The YUSU elections are now in full swing. Candidates have published their manifestos both online and they also featured in the student Big Debate that was held last Friday. On the surface, it may appear to be just the same as any other YUSU election. However, across the board there is a sense of something very different – a general concession that YUSU needs to change, and fast. Furthermore, the vote for RON (Reopen Nominations) for YUSU president could set the path of change towards a very different angle.
It is well known that YUSU are failing their students. Not only in elections where student voter turnout is at an all time low (75% of students did not vote in the last elections) but also in their lack of representation and engagement with what students actually need. Last week’s Big Student debate concluded in general, between all candidates that YUSU, as it stands has become drastically out of touch with the student body. YUSU is not representative of all students and this prevents them from implementing policies that will benefit the student body at large. Yes, complaints about YUSU have dominated elections for years and yes most candidates agree that there is need for change. However, RON believes students should stop complaining about how things are at YUSU and actually vote to make a difference. It is no longer enough to simply complain and remain complacent.
There is a general rhetoric amongst York students that student politics does not matter. I know there is as I used to assume that too. However, having listened to the manifestos of candidates and seeing the RON campaign, I really think there is no time more relevant than now, to use your student voice. Students will say they do not vote as they believe it will not make a significant difference, so they remain silent. And yes, voting for a candidate might make some small differences here and there, but will not lead to significant change. But this is where RON comes in. If the thought ‘student politics is irrelevant’ has ever crossed your mind I would urge you to take a long, hard look at the RON campaign to realise that it does, and it can.
A vote for RON is not a vote for its figurehead, Oscar Jefferson. A vote for RON would lead to a second YUSU election, not on who should be the Union’s president but how to re structure YUSU as a student body. RON does not want to abandon YUSU completely, but is simply pleading for reform. It is pleading for a reform of a system that claims to represent its students whilst simultaneously being undemocratic, unrepresentative and disengaging. Essentially, a vote for RON’s presidency is a vote for change. A vote for a presidential candidate is a vote for continuity.
If successful, a RON vote will send a strong message to YUSU and definitely one they cannot ignore this time round. Most importantly, it will spark the need for a second election in the summer term to decide how to reform YUSU to make it more suited to fulfilling student needs. Its suggestions for moderate reform include: the lifting of on campus press censorship (obviously, this does not include the Yorker as we are independent anyway), a reduction of bureaucracy and a ‘freeing up’ of societies and sports clubs’ money – these policies would generate importantly needed transparency. Other propositions include potentially creating a student parliament and having ‘seats’ determined by geography, societies, course reps or colleges which would generate far greater democratic system.
A vote for RON is evidently a clear message and one of dissatisfaction with the current YUSU system. It is easy to remain complacent in the belief that student politics is irrelevant and that YUSU elections do not matter. It is easy to think that using your vote will not make change. It is frankly, easy to criticise the system but remain silent. But this election could change everything if RON are successful. In brief, voting for RON is essential to combat a system that is currently creating student political disenfranchisement and a lack of suitable (and notable) policies. RON is needed to insinuate significant and well needed change. For YUSU to truly be a representation of the York student body, it needs to listen to its students. It has not been listening, and it is not listening now. However, voting for RON will make it hear. So vote, loud and clear.
Voting in the YUSU elections is open until Friday 23rd at 5pm. To support RON’s campaign and generate real, potential change, vote RON for Union President. Election results will be available from 7:30pm Saturday 24th February, there is a results night special to be held in Hendrix Hall.