An inanimate carbon rod, made famous by The Simpsons, has raised questions about the relevance of the National Union of Students after it was nominated to become president of the union.
The rod is one of four candidates appearing on the NUS' provisional list of president nominees and has sparked a debate over whether the NUS still has a place in today's student society.
The rod, which is carried by "official bearer" Sam Gaus aims to "represent all students, regardless of politics, and without sarcasm or aggression or inaccessible language and behaviour".
"I believe in an NUS that knocks through walls in the movement, rather than builds them." the rod's manifesto states. "An NUS that fights for the rights of all inanimate members of society, not just meatbags."
Although the rod was originally rejected by the NUS, it has been included in the official ballot, as it received 13 nominations - three more than the minimum required for candidacy. However above the NUS' presidential candidate list, the union adds: "[The candidates'] appearance on this list does not fully confirm them as a candidate- there is a period in which eligibility can be challenged, please see the full manifesto document for details."
The inanimate object's Facebook page has already received more than 1,600 "likes", and, as one supporter put it:
The NUS adds: "[The candidates'] appearance on this list does not fully confirm them as a candidate- there is a period in which eligibility can be challenged, please see the full manifesto document for details."
According to student paper The Mancunion, Gaus told a student media conference: "By virtue of being an inanimate object, at least the carbon rod won’t let the student population down."
The bizarre chain of events has now started a discussion about what role the NUS plays in student politics.
Tom Steadman, a Southampton University graduate and ex-opinion editor of Soton Tab, told The Huffington Post UK the NUS is "no longer fit for purpose".
"The manifesto about changing the NUS back into something students want is something we [students] all agreed with. However the response by the established [NUS] order was a microcosm of the NUS as itself.
"The refusal to actually accept the nomination despite it exceeding requirements shows that the NUS refuses to even respect it's members."
Steadman is not alone. When asking if there was any relevance for the NUS in today's student lives, we were told:
Southampton University students famously opted out of the NUS in 2002. Last year, HuffPost UK published an open letter written by three journalists to the NUS, condemning the union's demand to retract an interview with Nick Griffin published by the Leeds Student.
Steadman adds the NUS "no longer reflects the students it is meant to represent" and says the union is unfit for purpose.
"Many of the current and future officers are naive about the real world and how students are perceived," he continues. "Rather then asking what it's members actually want it listens to a small influential minority.
"Students are more aware of the world around them then they have been the last few years but are not the hippies of the sixties, unfortunately the NUS has failed to adapt with them and still believes that a march will change everything like that."
Ben Beach, who belongs to the National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts (NCAFC) told HuffPost UK entering an object into the NUS elections was not surprising. "Whilst the militant ASSE Union in Quebec has succeeded in repelling not just fee rises but government attacks, the NUS has failed to organise anything other than toothless rhetoric whilst students and education are under the greatest assault of market forces in living memory.
"When the NUS leadership are clearly more concerned with their future careers, it is little wonder that students are looking to alternatives to an undemocratic, impotent and ossified bureaucracy."
Peter Smallwood, who is up against the rod in the candidacy, wrote on his blog he was pleased the object had been nominated for NUS president.
"The arduous process that Rod has had to go through in order to get onto the ballot paper is lengthy and archaic, and a perfect example of why the NUS needs to be more open and inclusive. The whole process is angled against the ordinary student engaging with these elections – to nominate someone they must obtain letter headed paper from their Student Union.
"That’s very easy if you’re Student Union President, but what about the distance learners and part time students who work during the day? Whatever the result of this election, I hope things will be opened up to engage more people next year."
The vote to decide the NUS president for the next year will be made at the NUS' annual conference, which starts on 8 April.
Neither the NUS nor the inanimate carbon rod responded to HuffPost's request for comment.