Gone are the jarring coloured shirts, too heavy a-frames (or too flimsy corflutes) and pesky first year Eastern Avenue campaigners. With a campus shutdown and COVID-19 social distancing measures in place, the upcoming 2020 USU election will be the first in the Union’s history conducted entirely online.
Without having to walk to a voting booth on campus, and a five instead of three day voting period, on first thought it might seem like the number of students exercising their democratic right will skyrocket. Yet, with only Union members eligible (you can sign up for free by 5pm 15 May!) this might not eventuate.
Additionally, with the absence of verbal walk-n-talks, traditional factions who gain a lot of their votes from persuasive conversations with students they don’t know could struggle somewhat under this year’s arrangement, which would instead favour candidates with bigger social networks. As for preference flows — important for candidates who don’t break quota — it’s not immediately clear as to how an online election will affect the percentage of flow-on votes from negotiated deals.
Yet, whilst the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically altered the nature of campaigning this year, it has seemingly had little impact on the candidates’ policies and visions for the organisation. With the Union in an increasingly precarious financial position and the implementation of austerity measures, it’s unclear what the future of the Union is. Indeed, there is even the possibility of a potential University takeover, and the end of the USU as a nominally student controlled Union. Overall, this certainly seems like the most important USU election in the era of voluntary student unionism.
With five candidates due to be elected this year, half of those quizzed, interviewed and analysed below are set for directorship. Who those are is now in your hands.
Personalised links will be sent to USU members’ email addresses with voting beginning on Monday 18 May at 9am and finishing on Friday 22 May at 5pm.