Queen’s Campus students are disadvantaged in elections

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Queen’s Campus and Durham Campus may be one university split into two places, but the topic of equality in voting and elections makes it seem as though they are separate establishments altogether.

Some students at Durham Campus have been heard to claim ignorance of Queen’s location, or even (in extreme cases) its existence! Likewise, I personally know some Queen’s students who aren’t keen to travel up to Durham.

Is this lack of knowledge and interest due to students themselves or the separated locations of the two campuses? People may have both supporting and opposing views on this topic, but I would argue that students at Queen’s Campus, who do not participate in university-wide voting, lack interest in them because they are not informed!

According to the College summary table on the Durham University website, the fourteen colleges in Durham City Centre have 11,486 students, whilst Queen’s two colleges have 2,060. Therefore, statistically it would seem that Durham Campus student support outnumbers Queen’s by 139.17%.

Queen's Campus: 2060 students Durham City:11486 students
Queen’s Campus : 2060 students
Durham City: 11486 students

Nonetheless, the DSU holds Hustings at both Queen’s and Durham Campus. The downside to these meetings is that, from my experience, students barely show up for them. This raises the question of whether the problem is a lack of communication and information to students, or the students’ lack of interest.

February’s Student Officer Info sessions took place in Durham in either the Riverside Bar and Café, Chemistry Café or Calman Café. If half of those sessions were held at Queen’s, then perhaps more Queen’s students would have run for a Student Officer position. At the moment, having an imbalance of sessions on one campus makes that campus seem more involved or ‘in charge.’ Despite the higher proportion of Durham City students in comparison to Queen’s Students, it would have been fairer to hold a meeting at Queen’s as well, to make sure that everyone was given an easy opportunity to be represented.

We have a DSU office in the Holliday Building at Queen’s, but not many people know that. I believe it is the job of the Student Officers to utilize the room as much as possible, and this is the step towards promoting the DSU more efficiently at Queen’s. At the moment, it seems abandoned or unadvertised, and that’s possibly why not many Queen’s students care or know about it. If the office was manned with an even time-split between Queen’s and Durham Campus office hours, then it would potentially create a positive knock-on effect for student participation within university-wide elections.

The online Devote website shows results of university-wide elections, ranging from National Union of Students (NUS) Delegates to Student Trustees and DSU Student Officers.

In the DSU Presidential Elections this year, seventeen people from Collingwood College voted for Dan Slavin, compared to only nine students from Stephenson College (bear in mind that Dan was the Stephenson College president)! Therefore,  if we assume that the majority of people will vote if they are aware of the elections, the results from this election imply that NUS elections are not promoted adequately at Queen’s Campus.

The remaining question is whether students from a nominee’s college will vote for them. Looking at the DSU Student Officer Elections for President (held in March 2013), Hannah Horton received 495 votes from Collingwood College, compared to 42 or 18 other votes casted to her from students from other colleges. The same situation also applies to Rosi Jelfs who received three times the number of votes from students in her college compared to those in other colleges who voted for her.

Nonetheless, Dan Slavin and Dave Eaton received an evenly distributed number of votes from students across different colleges throughout the university. Perhaps this shows that people are finally reading statements and making an independent decision on who to vote for – or maybe Dan and Dave are just very popular and likeable people.

The voting results also show that Queen’s students were well informed about the DSU President elections, because Dan received a total of 539 votes from both Queen’s colleges. However, it could be the case that both John Snow and Stephenson College students were giving their full support to the only Queen’s Campus nominee. Don’t get me wrong here – Dan is a very hard working person and he won the election fair and square. I believe he will do an amazing job as DSU President. But as for Rosi and Hannah’s results, is the main reason that the highest number of votes came from their colleges due to the way they selectively advertised their campaign and approached their college mates to vote for them?

If all nominees had to be hand picked by the Student Union staff, that would provide all candidates with an equal opportunity because it would be certain that their statements would be read and that students from both campuses will have a fair chance of winning. Of course this is open to interpretation, especially since it would be a long process for staff to decide, and it would contradict the DSU as being student-run. In conclusion, despite all the supporting and opposing views on this topic, the problem cannot be solved because it appears that students naturally vote for their friends.

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