Editors’ Blog – Student democracy is alive
By Delaney Chambers & Hannah Shaddock
This issue of Palatinate is, once more, leading with a story about student democracy and university politics. This time, we are reporting on something far more positive – a record victory, and a rise in turnout (albeit a fairly miniscule one).
What our front page article in the last issue attempted to demonstrate (perhaps not as clearly or as convincingly as we’d like, on which more later) is that voting and elections at Durham University have a particular significance.
There is no doubt that the results of these votes tell us something about the current crop of students – exactly what it is they are telling us is sometimes harder to discern.
One important conclusion we can draw is that students care about the democratic process, and, at times, believe in it more at University than they do at a national level.
The response to last issue’s front-page story has clearly shown that the conclusions drawn in the article do not apply to many areas of the student body, something we’re not only willing but also happy to admit.
Helpfully, the past week saw the DSU Sabbatical Elections, which serve as both an important measure of student engagement but also as an illustration of exactly what most matters to students, providing useful context for the assertions made in the last issue of Palatinate.
The turnout is up – by .3 %, as our leading article says – but, more importantly, the presidential election was won by a majority not seen in the same elections of the previous five years (and possibly before then; the online records to which we have access do not go beyond 2007).
As we clarified in the online version of the JCR voting article, we chose to examine the figures from JCR votes, excluding those for JCR Presidents or Senior Men. It is this figure that is falling; conversely, turnout for elections of JCR Presidents and Senior Men, and of the DSU’s Sabbatical Officers, is on the rise.
Does this mean, the article speculates, that more students care about who represents their interests in dialogue with the University, and that students are more invested than ever in the services their Union provides?
Possibly. It may just be a reflection of the fact that the winning candidate was extremely well-equipped for the role, boasting a year’s experience at the heart of the DSU and therefore a competence that his rivals struggled to equal.
We’d like to think that the results show that students are more aware of the problems that they want solved, and of the crucial role that their Union can play in doing so. Students seem to be regaining faith in the DSU, after what has been an undeniably difficult few years.
Some light is shed on the role of university politics in students’ lives in the debate in Comment. The debate arises mainly as a response to some of the criticism we received over the front page article in the last issue, and which we’d like to address here (only briefly, we promise).
As our tenure as editors continues, we have come to the realisation that it is simply impossible to do absolutely everything right. Or, more accurately, it becomes increasingly difficult to make absolutely everyone happy.
No matter how hard we try, things can go wrong. We have learned that the best we can do is learn from our mistakes, move on, and resolve not to make the same mistakes again. In this case, the most significant lesson we learned was to admit we’re wrong when we are, but to defend ourselves where it is justified.
In light of the complaints regarding our last issue’s front-page story, as we went into it in our online blog, all we’ll say here is that we have apologised to the appropriate people, made sufficient corrections, and now are trying to move on from what mistakes we did (and didn’t) make.
The past two weeks have been a refreshing reminder that student politics are still important to many. We’re glad to have sparked a debate on such an important issue, and, as ever, we invite anyone who would like to contribute to get in touch.