GU Rector Election: Why Don’t We Care About Our Representation?

So the votes are in and we can finally tell you who has been nominated for Glasgow University’s new rector…

No one.

No one was nominated. Out of a student body of 25 thousand, not one person was nominated to be rector. It’s pretty well known that in general, Glasgow Uni students aren’t that interested in student politics. Every SRC election brings news reports of a unsurprisingly low voter turnout – but this takes it to a whole other level.  Our current rector, Edward Snowden, has been largely absent from student politics (due to him being stuck in Russia) and Glasgow Uni students have decided to follow his lead.

So why have people decided not to give a shit about whom our next Rector will be? Well, the main problem is that no one really knows what the Rector is supposed to do beyond a speech at the fresher’s address. With Snowden being unable to fulfil his role as the Rector, acting more as a symbolic Rector than an actual one, people just have no idea what the point of the position is. I didn’t even know until very recently.

I’ve done the research so you don’t have to and it turns out the Rector is meant to be the main representative of the students at the highest levels of the university. They are entitled to chair Court meetings in order to focus the meetings around the student perspective.  The Rector is supposed to work closely with the SRC and bring student concerns to the attention of the University.  If we don’t elect or nominate a Rector we lose one of the biggest links we have to the upper levels of University management.  And with all the shit the uni has been putting us through – including cutting funding to unions, and raising the prices of student halls with no improvements in facilities – perhaps we need to regain our voice.

Beyond general ignorance there are some other factors as to why no one has nominated anyone for Rector. It is clear that the University and the SRC have not done enough to advertise or promote that nominations are even taking place. I know it was an awkward time, with nominations happening predominantly over the holidays but this should have been news that got the whole campus buzzing.  Beyond one debate and a few Facebook posts, where was the advertising? We should have been seeing posters, emails, something? But there was largely nothing. Especially when the nominations were coming to a close and they saw no nominations coming in, the SRC should have upped their campaign to ensure people were aware of it. If they wanted people to care about the Rector they should have at least let us know it was happening.

However, we cannot place the bulk of the blame on the SRC. They are one body out of four at the university. The other university unions made no effort (that I could see) to advertise on their social media channels or use their influence to promote the nominations. Although nominations depend on receiving the consent of the nominee, the Rector serves a fixed term and all student bodies had plenty of time to consider this. It is completely reasonable for a large student group like a union to be able to nominate someone, which in turn would encourage others to nominate. The GUU and the QMU should be trying to lead by example, as they have the resources to do so, but here they have failed. This is probably indicative of the wider student apathy towards the Rector nominations, but these unions are affected by University politics, so should be encouraging student representation within the highest levels of the University.

What is done is done, there have been no nominations for Rector and we must look to where we go from here. The SRC will be reopening nominations soon to give it another go, but it wont matter if people continue to not care.  Going forward, there needs to be more information available and easy to find so that people can actually know why they should care about the Rector.  It’s the responsibilities of the individual students to learn the information for themselves but it’s the responsibilities of the larger student bodies to provide that information and ensure that its easily accessible for everyone, online or offline.  

Hopefully we’ll actually have some nominations to vote on in the future, and we can have a Rector that we can rely on to stand up for students and represent us.  If you have an idea of someone worthy of speaking for Glasgow University students, look up how to nominate someone, and then nominate them! It only takes one person to get the ball rolling, so instead of joking about student apathy, lets actually care about our uni for once. Who knows, it might actually make it a little better.

[Jo Reid]

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