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What is the State of our Union?

Is this thing on? Is anybody listening? As you may have seen from our front page headline, or heard from your Union hack friends, the Students' Association Elections are happening now. Did you know that? I’m 72.03% sure you didn’t. Why that specific percentage? That’s because Association Election voter turnout in 2021 barely scraped a disgraceful 27.97%, and it’s been dropping steadily since 2014 when it used to boast a barely less disgraceful 48.69% voter turnout: still not a majority.

The Saint implores you to vote this year, and not just so we can report on the results. It is perhaps easier to ignore that the elections are happening, and it’s definitely easy to scoff at our peers that think the inner workings of the Union are interesting to hear about. They aren’t particularly. It is my express opinion, however, that one mustn’t complain about their government, student or otherwise, if they have chosen not to vote. It is better to do some- thing than nothing, however, so at least take the 30 seconds to spoil your ballot if you can’t be bothered to read through all the positions. Our poor turnout is especially upsetting seeing as the percentage of students I hear complaining about students’ association issues is about 99%. In other words, incessantly. It isn’t even as though students don’t care about the outcome of these elec- tions. They might think they don’t, but this is merely symptomatic of a stubborn lack of willingness to learn what the sabbatical officers actually do all day (while they sit around moaning about it). And if you’re one of these students in question, read our recent coverage of the accomplish- ments of the Sabbs that have just left office. You might not care about the Union, or its Sabbatical Officers – but they care about you. Are you pleased or annoyed by issues such as the UCU strikes, SP-Coding, AU membership costs, BOP themes, in person teaching, or lack thereof? If so, you are already, whether you realized it or not, engaging with the mandates and manifestos of the sabbatical officers of recent years. Their reach is wider than one might think, and it is quite literally their full time jobs to work on student issues. More importantly, sabbatical officers claim to represent you and your interests. The University will continue to treat sabbatical officers, and other union positions as the voice of the student body, even if voter turnout continues to drop. We, as a university full of intelligent students, can surely do better than that. For reference, the 2019 General Election had a 67.3% turnout. If we take this information at facevalue, the students of St Andrews are essentially saying that we care less about the democratic process than the average person: historically untrue, and not something we like to think about ourselves. I won’t try to claim that the same things are at stake in national elections and students’ association elections, or even that they are remotely on the same scale. The outcomes of both, however, indubitably affect your daily life.

The practice of participating in democracy is important, maybe more so now than it has been in the past few years.

Recent weeks have seen the sovereignty of Ukraine, and it’s democratically elected government threatened by Russia, or more specifically, Russia’s government. The international community, and indeed our own com- munity in St Andrews have rallied behind Ukraine to express support. The Vigil for Ukraine held on February 28 had over 600 students and members of staff in attendance, and serves as a testament to this support. The idea of war in Europe, and the harrowing stories which have been reported from it have reminded us all what an absolute privilege it is to live during peacetime, in a democracy, where our free speech is protected. We must not take our democratic rights for grant- ed, even when it comes to seemingly small elections. It is in our everyday choices, whether to use our voices, our platforms, our votes to enact change, that we demonstrate our commitments to our democracies, and the communities that they govern.

For your convenience, The Saint has put together manifesto analyses for all of the sabbatical candidates. We also had the pleasure of sitting down with Lottie Doherty and Juan Pablo Rodriguez, the two candidates for Association President. I urge you, dear reader, to finish perusing through our annual elections issue, and then get out there and vote.

Voting opens today, Thursday March 10.

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