What Does Democracy Mean to a Student?

voteCathy Corbett, Contributor

There’s one thing that should matter more than whether you’re Unionist or Nationalist, Republican or Loyalist, or Alliance or Green. That’s democracy: it’s what’s made our country what it is today, it’s what stands between us and oppression – and it’s what means those in power have the authority to wield that power.

Here we are now in 2016, in the 21st century, not the 18th, with only one candidate for the Presidency of our Students Union. When I was involved in the SU (2009-2015) we always had elections.

I campaigned to leave NUS-USI, won a referendum court and therefore campaigned again to leave NUS-USI. The student body decided not to disaffiliate, that’s democracy. You win some and you lose some but that’s all part of the fun! You meet incredible people along the way, you build bridges you never thought possible but most of all you’re fighting for something you believe in. The sheer emotion of it all is simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting.

If the candidate proposed were truly someone who would unite the student body, working for everyone without fear or favour, irrespective of old political differences, I might understand. I would still disagree with the principle of an uncontested election for such a senior position; it would reek of ‘jobs for the boys’.

Sadly, not even that is on offer. When students lack a democratic choice, the President lacks a mandate. How can we possibly expect this to drive more student engagement in the future? Yet that, surely, is what we should all have been working towards.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

One thought on “What Does Democracy Mean to a Student?

  1. I wonder if the democratic process also extends to attempting to ban students from holding a referendum, Cathy?


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