Brace yourself university students, it’s that time of year again…
So you’ve got work to hand in, exams to revise for, dissertations to hand in (and the absence of a social life in that case) and other things to get prepared. It seems like a hectic enough time as it is.
Fortunately, your university Student’s Union (SU) has other ideas and has the ultimate way to distract you: the Officer Elections.
This is a time when students really get to show off their skills as communicators and do what is effectively a more prestigious version of being on a school council. The different roles vary for each university, but generally there are a core set of roles that people will be standing for:
- President of the SU
- A role dedicated to sports and activities – at my uni it’s known as VP Activities
- An officer responsible for student welfare
- Normally you’ll see an officer/ambassador for International Students
- There is usually someone to liaise with the LGBT groups and societies
- There will be an academic officer – designed to help students with course concerns.
Some universities will have other roles, depending on the focus of the university and desires of the students.
One thing that you will never stop seeing once the candidate list is officially announced is the massive advertising and shameless plugging you’ll see around campus, right up until the deadline day. With my tongue in my cheek… here are the things you’ll be sure to see when election’s loom nearer.
Social media goes bananas…
- First thing I will say is that I was never the biggest fan of hashtags on Facebook… I think I represent a majority there. However, you’ll quickly find that, for some reason, it becomes acceptable again, as the candidates and their entourage use them as if they’re actually cool and popular. They’ll either be some thing simple like ‘#mikeforpresident‘ or something really catchy and witty, such as a slogan for their campaign.
You’ll also, rather amusingly, find it in status updates and places where it really has no place, such as the sharing of a holiday photo.
- To compound your misery, if you’re out and you happen to meet a new friend, the normal thing among us is to say ‘cool, I’ll add you on Facebook.’
And that’s where it all goes wrong…
When you scroll through the pages of friends you have… you’ll find they’ve all changed their profile pictures to a campaign poster of their chosen candidate! How are you going to find that fellow student who you met earlier in the night?! Suddenly it becomes a game of guesswork… Not easy.
- You suddenly feel infinitely popular as you arrive home from a hard day’s studying to note you have several Facebook messages in your inbox! Well, lucky me, you must be thinking!
The reality is somewhat less interesting. It is, in fact, a mass spam email from one of the candidates or their best mates asking them to like a page or attend an event. Ultimately, this is a clever shock tactic used by many media-savvy candidates to help give an air of popularity to their campaign. Ultimately it’s the votes that count at the end of it all!
Your campus starts to look partisan
- Suddenly your buildings and social spaces brighten up a little bit, mainly through the use of large banners that are erected in some remarkable positions. Well, I say ‘banners’… normally it’s a double bedsheet that someone bought from Wilko for £2.99. The lettering is usually someone’s Sharpie they had laying around from Freshers Week…
To be fair I have seen some great ones on campus in recent years – from sewn-on messages to even printed professional-type ones that look like they’ve been done by a massive advertising company. The reality is that someone got their graphic design mates to do it for them, but still rather creatively done!
- Every student space gets filled with flyers that have been printed off at vast expense – they’re always a great way of getting people’s attention and being really annoying at the same time. You’ll spot them in places that you’d never think too, from classrooms and on library shelves to even in front of toilets in the sports centre.
- Sports practices are always starting late. This really annoyed me as a former team president, but it’s a reality you’ll just have to get used to it.
Candidates and their supporters know well that often the best way to engage with groups of people is to talk to (read: gatecrash) sports teams when they’re finished with their practice. The usual tag-line you’ll hear is something like ‘we can get you a better deal if you vote for us or sponsor our cause!’ You often have to get a bit vocal with them and remind them that we want to get on with practice.
- If you’re one of the more popular flats/houses around, you might find yourself hosting a few parties now and again. And of course, that’s a fantastic way to meet lots of people, all complete with that student social lubricant… Alcohol. Suddenly, candidates with a smile and a box of beer can drum up endless amounts of support – they’ll even let you keep the remainder of that lager if you’re the host.
I can remember one of my mates turning up to promote his campaign for a particular role – turned up with a massive four-foot banner, a box of his favourite beer and four of his ‘rugby mates.’ Within 20 minutes, he’d got everyone to pose with said banner, get £30 in money to help with ‘admin costs’ and even managed to try and make me the poster boy of his campaign.
Even in public, you’re not free
- After your house party, you may be tempted to go to a nightclub. Not so fast, this is a battleground for just about everyone. You won’t be able to move from the bar or toilet without the collection of flyers and stamps tattooed on just about every square inch of bare skin. It is completely normal, for instance to have ‘VOTE JOE BLOGGS’ inked onto your forehead.
- Suddenly, the places you find more promotional material goes from the strange to the bizarre… I once saw an A2 poster in the upstairs of a kebab shop. Explain that one.
- On the quieter nights, you might even spot the odd promotional company for a bar/nightclub chain handing out the odd leaflet. Suddenly they become twice as irritating on the way to the supermarket.
Ultimately there is a serious point to all of this, which is to make your university life easier and more productive. However, some people do go to comical efforts to make sure they win at least the popular vote.
If you’ve seen anything else wacky and wonderful during campaigning time, do let us know – I sense an election drive next year with some of the best ideas?