Elections are at the very heart of who we are as a Students' Union. We are member led, and allowing you - as students, to decide who are the student leaders of the organisation is one of the things that defines who we are as a Students' Union. This years Election takes place under unprecedented circumstances, and we know that some students, and candidates, have questions about our approach to next weeks Elections.
On Monday 16 March, the Elections Strategic Group met to decide how best to proceed with these Elections in light of the University switching to online teaching. At that meeting, a number of options were discussed, including postponement of the Elections. The Elections Strategic Group made the decision to carry on with the Elections in the planned timeframe, but delivered wholly online, for a number of reasons. We do not know when the situation will calm down, nor whether we will be able to facilitate any form of face to face campaigning this year. We need to hold Elections during the academic year or we will not be able to have Elected Officers next year, which are fundamental to who we are and what we do as an organisation. The advice from the NUS as external returning officer is to proceed in the usual timeframe, as other Unions in the same situation are doing.
We appreciate that running an election online represents a change for candidates who may have spent time devising campaign plans. It is for that reason that we have extended the voting period, and we are also providing advice and guidance on online campaigning to candidates through our Campaigns and Policy team. We have also increased our focus on digital campaigning as a Students' Union, and all candidate manifestos, newspaper articles will be showcased to all students allowing them to make a well informed decision. We are also this year introducing a Vote Match facility which gives students another option to find out more about the candidates they are voting for.
We fully understand that students have a number of other priorities at the moment as they adjust to online teaching and learning and the general uncertainty. The Students' Union is putting a number of measures in place to support students through this period and operating a service across all departments to support Hallam students.
At the moment, it is arguably more important than ever that students voices are heard and students are properly and fairly represented at all levels within the University. The issues from Covid-19 will impact upon students for a long time and therefore we need to have student representatives, and the opportunity for students to be heard and represented and therefore Elections remain a vital part of what we do and who we are. In recent days, Elected Officers have been part of discussions at the Board of Governors, and I have personally raised student issues with the most senior leaders in the University. We need to ensure students have the opportunity to continue to elect leaders who can do this after I have left.
We will be proceeding with the Elections taking place from Monday 23rd March, with an extended voting period running up to the 1st April recognising that students, and candidates, have a lot on their plate at the moment and may need extra time to cast their vote.
We are grateful to all candidates who have put themselves forward, and the passion they are showing to represent students in these difficult times.