With the halfway point of the year very well behind us, comes the promise of the second semester and a brief yet well-received break after the engulfing stress of the January examination session – which serve as a faithful premonition of the elusive and not-so-distant replica in June.
Among the endless exciting prospects we can look forward to in the next few months is the much-anticipated “mini General Election”, in which the cloned minions of the political parties in our increasingly polarized system will battle it out for the top seat on campus – Kunsill Studenti Universitarji (KSU).
Considering the epitome of intellectuality present at the highest educational institution on the island, one would expect that the process involved would be an exemplary model for representative elections. However, the reality is that we cannot even seem to shake off the parasitic bi party mentality at university, shattering all hopes of ever ridding the country of this same malady.
Both SDM and Pulse will take advantage of their less than transparent income to fund the sprouting of posters, pop up banners and stands. Lest we forget the tasteless printing of infinite amounts of manifestos containing their proposals. Year in year out, the election process is also blessed with a barrage of criticism from both internal and external sources, lambasting the meager turnout, which, although increasing steadily, is still indicative of an extremely disenchanted student population. We can also expect the Pulse faithful to blame their inability to elect a candidate on an unfair electoral system which is not truly representative, due to the fact that the students who vote for pulse are not given a voice in the council. Both will rally their cult followng into attending the KSU Annual General Meeting, kick starting the week-long campaign.
As is Insite’s tradition at this time of the year, I have studied SDM’s manifesto from last year, in order to come up with a comprehensive list of ten of the most prominent proposals that are yet to be implemented:
1. The introduction of an “Art in Action Space” which will offer a permanent space in which students can showcase various types of artwork
2. Convincing the University administration to introduce ECTS credits for work in student organisations
3. Reducing bureaucracy in the university administration
4. Increasing the use of VLE
5. Giving students the opportunity to be able to resit exams failed in the January session in June instead of September
6. Introducing the KSU Culture Card which would allow students certain benefits such as reduced prices or discounts to many local events and museums throughout the year
7. Introducing a system whereby exam results are published in the order of their ECTS credit value
8. Installing outdoor heaters at Quadrangle
(Parallels can be drawn with the 2012 electoral promise to renovate Quadrangle, which eventually degenerated into a design competition on Facebook and which nobody has heard anything about in a while)
9. Introducing a rent a bike scheme
10. Introducing a first come first serve parking scheme whereby students would be able to park in any space after 12pm
I recently paid a visit to KSU’s office in students’ house and was told with great conviction that many of the above will actually be materializing in the coming months. I was told that discussions with the university administration were reaching positive conclusions. While diligently performing my journalistic duty in conducting the above research, I cannot help but notice a simultaneous sense of frustration at having given KSU the satisfaction of having done so. Reviews like this one are only made possible by the insistence to furnish our expectations with these lavish proposals.
A recent mobile upload on the KSU Facebook page showed the executive gathered around the conference room table and the caption bluntly admitted that they were “holding a manifesto review meeting”. The befuddled looks on their faces said it all. Sleepless nights and heaps of time were being spent on trying to achieve these gargantuan tasks. With the downright perversion of the elections, KSU has been demeaned into an executive body that is bound by political accountability whose focus becomes achieving the goals set out in its manifesto, not only to save face in front of the meager turnout of the student population who voted for them, but also to allow the party who elected them to be able to stand a chance in the next election. Granted that some of the proposals may actually be beneficial to the student, but what I am criticizing here is the fallacy of having an electoral manifesto to adhere to in the first place. How can both Pulse and SDM hope to win students over and to increase participation when they continue with this self-defeating process year in year out.
Not to mention the sheer impossibility of some of the proposals. Being aware of this, candidates will try to get away with it by peppering their proposals with statements like “we will work to”, “we will ensure that”, “we will pressure the administration” as if admitting “we never said it would happen for sure, we just said we would keep trying”. Charming. Why not just have a one-page manifesto with the following five words placed strategically in the centre:
“We will do our job”
An idealist student’s view of KSU should be a neutral student body that is willing to safeguard students’ rights and to be a voice for students in society even if it means going against the tide that is general opinion.
Although the KSU statute supposedly guarantees the independence of the KSU executive, the attachment to a manifesto creates and maintains the link with a political party. After all, why should we be satisfied with a student council whose main priority is solely fulfilling electoral promises? How can KSU expect to increase awareness and educate students about their work when the political motivations remain so deeply entrenched in everything they do?
The sheer poignancy of the above behaviour is self-evident. It is not befitting of the oldest students’ council in Europe. University politics just like politics in society in general does nothing but generate animosity, distrust and apathy among its conglomerates. Would it be too much to ask to have a council that worked solely for the benefit of the student without constantly having impending re-election and political expediency in mind?
This article was first published in the February edition of The Insiter. Grab your copy from the designated pick up points.