Student apathy not helped by OUSA

Little competition and no excitement for 2015 Executive

The OUSA Executive has been elected for 2015, but a lack of advertising for nominations and minimal campaigning has resulted in a nearly 40 per cent drop in votes this year.

The OUSA Executive represents the wider population of students on major issues throughout the year. Despite this, advertisements in Critic were the only form of advertising for the positions before nominations begun. One student email was circulated on the Monday of nomination week, and posters were placed around the University on the Tuesday, two days before nominations closed. There was one Facebook post.

OUSA President Ruby Sycamore-Smith maintained that OUSA allocates its advertising in order to comply with “budgetary means.”

OUSA allocated $5,500 for the 2014 elections, which “has been the same for the past three elections.” The money was used for “adverts, printing of posters, Critic, Radio One, etc.” Whilst OUSA’s spending has been the same, she says there has been increased election advertising.

“Over the past few years, as OUSA has increased its election advertising, our voter turnout in general has been increasing.” Last year, 5,193 votes were made. This year 3,200 votes were made.

“The Association Secretary also buys chocolate fish for the booths, gets ports activated and deactivated for the polling booth in the Link and arranges vouchers for roaming staff who sometimes walk around with tablets.”

Dr John Guthrie, a lecturer at the University and a former student, feels that, in general, interest is not being shown by anyone. “There used to be a lot more excitement,” he says. “People just aren't putting their hands up anymore.”
In contrast, the student-run elections held in two of Otago’s residential halls – Knox and Selwyn – seem to champion a much higher standard of pre-election campaigning. The colleges hold a week of strong campaigning, numerous people compete for positions and entire walls are plastered with posters, banners and chalk across the college.

At Knox, all candidates are required to make promotional videos online to further promote their campaign. “It's university politics so it's half centred around drinking and nudity,” jokes Knox President Marinus Abrie. “The movies are always well thought out, though … and are a massive part of the campaign.”

Critic also spoke to Harry Wales, President of Selwyn College, who expressed enthusiasm for the College’s upcoming student election. “The committee has a lot of say during the year about how the College is run,” states Wales. “So finding out who's going to inherit these roles for the next year always creates a sense of excitement and anticipation.”

This emphasis at the halls paints quite a different picture to the university-wide OUSA elections, where scarce advertising left many students completely unaware of the potential to nominate candidates for Executive roles and of the possible candidates to vote for.

Sycamore-Smith and Admin Vice-President Ryan Edgar did not attend the announcement of the winners, joining the 85 per cent of students who showed little interest in the outcome of the 2015 Executive elections.
This article first appeared in Issue 25, 2014.
Posted 2:58pm Sunday 28th September 2014 by Emily Draper.