Student elections: Not just a 'beauty contest'!
Students can't go anywhere in February and March without being bombarded by people handing out leaflets, with 'Vote for Robbo' or 'Sharon for Pres' on their t-shirts, not to mention the odd person dressed as a furry animal.
Iain Dalton, Bangor Socialist Students
Yes, it's student elections time. This is a time for student union people to crawl out of their hiding places and attempt to talk to students. Desperate for votes, they try everything from free sweets to outright harassment!
Nonetheless most students don't bother to vote at this stage. Why should they? Many candidates don't talk about the real issues such as tuition fees, rip-off accommodation and course cuts.
Instead manifestos typically consist of pledges to be fair and to listen. But in my experience they all say that and nothing changes.
For Socialist Students, elections are not only an opportunity to challenge for leadership of student unions. We contrast our ideas to those of the right wing and build support for our campaigns.
Our approach is different to that of the careerists who often run student unions. Our manifestos put forward demands that address the real needs of students, emphasising the fight for free education as well as important local issues.
The most important thing for us is to explain our ideas and put forward a strategy for building a student movement which can defend education from cuts and privatisation.
Elections can mean there is an increase in students thinking about how the student unions are run and, on the basis of our leaflets and posters explaining what we stand for, some students will campaign with Socialist Students. We can also put pressure on the union to campaign more when they see our support.
Canvassing halls of residence can be quite scary at first, but it gives you an opportunity to discuss issues with students where they feel comfortable. Holding a public meeting on your main campaign can be useful too.
Make sure the meeting is advertised on your election materials. Hustings or candidate question times are an opportunity to challenge other candidates' ideas.
In The Socialist 30 January 2008:
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Debt and Housing Feature
Marxist analysis: history
Socialist Party workplace news