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The Long Campaign: the experience of an OUSU candidate

first_imgIt’s the end day of voting in the OUSU elections and I am exhausted. I’ve spent the past two weeks flyering in the rain, going from college to college husting, and awkwardly messaging people to persuade them to vote. As a candidate for VP Welfare and Equal Opportunities, the irony about the toll these past few weeks has placed on my welfare is not lost on me. The fact that OUSU has a crisis with engagement is often discussed but to be honest, having run in these elections, I can see why you wouldn’t want to. Over the past week, myself and others running in the election participated in 12 hustings at various colleges across Oxford. Average turnout was about 10 people everywhere and OUSU central hustings was notably lacking anyone who didn’t already know one or more of the candidates. Gearing yourself up to talk to an empty room is difficult, and the time consuming nature of hustings means that what should be a fun and enjoyable opportunity to engage with students across the university quickly becomes a drag. I’ve been lucky to have been running against two wonderful candidates, Jenny Walker and Sandy Downs, and we agreed early on that if any of us needed to take a welfare break from husts, none of us would go. People running for other positions were not as fortunate. Another problem has been the financial burden that OUSU elections places on candidates. Sabbatical candidates running on their own can spend up to £135 with £10 extra for every other sabbatical candidate on a slate. Thankfully, limits are placed on spending with receipts being required to be submitted at the end of the election but £135 is no small amount of money. OUSU offer some financial support for candidates to apply for but I was not informed of how much money I would be receiving until Monday, a day before the polls opened. Fortunately, I had launched a crowd-funding campaign a week before and thanks to generous donations, I was more than able to adequately fund my campaign. Yet, there was a large amount of time where it looked like I was going to be unable to utilise the amount of money all candidates were entitled to. The financial situation in OUSU elections also favours slates who can split the amount they are entitled to spend between them. Slates are groups of people who are registered to campaign together; candidates running on their own then can’t endorse anyone running. When I decided to run independently, I was told it was my ‘political death.’ Ignoring whatever that means, running independently is seen as being useless and impractical because you are considered unlikely to win. Now I don’t know what tonight’s result will be but I do know that I have had some great conversations throughout this campaign. I’ve been given a platform to talk about what I think needs to be changed at this university, which has been an honour. And a number of people have said lots of lovely, complimentary things about me. All of this will be true regardless of the outcome. Because independent candidates are not allowed to endorse others for fear of being accused of ‘cross-slating’, OUSU elections become about individuals rather than ideas. There is, of course, an element of scrutiny required with the individuals running in an election, but I believe that the strength of ideas often gives a good indication of what the individual will be like. Running independently has meant that all of the burden has been placed on myself. I haven’t been able to voice my opinions about who I would want to work with should I get the role, despite the fact that we have to be part of a team and having watched everyone hust 10+ times, I have a pretty good idea about who is the best. Everyone acknowledges that elections are tough but I think there are a number of things that can be done to make OUSU elections more accessible for everyone. Firstly, reformulating the way husts work, either by geographical location or moving to a more online web-based system of videos. Secondly, considering how much money candidates really need to spend on a campaign. And thirdly, either ending slating or relaxing cross-slating rules. People should be able to run for OUSU without being emotionally or financially put off, and currently that is not the case.last_img

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