Skip to content

Opinion | Why don't students care who represents them?

This article is a retrospective piece, looking back and reflecting on the low level of political engagement this academic year and suggests reasons why students may be reluctant to vote in SU elections.

By Lowri Lewis, Opinion Columnist

Covid has shown us how even in the worst situations, our representatives at the SU can make a positive impact on our Uni experience - a number of us will have benefitted from the safety net and rent rebates that officers successfully campaigned for last year. So why don’t we care who does this for us?

Less than a third of Bristol’s student population voted in this year’s SU elections. With such a low voter turnout, it’s unsurprising that we’re at a point where some have even joked that voting is a form of procrastination. But there is some truth in this. At least, it’s true that voting in the SU elections feels almost like Uni work, despite the fact that it doesn’t remotely count towards our degree.

I think it’s this in-between status of voting that’s partly responsible for the low voter turnout. When we get free time, we don’t want to spend it doing more things that are related to Uni. Many of us will assume that, since this year’s officers have been doing a great job, it doesn’t really matter who gets in. They’ll probably do just as well.

Whilst it’s highly likely that yes, all the candidates will do a great job, the SU claims that it’s often fewer than 20 votes that decide the winner. And since many people will run social media campaigns to get their friends to vote for them, this could eventually mean that the number of Bristol University students with the biggest social media followings decide our SU officers, rather than the number of people who actually want them in those positions.

That said, I was certainly not intending on voting this year. As much as the constant email reminders did bother me when they clogged up my inbox, I simply wasn’t willing to take time out of my day to vote for something I thought I had no feelings about.

The in-person campaigning last year was what convinced me to vote. This year, it was browsing through the testimonies of the candidates as research for this article. I realised that I did actually feel that some things that particular candidates were campaigning for were more important to me than others.

The in-person campaigning last year was what convinced me to vote

However, I think like most people who do vote, I didn’t vote in every category. Not just because not all were relevant to my Uni experience, but because there were so many candidate proposals that I couldn’t bring myself to read through every single one.

As this can’t really change, since everyone deserves a fair shot at the positions, I’d say that not wanting to take the time to go through every manifesto is a valid excuse for not voting - at least when it comes to positions where the number of candidates surpasses a reasonable number.

But even if there’s only a couple of candidates going for a role, and it’s a role that will affect us directly, there’s no amount of preaching about how important they are that will convince more people to vote. At least, in the way that it’s currently being done.

Bristol SU 2021 election results
Opinion | If the SU wants good turnout in its elections, it should announce candidates more than one day in advance

It took a bit of digging to find a page that spoke about all that the current SU officers have achieved, but when I did find it, I was confused as to why this wasn’t on the first line of every email that reminds us to vote. The amount that officers have done for us this year alone is seriously impressive.

They tell us to ‘Vote like your Uni experience depends on it’ - quite how true this is, is not something to be underestimated. Our Uni experience will differ depending on who gets into those roles.

I understand if you didn’t vote in the SU elections this year. I almost didn’t, either. Let’s hope the SU aren’t quite so humble about all that they’ve achieved next year, so that more people realise that voting is worth taking a study break for.

Featured Image: Epigram / Zoë Crowther

Do you think it is important to vote in SU elections?