The selective democracy of the DSU


To clarify first and foremost, this is not intended to be directed towards the candidates of these recent SU elections. I’m sure they are all great candidates for their positions, and any harassment or intimidation against them is completely unacceptable and counter-productive.

Rather than the nature of the candidates, what I take issue with in this latest batch of elections was the institution and the conditions under which these elections were held. The DSU has been subject to a lot of criticism as an institution recently given the topical push by the university administration for increased centralisation, amidst the worries of the Operations Review, BPR2 and other such projects undermining the collegiate structure.

Whereas some colleges now struggle to afford a JCR sabbatical president, the SU receives £900,000 annually – over triple of the funds allocated to all college JCRs collectively. This allocation of funds, along with pay inequality in the university more generally, has shown the university administration to be deeply out of touch with both the student population, and the striking staff.

In essence, this election was one the SU really had to not mess up.

Naturally, these factors are largely unconnected to the SU officers, however they nonetheless have prompted a much higher engagement amongst students in the SU’s politics. In essence, this election was one the SU really had to not mess up.

Further fuelling the situation were the SU’s other recent controversies: their interactions with Durham University Labour Club and the JCRs, the allegations of nepotism, bullying and manipulation posted onto Durfess, and the SU’s legal response to the page. Again, the one thing the SU had to do was to avoid perpetuating this image through the election period, and to preserve a democratic, inclusive face.

Yet after passing a motion to permit endorsements by officers and other traditionally impartial personnel, further allegations of nepotism and hostility, and a last-minute alteration of campaign dates, one presidential candidate was consequently pressured to stand down from particular disadvantage.

In an election that needed so desperately to be democratic, it seemed that the SU were instead attempting to condition and undermine their democratic processes. It is for this reason that I, and many others, refuse to accept the legitimacy of this democracy. Without meaning to disparage or spite any candidates, I resolved as a result that the presidential elections needed to be redone, properly this time – so I voted to Re-Open Nominations.

I am not a member of a campaign, nor was I ever approached for one. I certainly didn’t vote for one. Yet somehow, after all of their own attempts to condition the result, the SU have decided to nullify all RON votes for supposedly doing just that – after, may I add, prolonging the results for weeks whilst digging up dirt on a pro-RON campaign.

Yet RON is not a candidate, and cannot have an official campaign

Yet RON is not a candidate, and cannot have an official campaign. Different people voted RON for different reasons, and to discount every RON voter simply on the actions of unofficial representatives cites a blatantly opportunistic standard of democratic purism. It is a standard which they themselves have betrayed – hence leaving the SU with a choice.

The SU could abandon their quest for democratic purity: count the RON votes, and redo the elections in which RON won, as the option to RON would suggest. Or they could uphold those standards, and incriminate their own officers and staff, leaving no alternative but to redo the whole procedure under more democratic conditions.

In other words, if the SU wants to achieve consistency, or uphold democracy, RON has likely won either way. If they do neither, there is no doubt that the hypocrisy and/or oligarchic nature of the institution will provide a visible cause and justification for protest.

Image credit: kaysgeog via Flickr

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