A very low turnout in recent by-elections for the Otago University Students Association has led Southern Young Nationals to question OUSA’s legitimacy:
The Postgraduate Representative, Thomas Koentges, received a total of 83 votes, and the International Student Officer, Art Kojarunchitt received 64 votes. 166 people voted in the by-election for the post graduate officer, and 102 voted in the by-election for the international student officer.
“This number is not at all representative of either the postgraduate or international communities. We are concerned at the legitimacy these two have in making decisions about such a large amount of capital students pay into each year” Liam Kernaghan, Chairman of the Southern Young Nationals said.
“But this goes further than these two elections. OUSA elections, like every other student association around the country, are notoriously unrepresentative of the student body, and for the power which is vested into the elected officials. We don’t think it’s fair the 20,000 students who pay levies to OUSA should be bound to decisions made by less than 0.005% of the campus population.”
“Democracy only works when everyone turns up. When 100 people turn out to vote, you really have to consider the benefits of a ‘democratically elected’ compulsory union.”
If this is how few people bother to vote when membership is compulsory OUSA will have to work to show it is relevant to students once they can choose to join the association or not.
By-elections almost always attract fewer voters but the turnout at annual elections is low too.
Currently less than 10% of the entire student populace votes at the major elections every year. This says to me either the students don’t care for the OUSA, and in which case the OUSA should recognise the inherent rights to freedom of association, or the students don’t understand what the OUSA provides, and therefore should make a better effort to consolidate student support”.
The Southern Young Nationals are not “against the OUSA. We think they provide some fantastic services which benefit the vast majority of students. We’d just like students to have the choice to be part of it, rather than be made to”
“We strongly encourage OUSA to take proactive steps to building a fantastic organisation that can both better represent the student voice, and that can stand up in a voluntary environment.
OUSA does provide a good range of services for students, it is also has some good investments which reduces its dependence on student fees. But it has a problem if only 10% of its members are sufficiently informed or interested in the association to vote.