Elections For Student Unions


Rameshwar Baral

Tribuwan University (TU) campuses around the country have legally recognised student wings to aid curricular and welfare programmes with yearly financing. When their union body is up for election every two years, such wings, known as student unions, receive more attention and financing. TU must hold its election with the help of college administration. Elections are normally held every two years; however, this year's election is the first in many years. 

Elections would regulate the procedures, especially on constituent schools, while some associate colleges would engage on their own terms and with their own resources. Their methods necessitate the involvement of campus instructors and administrators, who serve as crucial co-handlers.

Soon after the date is set, an election desk, known as an election commission, is established under the supervision of a leader, such as a professor or senior teacher. In terms of logistics, this desk thinks forward. 

Aspiring students come to the counter, acquire nomination papers, and fill them out with the relevant information. Following that, the students, who were now either independent or panel candidates, set up their own campaign desks, distributed fliers, delivered election addresses, and otherwise sought to sway their fellow voters.

This is how the contenders diligently lobby their colleagues till the big day of voting arrives. For 10-15 days, a campus turns colourful and transforms into a wrestling arena. So it goes, canvassing day in and day out! While this is going on, courses continue as usual and in a methodical manner.

 It's a request from the candidates as well for improving PR with voters, albeit classrooms have the advantage of having tests on the timetable! The election desk has taken care of all the essential logistics by the time it creates ballot sheets and organises vote boxes. Thus, the day of eventual voting arrives.

Before eight o'clock in the morning, the university zone stands out, with a lengthy line of voters with ID cards queuing up at the authorised tables. Fellow boys and girls line for roughly a half hour, obtain ballot papers one by one, mark their preferred candidates, and place them in the voting box as a real expression of their democratic right. Until late afternoon, the film follows the final voter. 

Many people wait in the cafeteria or wander about until the counting is done. At that moment, the exit poll is the major issue; people guess, chat, and try to predict a victorious candidate or panel. After polling hours, another responsibility of each polling desk is ballot counting. It is carried out in the presence of a candidate, a panel representative, or an agency. When finished, each desk unit delivers the total to the chief desk for calculation.

Employees at the workstations are weary after working all day! Depending on the voter turnout, the counting might go on forever. The chief desk tabulates all desk results before announcing the winner, which is a union body such as the president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and members.

A carnival immediately follows the announcement of the winner. The streets are filled with students singing, whistling, applauding, and yelling among the supporters.

Unions are, in fact, simulated parliament procedures that students opt to master as part of their degree programme.

As they actually involve, participate in, train, and discipline themselves for future national elections, they understand the value and proper usage of voting paper. The elected body also learns what it is to be responsible and how concerned they are about the education and welfare of their fellow residents. This is how a student leaves university and reconnects with their community or society via polished behaviours and talents.

Party-Tailored candidates: 

It sounds so good to know that students take part in the election campaigns under the co-curricular code of conduct. The practice, however, is not new, dating back to the TU's early days.It was the same before democracy.But then, pre-democracy days (until the first Jana Andolan) had an exclusive programme called NDS, which they joined for ten months before receiving the degree.

This package provided them with experiences of the country's remote and far-flung areas rather than academic injury.Quite amazingly, that’s an instance of how students have protected and preserved the undercurrents of multiparty philosophy so far. 

University classes and tests were regular, and they’re back in their fields after the degree. Besides NDS, there were many other interlinked, correlated, and creative activities. I recall my colleagues having hobbies like excursions, poetry competitions, and stage productions in their early sixties.Not that we'd want to take part in all of them. But some such activities have been added to our roster. The cutting edge of technology demands more from students today.

Fairly or not, recent post-democracy years have drawn them pro-actively into party-line activities on the right or left wing. Now, when one reads a campus union signboard, it says "free students' union." What it declares in the first look is that the union is apolitical, when it’s more of a teaser in politics. 

As a result, union elections across Nepal create schisms and rivalries among political ideologies and streams.The intensity of their rivalry now is as great as the nation’s rivalry among left, right, and party politics. For their union, political gurus first set the line, then came the calendar of events, candidatures, preparations, and grounds for the elections. "Politics have unfairly injured higher degree educations," say professors and scholars in resentment. Guardians are alarmed and far from happy with this track and trend. Their argument is that politics has thrust its dagger into TU excellence and glory. And how much longer will they be in academic jeopardy?

Curricular Norms

The problem isn’t stubborn, though; it lies within the solution. One is that politics is just a normal pastime for higher degree students, and thus such elections are not a literal headache for the university. When we speak about students, the common fallacy is that their unions are always at loggerheads with university heads. 

In reality, universities and student unions work together to facilitate and guide core curriculums, class schedules, and test schedules. The university then is literally a vigilante: teachers mark test papers, and students defend their hours and years.

As a result, students complete their degrees on time and return to their chosen fields, whether that is politics or not! Another vital question arises here: who’d be a VC, rector, and registrar? Said unequivocally, though their appointment is the pleasure and privilege of the chancellor, it sounds better reconsidered, doesn’t it? 

As such, they'd be independent, apolitical, and academics. It suggests a non-party-line VC or a VC who is capable of managing and handling entire administrative staffs, professors and students, and calendars and would prefer not to act like the opposition party's representative in parliament. Students' unions are stepping up their efforts to support academic excellence.

The third one is about an optional extracurricular project that engages students in excursion trips, industry and financial organisation visits, established playwright performances, cultural shows and literary symposiums, attending guest lectures, and fund drives for needy and unprivileged fellows. 

There would be some more such activities: a library with new books; online and digital technologies; debates; presentation topics; quizzes and interactive talks; conferences and seminars; and, of course, not the least, union elections too. If such activities are deemed to be part of the NDS package and motivation, they will directly benefit GPA in the form of additional aggregate marks and a higher division. 

Such policies would encourage student quantity and quality in line with global competitions. In reverse, the worse the political option or craze, the greater the harm to education. The moot point is: why not draw a student back to their major concern? Because the university is the ivory tower where they receive training and education, it is their future life and living unless they graduate.

(The author is a retired TU lecturer)

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