A proposal to change the rules governing sabbatical officer elections, which is to be brought to Trinity College Students’ Union (TCDSU) Council on Tuesday evening, are to be welcomed by aspiring candidates, campaign teams and even the most politically disengaged of students. The rules, which would reduce the length of the campaign from two weeks to just nine days and would prohibit campaigning during a designated hour lunch break, will alter the way all students experience campus democracy. Also among the reforms is a move from a points-based system, where candidates were docked points for every infringement of the rules until they reached zero, to a strike system, where three minor infringements will disqualify the candidate.
These changes will hopefully, if passed, mediate the most competitive and intensive elements of this election process. Requiring candidates to take breaks and reducing the number of days they need to devote to their campaigns will help many. This is recognition of the fact that previous campaigns have been long and debilitating experiences for candidates. While elections are of course important to ensure that sabbatical officers have legitimacy and the trust of the student population, the hectic whirlwind of campaign season is far from the day-to-day work expected of an TCDSU President. We should not be ruling out suitable candidates simply due to their inability to deal with long weeks of fervent canvassing.
The change to a strike system is also positive in that it ensures effective enforcement of these rules. Candidates’ “points” basically amounted to currency that could buy breaches of the rules, meaning that skirting around the edges of beneficial regulations could be a rational election strategy for some. Given that the rules are clear and unambiguous, accidental breaches are unlikely and therefore a sliding scale is probably not needed. More rigorous enforcement to ensure a more tolerable campaign season, for both students and candidates, can only be a positive reform.