Adverts on social media, a ball pit in South Cloisters, and a promise of £500 to the society with the highest percentage of voting members were not enough to boost flagging turnout at this year’s Union elections.
The first for several years with no clear ‘slates’ of candidates, this year’s election turnout fell: only 5,909 of the Union’s 38,250 members voted, down from 6,763 last year.
UCL Student Left, who last year ran candidates for four sabbatical positions, this year chose to prioritise campaigns, like the Climate Strike on 15 March, over Union elections. Activist candidates ran only for down-ballot positions, such as Halls Representative and International Students Officer.
In recent years, it has also been customary for the president of Islamic Society to endorse candidates for major positions. This year’s president Mohseen Hamad only backed two candidates, for the full-time Welfare and International Officer position, and the part-time Societies Officer role.
An absence of factional slates hardly made races more competitive. The Activities and BME Officer positions each had only two candidates, and in both cases only one turned up to answer students’ questions at hustings. Only one person stood for Union Chair, and there were no candidates for Women’s Officer. A second election for the position is now underway, with ten candidates. Five students ran for Postgraduate Officer (a record for recent years). However, turnout among postgraduates remained lower than low: just 6.6 percent for PGR and 8.3 percent for PGT students.
Union sources are quietly confident about student elections but this year’s seem only to confirm what we already knew: UCL’s exponential growth has left students isolated from the institution. That’s something even ball pits can’t fix.
This article appeared in CG 66.
Cartoon by Darcy Bounsall.