Column: Tom Davies


Recycling Cardboard: Is it really the best way to brand yourself?

Oh god I’m going to have to bring up the elections aren’t I.

Anyone who read my column during the JCRC Elections earlier this year probably got a picture of exactly what I tend to think about student politics and the curious form of democracy it offers. YUSU’s annual plebiscite is a touch more amusing, because of the yearly circus of tatty cardboard branding and even more gimmicky slogans.

This is democracy, but not in the conventional sense. The message is usually that there isn’t a message, every year somebodies serious slogan is funnier than an actual joke candidate (and that isn’t saying much) and the information on the candidates actual stances you get from walking around campus is next to zero.

A lot of this seems to go back years, at some point we got an idea this was the way to run a YUSU campaign, and because everyone else was doing it, you needed to do it too.

This is a bit of a false correlation, because it presumes that just because everyone else does it YOUR campaign will gain votes from participating, or that you’ll get blown out of the water if you don’t at very least try and keep pace. What it doesn’t take into account is that maybe, just maybe, the culture itself is wrong, and the electorate might be clever enough to realize that.

A few years ago there was a candidate who ran a campaign almost entirely without posters, cardboard or any kind of branding, he was a popular JCR figure with a good personal record who spent the week walking around talking to voters. He did lose, granted, but narrowly in a two way race. Now I think it’s perhaps fair to say that he went too far in the other direction and maybe could have used just a tiny bit more in the way of a visual campaign – it probably cost him amongst the huge swathes of people for whom the cardboard is the only information they get – but it’s worth pointing out you’re not necessarily screwed to high heaven without some sort of “Vote for Joe to clean up YUSU” cardboard bat signal in the shape of a mop.

Now I should say this isn’t a universal problem, by any means, but for the sake of YUSU rules on reporting bias I have to PRETEND it is, so don’t all go reaming me out in the comments about why your candidate is different. Let’s just say the problem is widespread and seemingly endemic year on year.

It’s hard to get your message out on a bit of cardboard, we get that, but go on, have a go. For a few years there was a whole thing of just putting up your identifying, crudely painted motif without as much as your name on it, because we were all supposed to know you were the octopus guy. I kind of do get the thought process, it’s about creating momentum, people seem to want to vote for a candidate they think can win, and by seeing your brand everywhere, they assume you MUST be popular, but leaving your name off is on balance, definitely a rookie error.

I suppose my plea to the candidates is to have a strong, workable set of pledges and go out and make sure people know about them, at least try and do it with your cardboard, but if not, make sure you’re out there telling people. These un-humorous and facile cardboard nothings have to fall back a bit if we’re going to get real informed voter decisions out of the student body, and crucially – if your policies really are something that’s going to help everyone – maybe lift turnout a bit. I know somebody is going to point out ours is relatively high, but you can’t tell me only about 10-20% of students would be affected by the promises of this year’s crop of candidates.

The great shame of these elections in the years I’ve been at York – and I shan’t see another – is that there’s never been much excitement for them outside of a very small, insular part of the student body, chiefly those already involved in the student political process. Is that perhaps because the majority of people have no idea WHY they should care, standing around asking themselves the age old question I’ve amended slightly from “Life of Brian” of “What have YUSU ever done for us?”. Does the way campaigns are run by candidates standing in the YUSU elections have a hand in that? Well it’s a fairly good shout.


I’ve had an idea for a while now for a series of articles named “Academic Misconduct”, in which I go on lengthy, wild eyed rambles about some inane annoyance from my everyday University life. As I’ve only got a few of these columns left I’m going to start now, in a bid to do some good for future generations of York student. Maybe through my words real change can be enacted, you know, assuming the candidates we elect to the union this year don’t work out again.

Here’s my first gripe. There are a number of places on campus which suffer from long queues. The two major culprits are Nisa and the Courtyard. But do you know what seeks to make these queues even longer, to slow them down more than is strictly necessary? It’s you, yes you, one of the 9 out of 10 students who insists on paying for everything, all the time, by card. Never mind the fact there are countless cashpoints not only on campus but also probably on your way to Uni. Never mind the fact that if you pay by cash in Courtyard they actually let you skip half the queue. Look, I’m occasionally as guilty of it as the rest of you, but I’m just a product of this culture you all created. As with so many things our generation seems to feel like just because the technology is there we absolutely HAVE to use it. I’m slightly more sympathetic in the case of the Courtyard where there isn’t a cashpoint in the immediate vicinity, but the sheer delays caused by the convenience of chip and pin must add up to something staggering.

Oh yes, it will be convenience that finishes us off as a society. When everything becomes so damn convenient we no longer have to use our cognitive functions and simply glide through life, nothing more than coddled, empty headed consumers shovelling plates after plate of chicken goujons down our throats.

Look, just don’t do it alright, for me?


YUSU are going to launch an investigation into allegedly sexist and anti-Semitic tweets posted on their YUSU Elections Tweet Wall at the SABB hustings. I must be honest, I’ve always been rather sceptical of those bloody tweet walls. There’s something unmistakeably not-quite-cricket about dramatically enhancing the voice of the more obnoxious members of the braying mob, essentially giving them free license to publically ridicule people courageous enough to stand up in front of a crowd and talk about what they believe in. I may joke about YUSU Elections and criticise elements of the political culture at this University, but I would never deny that those standing for election are far braver than me.

What tweet walls and the like have served to do is create two separate events. There is the actual, serious political event, and then a sideshow projected on to the wall behind it full of amateur comedians and campaign jack boots. I mean, I enjoyed most of the cheap gags as much as the next man. Hell, I was behind a good number of them. But this kind of thing has a darker side, as we’re now seeing.

So am I suggesting we should ban tweet walls at election debates and the like? No. Am I suggesting we should build a time machine, go back in time and strangle whoever came up with the original idea for Twitter, well it certainly couldn’t hurt.


Here's a pug, Tom.
Here’s a pug, Tom.

I’m not strictly responsible for the lay up of my own column this edition, so the picture which normally accompanies this nib could feasibly be of anything, but in theory it should be a picture of a pug.

Apparently this paper has a story somewhere about people buying pugs over Facebook or whatever. But from what I can tell the piece once again reiterates the strange notion that these bizarre, wrinkly, squashed faced creatures are in some way to be coveted as the epitome of cuteness.

Am I missing something here? I’ve seen a video on YouTube of a Slow Loris eating a rice ball, and a man giving a baby hedgehog a bath. THAT was cute, this, well what the hell is this? What’s wrong with you people!