WORDS | Cassandra Teo
How many people actually pay attention to the campaigners on campus during election time? Most of the leaflets handed out during this time (or any other time for that matter) seem to end up in the bins regardless of the spoken words accompanied by them.
CAMPAIGNING AT MACQUARIE
A veteran with a minimum of six campaigns under his belt over the past four years, Wayne Zhang, describes the campaigns at Macquarie University to be “as exciting as the reading materials for Advanced Torts”. This was not always the case. It is a little known fact (not something many would promote) that Macquarie University was known for its more radical campaigning in the past. It would definitely be a lifetime ago for most of the university’s current students. Past students have been known to go head to head against Macquarie, with the odds stacked against them. Who knew that Macquarie University students once had to campaign for university housing? Have you ever heard of Macquarie University Tent City? Perhaps due to the Student Advisory Board (SAB), Macquarie seems to have grown in its campaigning ways. As a participant in the 2012/13 Arts Faculty Senate election, Zhang finds it hard to pinpoint his most memorable campaigning experience. Selecting one, he tells of the night of his first campaign where his party’s candidate won by a considerable margin. Then, recalling a more action-packed campaign at Sydney University, Zhang shares the adrenalin rush he felt while helping a friend campaign where he got “as close to punching someone in the face as I had been since my last school yard fight”.
When it comes to campaign strategies, Zhang draws on advice given to him by a semi-drunk student electioneering veteran – it’s all about the number of DMFs (deep and meaningful friends). It turns out that these student elections that are organised on the basis of making a better university life for students, boil down to being won by the most popular, and coolest kids. It’s high school’s popularity contests all over again!
ZHANG’S TWO STAGES OF THE CAMPAIGN STRATEGY PROCESS
Zhang explains that the first stage of the Campaign Strategy Process, also known as the “relationship campaign”, is the crucial point where nominees embed themselves into student life, in order to be seen and heard. By building social networks through the university’s clubs, societies and events, potential candidates are able to expand their reach on campus. The next stage – the ToV (Turn out the Vote) stage – happens during the official campaigning period, where nominees beg, borrow or steal as many votes as they can. True as it is with real politics, “if your campaign starts at the same time as the official campaign, you’ve already lost,” Zhang remarks. Campaigning is not always about gaining numbers – or maybe it is? Wearing a giant Panda suit to “gain some eyeballs,” Zhang says, probably helped Ned Barsi with his campaign a fair bit.
PERERA’S CAMPAIGN STRATEGY PROCESS, INSIGHTS AND TACTICS
While some elections elicit drama and rivalry, Tharinda Perera, AIESEC Macquarie’s 2013 Director of Marketing, reveals AIESEC’s gruelling and (literally) bone-shivering tactics. Using the VP position as an example, Perera explains that the first step is to get nominated. Candidates are then required to write a ten page platform for their application, in addition to a blank page challenge with questions that have been determined by the chapter’s president. This is the first part of their campaign. Elections – which are held between September to October – include a Group Q&A and an Individual Q&A prior to voting. However, voting is not the end of it, as the candidates who won the voting are then subjected to grilling by a panel consisting of the current and past president, and an external. Here, ‘the grilled’ re-pitch their platforms while having their motivations to be elected drowned, wrung and hung out to dry.
A week of suspense and stress later, the new board is announced where the elected will be drenched in cold water – yes, you read that right, drenched. This “wet welcome” is an AIESEC tradition. According to Perera, “it actually feels really good,” as the drenching brings a sense of relief after all the stress endured while campaigning. While the campaigning and election process for AIESEC might sound complicated to some, Perera describes it as being, “quite fun and very diplomatic”.