& opinion


Students are often accused of being apathetic in all matters, especially those political, with only about one in ten students voting in national elections. However, we should all appreciate the fact that we live in a democracy and have a chance to affect change through it. As Nik Goldberg (Education Officer) said, we are lucky to have the right to vote. ‘There’s no use in complaining if you aren’t willing to interact. If the Union hasn’t got stuff you want, you need to tell them. How else can they provide it?’

The majority of students here may not fully appreciate the influence the Sabbatical officers have on their lives at Sussex, so I decided to go and ask the current officers just why you should vote. The predominant reason is of course the already-stated fact that it is your democratic right. David Mooney Finance Officer) said that while many people feel, in terms of national elections, that there is little point in voting, when it comes to Sussex campus elections it is a very different matter. It is not a three-party system with everyone being essentially the same; rather the spectrum of political opinion is incredibly diverse, and it is possible to vote according to your own true opinions and feelings. You can choose the person you perceive to be best for the job, and hold them to it. Ros Hall, President, emphasised the fact that it is our Union, and our chance to ensure that we receive good representation. ‘It’s about us as the 12,000 members.’

The Sabbaticals have a huge effect in the everyday life of the University, from setting the beer prices and the wages of student staff, to helping students who are having problems with their landlords; from determining how clubs and activities are run and how much money they each get, to events behind the scenes such as their influence on teaching. They have a large impact in fighting for the improvement of the education, such as the setting up and running of STARs (Student Acedemic Representative Scheme). By voting for good candidates, they will thus get a better deal for themselves as students. The general consensus is that this year’s Sabbaticals and Exec team have been a committed and effective group. However, Robert Jones (Communications Officer) highlights that this is due more to chance than anything else. Roughly 1,400 people voted in last year’s elections, which means that the elected officers got in with approximately 5% of the entire student vote. It should not be a popularity contest, and this year’s officers are anxious to step up the process, making the elections bigger, with voters being better informed so they vote for the best candidate.

However, perhaps more by luck than judgement, we do have a devoted team this year. The Sabbatical team and Exec this year have been the most tightly knitted, collected group the Union and University has seen for years. It took a financial crisis for us to realise that we needed to stick together as students. We’ve done that and fought together to raise the profile and be the driving force that ‘12,000 students should be,’ Mooney told me. He described it as a snowball effect that was picking up momentum, particularly with regard to finance for the Union, student services, and welfare. Massive ground has been covered and it is essential that this movement towards improved change continue. The reason this University exists is because of us, the students, and if our union does not represent us, then there is a risk that our priorities will not come first. Who else will fight back against the top-up fees, the few contact hours, the lack of safety on campus etc, if not the Union? These issues need to be highlighted and we, the Sabbaticals, do that’, Hall said, with Jones summing-up by saying, ‘You should vote because it’s your right and it’s your only chance of representation on this campus. The SU can and will lobby the University on issues you, the students, care about.’

The first elections will be held at the UGM (Union General Meeting) on Thursday 30th January at 1.30pm in Mandela Hall.