The boys are back in town: Sabbs re-elected

Photograph: The Boar interviews President Elect Leo Boe. Tash Clark

Leo Bøe has been elected as next year’s President of Warwick Students’ Union, announced last Saturday evening. He beat eight other candidates in the race to total 1,569 votes after nine stages of elimination through the single transferable vote system (STV), leaving runner-up Jane Costello in second place with 1,296 votes.

Bøe, who currently holds the position of Welfare Officer at the Student’s Union after completing his degree in Politics and International Studies the previous year was shocked at the results: “I was not expecting this… I’m in a similar state of mind to… last year.”

Bøe maintains that his work as Welfare Officer this year means he can “cut straight to work” when he becomes President. “The experience I’ve gathered means that I think I’ll actually be able to start work immediately when I get into office”, he commented.

Current Sports Officer George Whitworth was elected to the new position of Union Development Officer next year by a margin of around 500 votes, the role of which will replace the position of Finance Officer. He told the Boar that it was “really good” to be re-elected. “Last year I was a lot more nervous and a lot more shell shocked, whereas this year I’m not,” he explained.

Next year, Whitworth will be replaced as Sports Officer by Chris Sury who commented: “I think he’s done a really good job… it will really benefit me working with [him] because he’s been in the position before… I hope we can work alongside each other and he can advise me.”

With a total of 1,422 votes in the final stage, Matt Rogers was elected as Societies Officer who will take over from Andy White. Rogers spent most of the week handing out free tea and coffee outside the Students’ Union, which proved to secure his position ahead of three other candidates. “We’ve got such a great choice [of societies] and I’m really looking forwards to seeing new [ones] grow and protect the existing ones,” he said.

Chris Luck, the current Democracy and Communications Officer was also elected to remain a part of the Students’ Union Officer team as the Democracy Officer with 77 percent of the vote. He commented: “[It’s] a slightly different role which will take some getting used to,” as the role of communications will be next year be split between all seven Sabbs. When questioned about his plans for next year, Luck explained: “It’s all about finding out about what students want before I do anything.”

The only female Sabb in next year’s team will be Izzy John who was elected to the position of Welfare Officer. This year there were only three females out of a total of 24 candidates who ran for full-time officer positions and just seven out of 26 of those candidates for part-time officers were female.

It took 24 years for Warwick SU to elect its first female President in 1989, and to date there have only ever been four females to take up the post. Izzy John told the Boar that in her duties of representation she will also have to “provide representation within the Sabb Team; this isn’t feminism or tokenism… but women need a voice.”

This year was the first in the history of Warwick Students’ Union that incumbent Sabbatical Officers ran again for Officer posts, with four of this year’s team attempting to remain at the Students’ Union. Of these four, three have thus far been elected to remain a part of the Sabb team, while Sean Ruston will compete against Daren Maynard for Education Officer at a later date.

Earlier this week, current Education Officer Sean Ruston was admitted to hospital and underwent an operation for appendicitis and is expected to remain at home for the next week. The issue of some Sabbs re-running was presented as an important democratic question by ‘warwickleaks,’ a Twitter and Facebook account that provided anonymous commentary on the elections throughout the week. He or she noted that they would be “very interested to know why 4 sabbs are running again.”

For the new Sabbs, however, this was not a cause for concern, with some candidates extolling the benefits of experience. Chris Sury, the new Sports Officer, expressed his support for the successful campaign of George Whitworth for the new position of Union Development Officer, claiming that having a previous Sports Officer in the Sabbatical team “will help me settle into my position quicker… I look forward to working together.”

Leo Bøe justified his re-election to the Sabbatical Board of the Students’ Union by explaining that all Officers technically remain students for their tenure and commented that “it is important to know what is and isn’t possible in a position.” Arguing that experience in Union roles is important for candidates to understand the limits and possibilities of their positions, Boe claimed that “some other candidates… hadn’t looked into the reality.”

With all of the current Sabbatical Officers so far achieving their desired positions, the student populace have voted in favour of experience, much to the bitterness of one second-year historian, who asked: “Why don’t they just get proper jobs?”

A total of nine candidates ran for the position of President this year, making it by far the most competitive election. The contests for the part-time Officer positions were significantly less competitive, with six positions fielding no candidates at all, and nine positions featuring a candidate competing solely against ‘Re-Open Nominations’.

According to Jinesh Maru, an Economics undergraduate, “the same can pretty much be said about Chris Luck [the successful candidate for Democracy Officer], who was basically just running against a joke campaign, which doesn’t exactly glorify that position as a figurehead for Democracy.”

Joe Brown, the alternative candidate for Democracy Officer, claimed he was “too drunk” to submit a campaign manifesto, ran on a campaign slogan of “I fuckin [sic] love votes,” and claimed upon his defeat that “the students of Warwick are basically fuckwits who don’t really know what they want.”

The concerted campaign by the Elections Group to increase the number of candidates standing had mixed results, with the number of overall nominations suffering a small decrease, although there were a greater number of candidates for the full-time positions.

The effort to increase voter turnout was significantly more successful, with the total of 51,710 individual votes from 4,823 voters representing an elections record. However, this still only represents the opinions of a minority of the total electorate and is, according to Chris Luck: “not as high as it could or should be.”

The new team of Sabbatical Officers features students from a variety of academic backgrounds and areas of experience, and according to one attendee of the elections party, MORSE student Phil Dent, “they seem to be some of the best qualified students in the University.”

A widespread criticism of last year’s Sabbatical elections, that the elected did not represent the social diversity of the University, does not however appear to have been resolved, with Welfare Officer-elect Izzy John the only female, and President-elect Leo Boe the only candidate of the six so far elected to have been an international student.

The elections saw a reprisal of the controversy concerning the role and title of the sabbatical position of President, with some students raising concerns that the title gives the wrong impression of the duties involved; the role of the president, which ranges from “general contact with external press,” to “point of liaison on University committee,” is distinct from the role of Chief Executive, a permanent position that is currently occupied by Jacqui Clements. In response to rumours that he, too, has viewed the title as misleading, President-elect Leo Bøe told the Boar that he would be consulting the electorate on the issue, in a series of meetings with students that he hopes will address his “biggest concern, that students are so disengaged from the Union.”

This controversy over positions may in part have contributed to the presidential campaign of Alexander Di Mascio, which focused on this apathy by presenting Di Mascio as a ‘totalitarian’ option, using such slogans as “when the revolution comes, your death will be swift and painless” and “your votes are not required, but a thin layer of legitimacy helps”. Such joke candidates can attract protest votes, with John LaPage, an undergraduate Science student, claiming that: “I voted for Di Mascio as a protest against the existence of the role of President, and against the idea of a political voice in the Students’ Union.”

While Di Mascio eventually came ninth in the Presidential election, his campaign to “give hate a chance” was seen by Chris Potts, a Philosophy and Psychology student, as a humorous attempt to exploit the attitude that “a collective members-based organisation such as a Students’ Union does not need an elected figurehead, especially as the role seems to be little more than a sinecure to the majority of students, and is far from as authoritative as the term ‘President’ implies.”

Regardless of such controversies, there was a general consensus amongst the prospective officers, successful and unsuccessful, that the campaigns from the vast majority of candidates were professional and sensible, with unsuccessful presidential candidate Laveen Ladharam agreeing that “everyone ran a great campaign, and I’m proud to have taken part.”

From http://theboar.org/news/2011/feb/16/boys-are-back-town-sabbs-re-elected/on Feb 16th.

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