It’s the most wonderful time of the year: YUSU election season. In no time at all, idealistic politicos will be scribbling awful puns on stolen cardboard, interrupting your lectures to promise you the world, and doing anything short of selling their souls in order to get your vote. But inevitably alongside the unbridled idealism comes cynicism. Why bother paying attention to the YUSU elections? Nothing ever changes, and YUSU doesn’t do anything for students anyway.
I get it: dealing with YUSU can be like swimming through custard – difficult, and a little bit farcical. And there’s only so many times you can listen to candidates’ half-baked policies without feeling jaded. But that doesn’t mean the elections are pointless. Firstly, if elected, candidates do get to make real – if only small – changes on campus that impact on our lives while at York. Secondly, if you do feel that YUSU is crap (and there are plenty of reasons why you might think that) then this is your chance to do something about it. Quiz the candidates on what they’re going to do about the issues on campus that needs dealing with. Scrutinise their policies and vote for the one you think is most likely to deal with that issue. Campaign for the person you think has the best ideas for making a difference.
The worst possible reaction is apathy. It’s not a justified position to take, because there isn’t a single student out there who can’t think of ways the University and YUSU could change for the better. The standard reaction of moaning about YUSU on Yik-Yak does exactly nothing to address any of the problems that students face on campus. It’s also incredibly easy and lazy. Why provide constructive criticism about the direction YUSU should go in, or provide alternative solutions when you can just call for bloodless revolution on social media? Every year around election time, somebody in the student body pops up to tell us all that it’s an irrational charade, and that YUSU doesn’t engage with students. Sometimes that’s true. But other times it’s the fault of students for not engaging with YUSU enough, not the other way around.
Even if the circus of elections bores you to death, there are still plenty of ways to make sure your voice is being heard. You don’t have run for an SU position in order to change something on campus. If there’s a single issue that needs changing, why rely on a candidate to get into power and change it for you? You could submit a proposal to the Policy Review Group to change YUSU’s policy, or found a group to campaign for it. It might be dull and boring, but then most ways of getting things to change are.
Of course, the elections aren’t going to be life-changing. In a few years’ time, nobody’s going to know who the Part Time Officers and Sabbs for 2016-2017 were or what they did. Employers probably won’t care about the position anybody held in YUSU, and it might all count for nothing in the ‘real world’. The people running for election will promise all kinds of grand schemes that they might not end up achieving. Everyone knows that, which is why it’s so tempting to switch-off and not care. But the small changes that those who are elected will achieve matters now, for as long as we all study here. And that’s why the YUSU elections aren’t pointless.