Image: the University of York Students' Union (YUSU)

Students react to 2018 Officer Elections

Image: the University of York Students' Union (YUSU)
Image: the University of York Students’ Union (YUSU)

Students at the University of York have reacted to the results of the 2018 Officer Elections at the University of York Students’ Union.

Some students drew attention to the new President’s former role as Chair of James College. “Shock horror as former college Chair becomes YUSU President,” Tweeted Vanbrugh student Thomas Burke, who pointed out that “the last [four] YUSU Presidents have all previously been college Chairs.”

Many of the most recent YUSU Presidents, including the incumbent Alex Urquhart (2017/2018), Millie Beach (2016/2017), Ben Leatham (2015/2016) and Sam Maguire (2014/2015), have held prominent roles in the University of York’s college system. All of these Presidents were formerly Chairs or Presidents of their colleges’ Junior Common Room Committees or Student Associations.

But not all students were bothered by Durcan’s role in James College. “It’s fairly meaningless,” a Philosophy student told The Yorker. “It doesn’t really make a difference.”

Some commentators connected Durcan’s former James College role with the votes cast for the Re-Open Nominations campaign. “Horribly ironic how many students voted for change but Durcan’s speech echoed many who were elected before him,” commented Jatin Mapara, Managing Director of Nouse and former Marketing Director of The Yorker, on Twitter.

Other students referred to the identities of the President and other Sabbatical Officers. “Advice of how to be a good [President]: be a white male maybe?” commented Niamh Carroll, a Nouse contributor, on Twitter.

Nayomi Karthigesu, one of the two newly-elected BAME Officers, mentioned the race of the “white cisgender college chair” in a critical article of YUSU and the new President, published in York Vision this week.

Jens Dahle-Granli, a former candidate for the role of International Students’ Officer, wrote on Twitter that the new President was a member of the “elite” and “won’t make any difference”, suggesting that he was unfamiliar with the difficulties that International Students face on campus.

Later, on Facebook, Dahle-Granli challenged Durcan to a public debate on how he would work in the interests of International Students as President of the Students’ Union.

Others were simply dissatisfied with the new President. Durcan was “the most boring man possible,” Tweeted Jacob Phillips, Editor of Nouse.

Steph Hayle, a Third Year Sociology student, was the only woman to contest a Sabbatical Officer role this year. Hayle won, defeating Rowen Ellis, the only non-binary candidate fighting for a Sabbatical role. The Yorker spoke to students about whether the lack of female candidates was problematic. “Not necessarily,” a Philosophy student responded. “Maybe not enough women found the roles interesting.”

A Social & Political Sciences student told The Yorker that more women should be engaged with the YUSU elections, but that, when all is said and done, the best candidate for the job should win the election, regardless of their sex or gender. However, a History of Art & Curating student disagreed and suggested that the number of men running for positions should be equal to the number of women.

The prominent Re-Open Nominations campaign was a staple of this year’s elections. One First Year History student told The Yorker that the campaign was “pervasive” and pointed to the number of college accommodation blocks featuring pro-RON literature in their windows and kitchens.

Following the Results Night, the RON campaign wrote on Facebook that the results had been “disappointing,” but congratulated James Durcan on his election.

The fact that there was even talk of a RON victory, however, reflects the profound shift in the nature of student politics at York. The issues with YUSU have not gone away and neither will we. The increase in turnout cannot be put down as a success for the Union. Votes for president increased by 1176. RON gained 1313 first round votes. But the fact remains that over 10,000 students still did not vote. They are still not being represented. James Durcan has acknowledged the need for reform and we hope that he uses this message from the electorate to put pressure on YUSU from the start. Congratulations to James and everyone who was elected, and we hope that RON can continue to be a voice for better representation and reform.

Others, such as University Radio York’s Alex West, took a lighter view. “say what you want about RON as a realistic force for changing YUSU,” he Tweeted, “but it has [definitely] made [the elections] from a student media point of view.”


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