By Hannah Sommerville, MA Arabic Literature
Results for the Student Union elections were announced on the 3rd March. Sixteen of the 17 contested posts have now been filled after a week of intense campaigning and strident efforts on the part of the SU to encourage students to use their vote. A perfect storm of arctic conditions and industrial action has have resulted in a low turnout at this year’s elections.
Despite this, just 1,207 people – less than a quarter of those eligible to vote – had taken part by the time the polls closed on Saturday, March 3. In a statement accompanying the official results, the SU conceded that the figure was down on previous years. But it added: “Due to the disruption caused by the strikes and the weather we were forecasting an even lower turnout.
“We would like to congratulate all the candidates, winners and losers, for their hard work campaigning and being a vital part of Union democracy.”
Among the successful candidates was Rachel Hau-Yu Tam, a part-time MA Law student and current Postgraduate Taught Officer who had emailed postgraduates urging them to vote on Saturday. At the time, just 150 out of a possible 2,500 had done so.
Speaking at a Hustings the previous weekend, she said: “PGT students make up 50 per cent of the student body and there is this self-perpetuating myth that they’re not interested in politics because they’re here for one year and they’re just going to leave… What my thing is is to try to burst these bubbles and stop these myths from self-perpetuating.”
The new Co-President Equality and Liberation is Youssra Omer Farouk Elmagboul, who said she would “create a space in the Union that is for everyone” and work towards reforming the bursaries system at SOAS.
Jess Kumwongpin-Barnes, who successfully contested the position of Co-President Welfare and Campaigns, said that while in many ways SOAS was an “active, engaged, political university” students had been “fed this PR dream” by a School offering students decreased levels of support, adding: “All of the best parts of this university have come from us.”
Following allegations of overspending, Mohammed Juned Khan a candidate for the role of Co-President Activities and Events was disqualified. This disqualification was upheld following a NUS investigation. Sophie Benett was elected to the role of Co-President Activities and Events.