Let us ask you this - how much do you know about elections? And how much do you know about Sabbatical Officers? What about NUS Delegates? Or Student Trustees?
You may already know quite a lot about each of these, or you might know nothing at all, but either way, you likely still have some questions. You may even think you know some things, but those things might not even be true. So sit back, relax, and allow us to take you through the myths and truths of elections, roles, and SU life in general.
Not only are the Officers paid on an annual salary of £24,084, there are also perks to being a full-time member of staff. These include 22 days of paid holiday (plus bank holidays and seven discretionary days of leave which are usually over Christmas), a pension scheme, a free Totum card, half days on Friday over the summer holidays, and your birthday off work. Alongside this are additional benefits such as reduced price gym membership on campus, childcare provision, a season ticket loan scheme and a staff discount card getting you money off food and drink in our venues.
Elections are definitely not simply about who has the most friends, and the most popular candidate isn’t always the one who’s been a part of every sports team on campus, has never missed a night out, or has been to 95% of all society meetings ever. Instead, the “popular” candidates usually earn this status over the course of the election, through campaigning, good policies, and attendance at election events. So no, it’s not the person with the most Twitter followers, it's the person who campaigns the best!
Well, you’re here reading about them, which says something, doesn’t it? Over the last few years we’ve really seen student engagement with politics surge and the past two years have seen back-to-back record turnouts in the elections. People have also been getting involved in all aspects of student politics, be that through submissions to the Bright Ideas platform, attending student councils or simply making their voices heard on social media. There have also been a range of student campaigns which have done a fantastic job at engaging the student population, and there is no reason for elections to be any different. On the whole, people are generally up for stopping and chatting for a bit, especially during the campaigning process. Thousands of votes come in every year, so honestly, that says enough in itself!
While you might be nervous about standing now, it really isn’t as bad as it seems. Support is available throughout the campaigning process and the build up towards it, so you will be well prepared for when voting opens. When it comes to standing we’ve made it easy. You simply fill in your name, College card number, and then hit submit, and you’re done. Manifestos, campaign planning, and marketing are all things that can come later, so nominating yourself is incredibly simple!
We’ll be up front with you and admit that at times elections can be stressful and campaigning isn’t always easy, but this shouldn’t put you off. It really can be a lot of fun, and it’s a great chance to stand up and campaign on issues that really matter to you. You’ll also be supported all the way through by the Union’s staff team, who will give you plenty of help and advice on anything from manifestos to campaigning strategies. We’re also here to chat if things get a little much over the campaigning period.
All Sabbatical Officers work Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, but what happens on each of those days varies dramatically. You could be doing anything from attending College Board meetings, to planning campaigns. You’ll likely be reading a fair few papers on various subjects, but there will be plenty of opportunities to get out and about, talking to students and lobbying the College for change. Outside of these hours, Officers will occasionally attend other events, including dinners, society events, and councils.
This is absolutely false barring one caveat – which is anyone who has already completed two years as an officer can’t run. Other than that anyone who is a member of the Students’ Union can stand for a role! The meaning of sabbatical is “taking a year out”, which means that you can run at any point during your student life. This means that if you’re a first or second year, you can take a year’s (or two years') break from your studies, hold office for a year, and then jump straight back into your course once you’re done. If you’re a postgraduate student, you can run too, exactly the same as if you were an undergraduate.
Many international students worry that they won’t be able to run due to issues with their visas. The truth is, it’s possible to gain a specific Sabbatical Officer visa and the Students’ Union can assist you through this process. The UKCISA website provides a detailed breakdown on students who have Tier 4 immigration permission and are undertaking a sabbatical officer role. In fact, Willow Wong, your current VP Welfare and Diversity is an international student, and was able to gain this visa in order to take on her role. She is also a second year student, which means that she has also taken a year out of her studies!
You can in fact run for multiple roles, but only in certain circumstances. Some roles even complement each other, such as the Vice President roles and NUS Delegate, so it’s worth considering running for more than one role. Here’s a table to tell you what you can and can’t run for.
*The President is automatically elected as the Union’s NUS Delegate, is an ex officio member of College Council.
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