1. THE RACE IS MORE ACCESSIBLE THAN EVER
We have made *significant changes* to the election process this year to improve equity between candidates
2. YOU DON’T NEED A DETAILED ‘VISION’, MANIFESTO OR EXPERIENCE
You don’t need a world-changing manifesto to win. You just a need passion and determination to improve life for students at York. YUSU is also here to support you in refining your ideas into policies.
3. THE REASON YOU DON’T THINK YOU CAN WIN IS EXACTLY WHY YOU SHOULD RUN.
If you feel that ‘students like you’ don’t win elections, then that’s even more reason to stand for election. Certain groups of students, including women, BAME and disabled students are severely underrepresented, and your election could change that and, as a result, inspire huge progress on campus for the groups that need it most.
The University of York Students’ Union (YUSU) have just announced a threefold change to the electoral process. On the face of it, its motivations are good. They are seeking to encourage people who would not normally run, to run. Point “1.” is difficult to take issue with. YUSU has been criticized in the past for being a closed group and opening it up is a good thing. More voices are needed and a broader range of candidates will help marshal the generally apathetic electorate.
Points “2.” and “3.”, however, indicate more sinister underlying problems. Point “2.” suggests there are three requirements that people have needed in the past to run for office. Whilst inexperience should indeed not be a barrier to participation, the suggestion that no ‘vision’ or ‘manifesto’ is needed is somewhat disturbing. Apparently, you just “need passion and determination” (desirable characteristics, granted). If you have these “YUSU is …here to support you in refining your ideas into policies.” YUSU are calling for people to step forward to be sculpted. The idea that YUSU should help set candidates policies is not only patronizing but thoroughly undemocratic. What kind of democracy is it where the incumbents help write the opposition’s manifesto.
Point “3.” is also problematic. First of all, it reflects YUSU’s tendency to lump minority groups into an amorphous blob. So desperate are they to include everyone that they conflate the desires of ‘minorities’. Even the acronym ‘BAME’ is a lazy and perhaps sinister merging of multiple distinct groups. The reasons why women might not run for YUSU office may be completely different to why a disabled person or a minority ethnic person may not run. None of them are not running because the system is too complicated.
This brings us onto the implication of the three points combined. The implication is that the minority groups they describe are not running because of the complexity of the system and the need to have ‘policies’. The logic of this suggestion is that minority groups have not stepped forward because they have no policies, policies that YUSU (with a poor minority representation, according to this very post) will tell them how to write. The complexity of the system is not a minority issue; it is an issue with YUSU.
If YUSU is serious about improving representation for minority groups, the last thing it needs is a whole swathe of candidates with half-baked, YUSU produced policies. It needs clear and ambitious policy that identifies and addresses specific problems for specific communities. There is no silver bullet for the problems faced by various minority groups. If there were, then this invitation to the agendaless is not it.