University life always has its ups and downs. Getting away from home, meeting new people, and being free to do whatever you want is juxtaposed against exams, masses of reading, and a near-constant stream of coursework deadlines. However, these advantages and disadvantages are at no point more polarised than during the elections period, where students campaign to become the people to lead the Students’ Union for the next academic year.
These elections might seem quite tame and civilised from the outside, but in fact it can be overwhelming and exceedingly frustrating. For a fresher walking onto campus on the first day of campaigning, it’s a confusing setup. Every conceivable surface becomes somewhere to campaign which results in a poster explosion. Makeshift banners crafted from old bed sheets hang from buildings and swarms of students mill around in brightly coloured t-shirts, accosting everyone that passes to vote for them. Trying to avoid these groups becomes physically impossible and instead of getting to your lecture, you have a 10-minute conversation with someone running for a position that you’ve never even heard of. If you miraculously do make it to your lecture, you’ll be forced to endure five minutes of lecture shout-outs before you can begin learning, by which time you’ve forgotten all of the candidates' names anyway.
You might think that going home might get you away from the commotion, but people running for positions often campaign door-to-door, especially if you’re in halls. This isn’t the only way they can get you in the comfort of your own home either: social media sites are saturated with campaign statuses, pages, manifestos, cover photos, and videos, as candidates do anything and everything within their power to reach as many students as possible. Facebook becomes immersed in cheesy grins photoshopped onto badly designed posters. Twitter becomes a bitching-ground for candidates and their respective campaign teams, and students are forced to choose between friends running for the same position.
Nevertheless, underneath all of this stress and annoyance, there is fun to be found with the elections process. Besides fresher's week, this is probably the best time to get involved in a society as they will be welcoming everyone with open arms in the hope of securing your vote. This is also the time when your university’s media departments really shine; with professional coverage of the twists and turns, whether it be through audio, video or print. Lots of universities also create a ‘lipdub’ during elections where they get as many students as possible involved in miming a song, which usually has some hilarious results.
Campus does begin to resemble a middle class shanty town, but there are plenty of weird and wonderful people to meet who are passionate about the positions which they are running for. Huge amounts of hard work are put into making brilliant campaigns, and it is inspiring to see so much drive and motivation, not only among the candidates, but also in their campaign teams. It’s a period of colour, with an electric atmosphere. Aside from getting to know the candidates that are running, you’ll also meet other voters, and being in a campaign team is an excellent way to meet students with whom you have shared interests.
Finally, just remember that elections will only last for a few weeks. For all of their shortcomings, elections are one of the best times to be at university, so ignore the spamming of social media and stop being so moody about the walls of your beloved Union being sheathed in posters. Enjoy and embrace elections whilst you can, and remember to have your say on who you think should be in charge of your students’ union. If only our general elections were this exciting.
Howell Davies is running for a position at his own SU. He assures us he won't get in trouble for writing this piece. Follow him on Twitter, presumably for campaign updates.