Despite having been a part-time keeno whilst at university one thing that I’ve never even dared take part in is student politics.
Whilst I’ve participated in Hall General Meetings in my time as social secretary and I’ll happily get on my soapbox about a range of issues for this very newspaper, I have never run for a position as a union councillor. As someone who was involved in my school’s council process and a student who came to university with an A-grade in politics this has been a surprise to many.
My interest in politics hasn’t waned, I’m just as opinionated as ever and, after escaping a family home where the Daily Mail is our chosen read, I’ve developed some very different (and way more informed) views. I’m passionate about the student experience and regularly stay on top of the goings on at council. So why am I not a councillor?
Firstly it’s because of the way in which you run for council. When I started university I saw halls and the union as the place to get involved in all the fun and interesting stuff and my department as where I went when hungover to learn about Dickens.
I remember seeing the promo for union council and, as it was run through departments and not halls, I assumed it was entirely university focused, a place to discuss educational issues and, all in all, not relevant to me. So I carried on my merry way and instead ran for the position of social secretary on my hall committee.
In my second year, having become more aware of Council’s function, I once again decided not to run. I was coming off my position as social secretary and keen to get involved in something else. However from what I’d seen of Union Council over my first year it seemed like a body which was defined by certain very strong characters who set the agenda for council’s politics and the political direction in which it leaned and I also still saw no relevance to myself.
Now a third year I regret how badly educated I was on the function of council and wish I’d had the opportunity to join it. Issues they have discussed recently, such as the offensive clothing motion proposed by Chris Carter, are topics I feel very passionate about and I wish I could have been involved in.
Despite many election promises made by previous executives, they have failed to successfully re-brand council. Whilst I have Ali Cole to thank for my change in understanding of council in my third year, and I do believe he has made the first steps towards a re-brand, I still believe the next VP: Democracy and Communications will have their work cut out altering the perception of council as a hostile and cliquey body.
So, do I think the current candidates can achieve this? I’m not 100% sure but one candidate in particular has certainly surprised me.
Hannah Chrisp, ex-Faraday sports sec and AU Exec (Communications and Media officer) was not an obvious candidate for this role. Running against the current Chair of Council, having had little experience with student democracy herself, I was a mixture of shocked, concerned and amused when she announced her candidacy. Surely she stood no chance against David Haines, who I knew to be a democracy devotee and who was chair of the very body I had so many issues with?
However, since campaigning began Hannah Chrisp has surprised me even more and this time, in a good way. She took an early lead in the polls and whilst this could be the fabled ‘I’ll vote for her cos she’s fit’ formula at work I think it has a great deal more to do with Chrisp voicing the concerns of a lot of students who feel excluded from the democratic process.
Chrisp is clearly appealing to someone and after her well held together performance on The Bubble Debate, which saw her attacked by the firing squad, she communicated effectively and clearly. Let us not forget that the role she is running for is 50% communications and not just democracy based.
Whilst I still believe Haines has the edge when it comes to knowledge on democracy and he too has the potential to be an effective VP: Democracy and Communications, it would be a mistake for him to assume that Chrisp’s lack of council involvement rules her out of the running.
Whilst many may disagree with me and still find her lack of involvement in union council a black mark against her campaign she is clearly appealing to someone out there and is certainly not a candidate to be underestimated.