Negative attitudes towards elections need to eliminated

This year’s election season seen some of the most tenacious, tireless and tough campaigning that hasn’t been seen in DCU Students’ Union in a long time.

I was on campus for the full week working as campaign manager for one of the education candidates (Sean Rooney) who didn’t get elected. Taking the hit of losing an election is hard for anybody involved in a campaign but across all races and amongst all candidates there seemed to be very positive, active and engaging campaigning. It’s something all involved can be proud of ensuring regardless of whether they won or not.

While losing inherently takes it toll, it wasn’t the most dispiriting aspect of this election. The attitude of a small group of students from various faculties was just shocking. Apart from the majority of students who either welcomed the engagement of canvassers or politely declined their approaches, there was this small group who had a wholly negative attitude.

While I have dedicated many column inches to showcasing the faults of our union, and many do exist, these faults do not offer a pre-requisite to be negative towards those spending their own money and taking their own time out to engage the student populace. Nor do they offer an opportunity to opt out of the democratic process.

This particular group could be best described as having achieved the awesome feat of being both ignorant and arrogant simultaneously. While most of these types will greet you with a scoffed ‘no’, there may be the odd few who will listen inflated by an air of superiority, and always with a demeaning grin. Once you had finished talking they would then just say that the students’ union is pointless and irrelevant and inform you they had no intention of voting. They would at no stage indicate any sense of respect for the democratic process or any understanding or knowledge of the value of an effective union.

While I generally don’t take heed of mean-spirited people in a campaign, it was worrying to see a strong share of these types. It was also worrying that when these people were in the centre of groups their attitude and response had a ripple effect on the rest of the group, forcing them to de facto disengage. While we don’t have the strongest students’ union or the strongest level of engagement this attitude only exacerbates and in some cases causes these existing problems.

It’s normally seen as a basic social good to vote in an election or referendum where you have that privilege. But there is further incentive to vote in a students’ union election. Simply put, you pay for it, either through direct union levies, the student contribution charge or the taxes you and your parents have paid. A union is only as powerful as how active and engaged its members are. The more organised it is, the more effective it becomes. This can pay dividends in many ways such as the case of NUIG SU downgrading it’s RAG Week in 2011 in exchange for €60,000 extra going to their Student Assistance Fund. A union can have a positive effect on students and the student experience but such negative attitudes need to to be rooted out and eradicated.

Sean Cassidy was the campaign manager for Sean Rooney in last week’s Students’ Union elections.

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