It’s like 2009 all over again


Andreas Zacharia, the new VP Activities.

— By Shane Croucher and Rob Wells

Another year, another set of SU elections. And, unfortunately, it’s going to the be the same old thing over again. The problem with the SU elections is that those involved tend to get swept up in the “drama” — ourselves included — but when you step back and get some perspective the whole thing is depressingly unimportant.

The SU elections have come and gone once again. Turnout is still abysmal — just 16% of the total student population. To be fair to the SU, it’s up on last year and it’s progress in the right direction. It just leaves next year’s team to build on this. How can they do that? Well, if we had the answer then we’d have the SU kissing our toes and grovelling for the secret formula. Our feet are currently SU-free.

Disappointingly, three positions were uncontested (if you exclude RON), meaning there was no choice. At least these were all part-time positions though, so no one has effectively strolled into a paid position.

We have some hope for Dan Derricott, who won the vice-president for academic affairs position. He seems pragmatic about his position, realises there are limitations, but importantly he has specific plans, and not generic manifesto guff about “enhancing the student experience”.

His reps system has flaws, which he realises, but the idea behind it is positive. Derricott must steer clear of PR drivel, otherwise he may drown in wishy-washy flim-flam. If things aren’t going well, be honest rather than try to cover it up. Then you can spend your time on solutions rather than distraction from a problem. As ever, The Linc will be on hand next year to scrutinise his progress.

Andreas Zacharia won the vice-president for activities position, and is promising “three wishes” for each club and society — which means they tell him three things they want and he’ll try to get them.

When we interviewed him, we asked how he’ll help to achieve these goals, to which he replied he is a “strong person”, and if people, for example, ask for more time on the astroturf then “I’ll get them more time on there”. He firmly believes that his strength of character, passion, and determination will allow him to achieve these goals.

We like his “three wishes” campaign, and he’s right to say it’s a good way of monitoring progress, but we wonder if his personality is enough to deliver on these promises. We fear that situational practicality may well get in the way, leaving him unable to grant the wishes. As ever, only time will tell.

Until next year, the elections chaos is over. We’ll be keeping our beady eyes on the 2010/11 SU team. It’s important to those involved, mostly for the people running for full-time positions, because it’s an £18,000-a-year job and the chance to add another year to their university experience.

But for everyone else, it matters little. There will be no real, significant changes taking place based on what happened on Friday, March 5th. Generally, that’s not because of the specific people involved. This isn’t about their skill or sincerity. It’s about the way the system works. It’s about the fact that the SU can’t make any real difference.

This is clearly realised by the student population as a whole. This year, like every year, the turnout was appallingly low; roughly 84% of students didn’t vote. If the SU was doing anything, or could do anything, that Lincoln students thought could have a significant effect on their university lives then they would express their preferences.

It’s incredibly clear students think that there will be no ill effect if they boycott the elections entirely. But this is not coupled with a rejection of the Students’ Union. When asked, students will often say that that the SU is generally a good thing.
This difference is fairly easy to square, if you look at the services the organisation provides, particularly funding and support for sports teams and societies. As a functional body, it works, but as a political or campaigning one, it doesn’t.

Even though candidates largely confine themselves to fairly unchallenging, uncontroversial policies, the effect they can have is limited. Take Chris Charnley, for example. Last year he made some fairly vague pledges that no one could object to. But across the board the real power to change things is out of his hands.

It’s the same this year. Take accommodation. Regardless of what he claims, are landlords really scared of the SU?Probably only if the university — an organisation with some clout — gets involved directly. Or jobs. How is he going to get local businesses, or even the university, to employ more students — particularly considering the economy’s current state.

As mentioned earlier, this isn’t about sincerity or skill. It’s about the system.

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