USU Shortens Campaigning Period
The University of Sydney Union’s Electoral committee came to a decision last week to reduce the period of in-person campaigning for this year’s USU Board election by three days. The decision was prompted by concerns for student health and wellbeing, with the committee stating that campaigning responsibilities for both candidates and supporters can be “incredibly tiring both physically and mentally for all involved”.
This year, candidates and their supporters will be allowed to campaign in-person between Monday the 8th of May and the close of polls on Wednesday the 17th of May. Social Media and online campaigning will open on Saturday the 6th of May.
When considering the appropriate length of the in-person campaigning period, the committee noted that it is important that candidates have enough time to inform the university community of their policies, ideas and skills. A number of competing considerations, however, meant that too long a campaign period can be damaging to candidates and supporters, as well as prospective voters.
Not only did the committee consider students’ mental and physical health under the duress of campaigning responsibilities, but also the “huge opportunity cost on candidates’ other commitments including academic work and paid employment”. In many cases, students have had to make substantial sacrifices on behalf of both their academic and financial employment in order to put themselves forward as candidates. Given that many students are simply unable to take such a period off work, this precludes a wide margin of otherwise excellent candidates from participating in student democracy.
This is not the first time that concerns have been raised over the pressures that student elections put on those involved, with councilors of the Student Representative Council putting forward prospective regulation changes to shorten the campaigning period in 2015. However, the motion was not voted upon due to factional differences.
Though one week of campaigning may still impose some burdens on voters and candidates, the committee hopes that this decision has struck the right balance between allowing people to share their visions for the union and ensuring the well-being of voters, supporters and candidates.
Consistent with this change, pre-polling will also be reduced in length from four days to two. Pre-polling will occur on Monday the 15th of May and Tuesday the 16th of May at Manning House and the International Students’ Lounge. Additionally, on that Tuesday there will be voting at SCA, the Con and Mallet Street. Wednesday the 17th of May will be the major election polling day.