According to Ipsos-Mori only 44% of 18-24 year olds voted in the 2010 general election - this figure correlates with the turnout for Hull's Student Union elections, with turnout last year being a tiny 3771 out of around 18,000 students.
We all came to University, in order to formulate our own ideas and have our own opinions, and then vote accordingly. Not, as what our Student Union has done, and given a one-sided argument on how students should vote in the referendum to decide a number of things including whether the student trustee's should be elected by students, or selected by the Student Union.
There is more to University than just snakebite and socials, it is more than just lectures and deadlines, it is about the eclectic mix and exchange of ideas that help develop us as free minded individuals. For many first year students, these elections will be their first taste of democracy and it has somewhat been tainted.
Through HUU's unwillingness, or inability to give information on the referendum before the opening of polls, there has been a lack of access to the referendum's aims, and thus no debate on its impact should it be adopted. It should be noted that the only information given from HUU is an article spelling out the changes that was not released until an hour after voting had been opened. This alongside being told, should the referendum receive a 'Yes' vote', it is good for you and that we should vote Yes in order to 'future-proof the Union'.
This is not good enough.
The Students Union in this election has done nothing to quell the feeling on campus, as well as much wider, that in essence open debate is not to be encouraged. They have even cancelled, for a number of reasons, hustings between sabbatical candidates. In a recent survey the University and Union were given one of the lowest rankings possible in the Spiked-Online.com Free Speech University Ranking Survey.
Toddlers are naturally curious and never stop asking their parents 'but why?' to everything they are told to do, at University were are encouraged to re-engage with this principal and question why and how decisions are made. Of course, questioning every little detail of Union governance is tedious and uninteresting to most, however when democracy is being curtailed, questioning why is the most important action we as students can do. University should be the arena in which we rediscover our inner toddler.
For the reasons above, I will be voting NO in the referendum.
The referendum itself is to change the way the four aspects of how Hull University Union is run and managed. Namely changing the four elected student trustees to selected in order to increase supposedly fairer representation, introducing a member of the University Senior management team to the board, the creation of two new committees to oversee how the Union is run and extending Chair of the Board's term length.
News to you? Don't worry its news to most people.
I am voting No not because of the ideas which are held within it but the style in which it has been put forward. We, the students who are meant to have a say in how our Union is run, have not been given the opportunity to debate the question(s) held within it fully. We have to ask ourselves, is getting rid of elections the best way to increase representation? Do we need the University to have a seat at the table? The questions are many and the answers unfortunately haven't been fully asked or answered.
What is the real reason why students and young people are not turning out to vote? If turnout was higher, would we be in this situation in the first place?
Is it apathy? A reduction in student activism? Is it due to the rise of 'lad culture'? Or is it something much deeper?
The opinion of this writer is that it is because, in or outside of University, we have forgotten to ask 'but, why?'. Students have stopped asking the important questions and are now more focused on Geordie Shore or what colour is that dress (Blue and Gold).
In order for the young people of this country to become more engaged in our political process, whether that is in a general election or to elected a student representative, we must do everything in our power to foster debate on the issues, big or small.
We do not want to have our first real taste of democracy tainted by being told what's good for us, we are adults and we can make up our own minds, we ask that HUU entrust students of Hull to make a rational and informed decision based upon a balanced argument.
By Adam Allnutt & Kallum McIntyre