What Happened at the SRUCSA 2021 Elections?
The SRUCSA Elections are a critical part of both the representative work of SRUCSA and student voice at SRUC. To ensure that SRUCSA accurately represents all our students, all students must be able to run for office and vote in the elections and be encouraged and supported to do so. This is the ninth Spring election carried out by SRUCSA, and the second year with our new Co-President positions. 2021 was a particular challenge as it was carried out under lockdown conditions due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. This meant all promotion and interaction was done online as almost no students were on campus.
What we changed this year
A project carried out by the SRUC Academic Enhancement (Student Journey) Team identified a need to increase the amount of students involved in SRUCSA elections. SRUC provided additional support for the Elections. This was helpful and led to a few significant changes.
One of the big changes made this year was the forming of an ‘Elections Committee’ from staff across SRUC. The purpose of this committee is to increase the number of students taking part in the elections, by encouraging lots of people to nominate themselves for the role and increase the number of students voting
We also asked the National Union of Students (NUS) take a role as ‘Returning Officer’ for these elections. This ensures we have someone outside SRUCSA and SRUC to help with fair running of the elections. When the elections were running we asked NUS to help with a decision and they provided helpful, quick responses. The SRUC Student Journey Officer took the role as Deputy Returning Officer, which freed up SRUCSA staff to carry out organisational work and support candidates.
NUS also reviewed our existing Elections processes. We removed the need for students to get a second student to agree to their nomination which may have previous stopped some students. NUS also advised that we remove the ‘Re-open Nominations’ (RON) option in voting as this has been used by other student bodies as a means of intentionally disrupting the elections process. However, as we often have cases where only a single student runs for a position, we decided to keep the option to use RON so that voters have a choice to not elect the running candidate.
How we promoted the election this year
With help from the SRUC Communications team a 3-minute-long video was produced to encourage more students to put themselves forward for nomination.
We also digitised the nomination form and provided ‘pretty’ URLs (srucsa.org.uk/nominate) that could be easily shared. We used Microsoft Forms for the nomination form which was good as data entered was moved directly to a spreadsheet. However, it also led to some problems over permissions of the files uploaded by the student, and it was difficult to download the manifestos and supporting documents.
It was a challenging year for the candidates to reach students as it was during the lockdown and no students were on campus.
Spring 2021 results
|Position||Candidate 1||Candidate 2||Candidate 3||RON||Total Votes|
|Co-President South and West||24||8||–||1||33|
|Students with Disabilities||15||–||–||0||15|
|Black Students Officer||No Candidate||–||–||0|
|Academic Board Members|
|Further Education||No Candidate||–||–||–||0|
|Equality Diversity and Inclusion||18||–||–||0||18|
We don’t know exactly how many students took part as we don’t track which election voters take part in. We know that 111 took part in the three Co-President Elections. In 2020 the first year we had the new Co-President positions we had 131 students take part.
Comparing this to President Election in previous years:
This shows that voting this year was roughly the same as we get each year. We had hoped it would be increased as we had more students nominate themselves than in any other previous elections, but the challenge on online campaigning likely kept participation in the vote lower.
Feedback from candidates
We distributed feedback from to all our candidates. Most of the feedback was positive: the candidates felt like they were given good advice and were well-supported. Many of them commented how the Elections were different and challenging because of not being able to have contact with students. This was unavoidable as the election were carried out during lockdown. Some candidates would have liked to have in-person events directly with students as part of the campaign period. Some of them asked for a session with staff directly after the close of nominations with all the candidates.
Identified actions for next year.
- Next year we need to use the Elections Committee more extend membership to teaching staff and current students.
- Along with the SRUC Board we will reconsider the student roles on the academic board: splitting the roles by study level is confusing and there is no easy way to describe the Equality Diversity and Inclusion position.
- We will run a post nominations Q&A session for candidates going into the campaign week. We will create a ‘Campaign Toolkit’ for candidates, which outlines different things they can do to campaign and reach students.
- We will look into running events with candidates and students. We received feedback from a student via myVoice during the election period that we should be paying our liberation officers. This will be investigated with the liberation officers we have in post this year.
- We will review the use of Microsoft Forms for data collection but will continue to use digital forms.