The Future of the Students Union Hangs in the Balance��_

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By the end of February the Students Union will have a brand new Executive Team waiting eagerly to step into the breach, taking charge of, for its size, the best Students Union in the UK.

Who will these ten people will be? Well some may have an idea, but in reality no one actually knows for sure which ten candidates will make it through the obstacle course that is campaigning, and make it out the other side shining.

As the Vice President in charge of planning, running and overseeing Union elections, I am incredibly excited to see what the next couple of months will deliver. I have poured my blood, sweat and deepest fears into creating this year’s Executive Election, going against things that I personally never thought I would have the guts to change and, in my opinion, creating an Election which should be the most accessible ever.

In my view, the particular things I am proud to be announcing as changes to this election I will discuss below.

First up, the chance for individuals or groups to recommend fellow students for the Executive Team. This addition was based on research we had done into other SUs. What I want to achieve is an election where clubs, societies, committees or even just mates can recommend their buddies or people they know who would be suitable to the role.

It has never been tried before here in Loughborough, so we have no idea how it will go! But I want to hand over some trust to students and give them a chance to provide a little boost for the potential candidates among them.

Next up is the extended nomination period. This year, candidates will have a whopping one month and one day to nominate themselves. This is over twice as long as previous years. The reason? I didn’t want to rush people into feeling they had just a short time to apply. We also wanted to use it to combat the annual ‘pre-campaigning’ debate by allowing candidates to ‘declare their intent to run’ to their mates and potential campaign team members, but not engage with any actual, physical campaigning.

The media week is another new addition to the face of the Exec Elections. Previously the media centre has been given a weekend to meet with candidates and organise all coverage needed in advance to the start of campaigning. This year there is a whole week for media preparation. This week will give us a chance to sit down with each candidate individually and provide support, advice and organise their media requirements, giving us the chance to also boost the promotion of the elections and candidates even further.

Hustings have been a very contentious issue over the last few years. The EHB informal hustings have slowly turned into an excuse for a mess around. The Union formal hustings have been a waste of candidate’s time. And the various different media hustings have been half hearted and as a result not as effective as they could have been.

This year we aren’t holding anything back. A full on, two-day, LIVE, debate/chat show style hustings is what awaits this years candidates. What I aim to create with this is a hustings which gets candidates digging deep into their manifesto points and delivering high quality responses to well chosen, grilling questions. With a selected and limited audience and an intimate setting we aim to remove the issue of poor attendance and weak debate.

And finally we reach the budget! Two changes in particular. First, the less contentious allowance for candidates, which provides them free printing up to £15. In my belief the minimum required to run a decent campaign is posters. So by providing up to 300 odd free posters for each candidate they could potentially all run for free!

Secondly, and much more controversial, is the new budget cap. This change has been a long time coming… for the last few years candidates have been allowed to spend as much as they like. As far as I’m aware this value has sometimes exceeded £1000!! But the question was, how much to set the budget as. Too high, and it would appear I wasn’t taking the unlimited spending issue seriously enough. After all, many other SUs have budgets of £50 and less, so setting a cap of £500 would have been half hearted. Too low, and I may have destroyed what has made our elections so different and extraordinary.

After a lot of research and long discussions with colleagues I settled on a cap of £100. Some have argued too low, however this cap still leaves us at pricey end compared to other SUs.

I guess only time will tell… but ultimately what I really hope to create, with the budget change and all the other changes, is an election which is really, truly free and fair to all students studying at Loughborough. If there has ever been a time to stand up, nominate yourself, and run for Exec, this is the year to do it!  

Click here to view the Executive Elections website.

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