By Clara Gaspar
This year’s Students’ Union Officers and Trustee elections saw a decline in turnout from last year’s 24.7% to just 15%.
A mere 3,205 votes were cast out of a possible 21,139 from across the University’s undergraduate and postgraduate population.
Students of Josephine Butler had the highest turnout of all the colleges at 34.7%. Trevelyan College had the second highest, with 31.6%. With only 4.5%, Stephenson College had the lowest turnout of all of the colleges.
Durham SU President, Megan Croll, expressed her disappointment at the low number of students that voted, saying: “While we have been pleased with the number of candidates and the quality of the campaigns at this years’ Student Officer and Trustee elections, our turn-out in Officer Elections was a decrease on last years’ turnout.”
However, Croll cited potential reasons for the low number of voters: “There were a few unusual circumstances to contend with this year – the UCU strike, poor weather on the first day of voting (the day which showed the greatest change in turnout from previous years), and changes to the election itself – running it in conjunction with the trustee elections, reducing campaigning by one day (for reasons of candidate wellbeing) etc.
“I think there’s definitely work for us to do in future years to understand how we can work with College Election Coordinators and support candidates to be able to campaign as effectively as possible within our collegiate system.
“This, among other factors will be things we’ll be looking to unpick in our elections review, which will take in consideration voter turn-out, student feedback and website and social media engagement statistics to help us understand what changes are needed for next year.”
The results saw George Walker elected Durham Students’ Union’s President for the coming year, securing 1,494 votes against a quota of 1,378, after the round one elimination of Re-Open Nominations.
Walker has been an active member of the #RippedOff campaign, which protests rising accommodation fees.
He has also resolved to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to sexual violence and harassment on campus, as well as making the opportunities that the University offers to students from less affluent backgrounds more accessible.
Reflecting on the low turnout, Walker told Palatinate: “Whilst I was delighted to win the recent election with such a large proportion of the votes cast, the low turnout in the elections is very disappointing.
“It shows that the Students’ Union has a lot of work to do moving forward to engage a larger number of students and that is something I will be sure to make a priority in my role as President next year.”
His opponents, Joshua Butterworth and Joshua Cavendish achieved 531 and 731 votes respectively by the second round of votes.
Charlie Walker was re-elected Opportunities Officer, achieving 1,631 votes to Maciej Matuszewski’s 725. RON received 236 votes.
In a closely contested election, David Evans was elected Postgraduate Academic Officer. Quota was not reached in the first round and RON was eliminated. In the second round, David Evans gained 1,224 votes to Spencer Payne’s 1,210.
Saul Cahill was voted in as Undergraduate Academic Officer in the first round with 1,368 votes. 940 voted for Mary Wohrle, with 260 voting for RON.
Meg Haskins was elected Welfare and Liberation Officer, receiving 1,866 votes while 622 voted for Amelia Mcloughlin.
Sam Johnson-Audini, Kate McIntosh, Ben Zealley and Estia Ryan were elected as Student Trustees.
Photograph: George Walker