student life

Leicester University and the turnout controversy

The Leicester University student elections opened on Sunday at 8pm.

The Leicester University student elections opened on Sunday at 8pm. That same evening, the Union Facebook and Twitter accounts announced that the Student Union building would, for the first time ever during term-time, be closed on Monday 24th – unless a certain amount of people voted in the elections.

The threshold was not very high, and it was announced within a few hours that everything would be open as usual. 200 votes to open the building and some services, 400 to open the Starbucks and Ryman shops that are in the building. None of the election candidates were involved in the decision to announce the potential closure.

The Student Union said in a Facebook post that ‘our intention was never to coerce votes – just raise awareness of the elections’ and the publicity stunt certainly got people talking about student politics, even if it that reaction was an almost overwhelming backlash.


At the time of writing, the Facebook post announcing that all services will be operating as normal on Monday has 36 comments. Not one of them is supportive, and the same or similar is true for the various other Facebook posts that the Union posted relating to the stunt.

The move was to raise awareness of the election and it may well have led to more votes, but this does not necessarily mean that it was a good or correct decision. As some on Facebook have pointed out, votes that have been cast may have been uninformed, done so in a rush so that the union would actually be open.

It would also be hard to be unaware that there were elections going on, given the amount of banners and leaflets sprayed around campus. So was the planned closure in order to raise awareness about the election or to actually get people to vote?

Imagine if this had been done on a national scale or even just a regional scale for the general election or a by-election. That certain public services would be closed unless a certain, arbitrary number of votes had been cast. I imagine that there would be uproar.

I’m guessing that voter turnout in student elections is fairly low. Whereas with national politics where the issues are forever in the news, student politics can seem distant and impenetrable. It’s not surprising then that the Student Union would want to ‘raise awareness’ and voter turnout. But was this the way to go about it?

What do you think? What should be the best way to raise awareness? Have your say in the comments section below.