Year on year, students put themselves forward as candidates for leadership positions in the Union because they feel strongly that things need to change, and they think that their ideas and their drive can help implement that. They campaign, putting their faces and ideas out there, and, in the case of the sabbatical officers, some earn themselves a job at the end of it. But is this fair?
We want the people in charge of running the Union to be the best possible people for the job, but we never question whether the method of electing them is really achieving that. For some roles, it might be the case that the most outgoing and personable person, who is most willing to neglect their degree for a fortnight to campaign, is the best person for the job. But for other roles, do we miss out on the candidates who might perform best in the role because we’re too distracted by the bells, whistles and pretty people? Do we vote for candidates because they fit our view of what a responsible person looks like? Do we keep people out of roles because we have a fixed idea of who would be appropriate in that position?
I understand that a huge part of getting a job is being able to present yourself well. But in the “real world”, job applications are gender-blind, sometimes name-blind, and certainly don’t involve having the faces of the candidate plastered all over the workplace of the interviewers for two weeks. For any other job, candidates would be judged on their ideas, experience, and qualifications (which would be somewhat verified), instead of how many friends they have to vote for them, and how much people like looking at them during lecture shout-outs.
Imperial students aren’t engaged enough in Union politics – the inner workings of which are opaque at best – to read the manifesto of every candidate, or to know what campaign promises are achievable or realistic. All the average student has to go on is how trustworthy their faces are, and how convincingly they can lie.
If we want our student union to truly represent us and to be run by the best candidates, we owe it to ourselves to consider the capabilities of each and every candidate, and look beyond who is most charming.