IE Student Government Debate: It is Time for IE Students to Take Student Government Seriously


The debate for the next student government took place last week, with 6 parties (White Canvas, Unity, Sultan, Nexus, Bridges, and Voice and Vision) taking part. While the candidates seemed passionate and for the most part prepared, most of the student body did not seem to care about the elections. The room was nearly empty in the first half of the debate, and asking my classmates about the elections showed the majority were completely unengaged with them. This is not only a problem in my class: After the debate, White Canvas representatives recalled dispiriting experiences while promoting their party. One representative had given out white roses to stir up support for White Canvas, only to encounter students who did not even know elections were coming up. 

This is a shame for many reasons. Firstly, the debate was a joy to watch. Unity accused White Canvas of promoting gambling addiction, while Nexus and Bridge were accused of being not only carbon copies of each other, but also part of the same stale old guard. If that does not sound like an accusation made in a real life political debate, I do not know what does. Secondly, the parties running aimed to tackle issues relevant to the student body, making some useful proposals which would be in all our interests to be aware of and at least consider. 

Candidates were largely in agreement about the challenges facing their community. Firstly, the representatives were annoyed by excess bureaucracy. As Nexus put it, students do not even know where to lodge their complaints, or where exactly their complaints have gone after they have made them. The second big issue was a lack of campus feeling. According to Unity, the tower campus is dead, and feels more like going to work in a corporation than going to university. White Canvas also acknowledged the need to build a campus feeling in the tower, saying that the biggest problem facing IE was growing pains from moving into a new campus. Many of the proposals centred around fixing this, whether through gambling nights or small scale parties every Friday. 

Other issues, such as IE’s unpopular attendance policy changes, were addressed. However, I am sceptical over whether any team would be able to do even a quarter of what they promised. The attendance policy is a good example of this. Voice and Vision promised to bring attendance requirements back down to 70%. However, other candidates stressed how unfeasible achieving this goal currently is, both before and after the debate. For example, the Nexus representative, who had been part of the past student government, pointed out that they had done their best to handle the attendance policy changes. Although they were unable to stop the attendance requirements from increasing to 80%, negotiating a more effective justified absence policy had been a hard-won achievement. This highlights an unfortunate problem with IE’s student government. When the administration puts their foot down, there is little that student representatives can do about it. As several teams pointed out in the debate, they would lack real power if elected. The best they could hope to do is amplify student voices, a task made difficult by the student body’s indifference.

So why does the student body not care much about who represents them? As mentioned, the student government does not have the power to fix the biggest issues students have with IE, giving them little incentive to vote. Additionally, there have been past issues with the elections which could make anyone cynical about the process. The Stork published a scathing op-ed about the 2020 student government elections that accuses the winning Team Yellow of cheating. It also details the other infractions that other teams, including the writer’s own, had committed during their campaigns. However, the issue cuts both ways. Students’ disinterest in their government makes it even harder for them to represent our interests and be effective. It also gives those running fewer incentives to lead fair campaigns.

Regardless of the student government’s lack of power and most of IE students’ indifference to the elections and parties involved, the debate made one thing painfully clear. Most of the candidates running were doing so at least partly out of a dedication to their communities, as well as frustration with the way things were done. As White Canvas and Sultan said, their motivation to run was encountering problems in IE and feeling they could fix them. Unity and Bridge also mentioned hearing complaints from others who had less than ideal experiences at IE, and wanting to intervene on their behalf. Regardless of their motives, it is also undeniable that the candidates put a lot of work into their campaigns, from designing and filming promotional material to handing out merchandise. The least we could do is recognise their efforts by taking student government seriously. Maybe if we did, we could make more progress on getting our concerns addressed.

Featured image by: Pexels

Sabina Narvaez
Sabina Narvaez
Originally from Mexico, but mostly grew up abroad and has Spanish nationality. Studies Philosophy, Politics, Law and Economics and mostly writes about these topics. Also interested in sustainability.

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