Winning a Student Election

As the dregs of the election leaflets gather in the gutter and facebook propaganda lingers awkwardly, it can only mean one thing – post student election blues. However for those whose vigorous campaigning paid off, we ask – how do you win a student election? And who better to ask than our very own freshly elected GUU President Rory Slater. Rory is in his 4th year studying aerospace engineering. We caught up with Rory on his first day on the job to find out more about our new President and discover what it takes to win a student election.

Rory Slater and Holly Fergusson: presidential candidates on election day at GUU
Rory Slater and Holly Fergusson: presidential candidates on election day at GUU

Can you tell us three unusual things about yourself?

Oh, ok so I play the accordion in a ceilidh band, my dad was born in Kenya, and… let’s see, I’m a natural blonde?

How did you first get involved in the Union?

I applied to be on PR team, well actually I applied to be on PR team… By accident. I thought PR TEAM meant you wanted to become a fresher helper. I got onto the team so I became a fresher helper anyway. But I almost messed that up too. I missed the post on Facebook telling us it started on the Thursday, I thought it started on the Friday. I got a phone call when I was in the middle of Ikea with my mum wondering where the I was!

How many elections have you run in?

Two – I ran for PSM, but unopposed for Honorary Secretary last year and now this one. Which is a good thing, it gives you a lot more value but also, you feel you have to do a good job now. It made you challenge everything you thought about. I was surprised to feel the same nerves putting up my facebook page when running for PSM as GUU President. There is this horrible moment of doubt, what if people don’t like me? Literally. But you’re slowly reassured as the likes start to roll in. But it is stranger when you realise that it’s just two of you, PSM is such a big group. It’s interesting to think about as it is very similar feelings.

How was election day?

On the day, I was pretty relaxed. Apart from the Hustings, that was horrible. Apparently it didn’t go horrendously but it felt horrendous. I had a mental block all after trying to write my speech. On the day, I enjoyed the actual face to face campaigning, going up to people and talking to them. I just went really big at lamp-posting things on the day, I mean huge. I was up at 7am so it’s a long day.

Probably why I caught a glimpse of you sleeping in beer bar on election night?

Well, (laughter) yes- People kept telling me I wasn’t celebrating enough but then all at once… I was celebrating too much. I rang the bell… twice!

How did it feel when you were told the count?

My initial reaction was concern for Holly, and I didn’t want to celebrate too much. But she was so supportive right from that moment that it made it easier. She’s been very positive since.

Was it strange to run in an election against your colleague and friend?

It was very weird. There’s two of us, we both think we’d be good, we both think the other person would be good. So the only way to decide is to let the people decide and that’ll be the answer. I thought it was the difference of 100 votes so I running around for half an hour before I heard that it was only 30! Quickly brought me back down to earth again. Competing for a job against your friend that you know you’ll both be great at is difficult but we both ultimately want the best for the union. Holly had brilliant ideas for the Union and I look forward to implementing some of them.

How do you approach a situation like that?

We were discussing and I the one who almost persuaded her to do it, which was obviously really bad for me but actually really good for the Union and good for us both. We agreed that as long as we were happy with whoever got it. We tried to keep it as friendly an election as possible- we even voted for each other.

The GUU President is the only non- sabbatical position of University of Glasgow’s student bodies.  Does that make a difference?

There’s no separation between the president and the rest of the board. I’m not trying to be too critical of other student bodies but I can see that the sabbatical position would put pressure on the president, it’s their 9 to 5 job, they’re expected to be doing more. It creates a natural separation on board but we’re on in the same boat. Everyone puts the work in. I like it that way. We’re so much closer because we’re all in it together. Yes the executive have a lot to do but we’re all still at University so no one is like divided by £15,000 a year.

How is the first day on the job?

We’ve been spring cleaning – cleared out bins bags of rubbish from the executive office. Owen left a dusky cupboard or two. Actually found some gems in within the rough; the presidents cup, and a miniature model of the union! I’ve been doing lots of reading up on the new extension. There is still a lot to be done.  The university is optimistic, the general manager is optimistic, and I’m optimistic so we’re hoping to be ready for Freshers’ Week 2015!

Interviewee: Rory Slater

Words by Kathryn Stevenson

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