the chance to represent 28,000 students, leading the SU is responsibility not to be sniffed at. University is a tremendous opportunity to begin changing the world. Everyone’s got to begin somewhere, so why not here?
For more coverage of the Students' Union elections, check out Cardiff Tab, and of course, Gair Rhydd itself - though bizarrely they haven't yet updated the website with their coverage of the results, so you'll have to pick up a paper copy on campus.