Online Survey Suggests Apathy Towards Student Politics

The 2018 ANUSA election concluded last Thursday. 9.32% of the undergraduate population casted their votes. Five of the six executive positions were uncontested. Ten of the twelve College Representative positions were also uncontested.

During the election week, Woroni conducted an online survey on undergraduate student engagement with the ANUSA election which received 106 responses.

Given the rather limited sample size, it would be incorrect to classify this data as a representative and conclusive intersection of ANU’s undergraduate body. However, it does give some insight into the minds of students and their perceptions towards ANUSA. 

36.8% of the responses said they were not voting in the election. A majority of the reasons reflected apathy – 54% said they did not care about ANUSA nor believed whoever runs ANUSA makes any difference to them; 21% said they did not have the time effort to understand enough about the policies of candidates; 15% expressed hatred towards student politics; and 10% thought their votes would have no impact on the election outcome.

“As long as I graduate with my degree, I don’t care about what happens to this institution”

“They have the same policies every year, and never do anything new or different once they get elected.”

While 63.2% of the responses said they were voting in the election, 62.3% of all responses also said they would never consider running for a position in ANUSA.

This year, 71 candidates from four tickets and five independents (less than 0.6% of the undergraduate population) nominated themselves to run for a position in 2019 ANUSA. In 2016, there were 120 candidates from eight tickets and eleven independents.

The ANUSA constitution lists four objects of the Association – “to promote the welfare of, and further the interest of, Undergraduate Students”; “to work for quality and equity in higher education”; “to afford a recognised means of representation for Undergraduate Students within the University and the wider community”; and “to foster community, equity, and diversity within the University.”

What do respondents think about ANUSA’s role in the ANU community?

48% said ANUSA’s role is to advocate in or represent the interests of students; 37% said ANUSA’s role is to provide services to help students with their specific problems; and 11% said ANUSA is responsible for running student events and helping students with club and society activities.

“It should be [student] advocacy, but at the moment it’s more [about organising] social [events].”

“To advocate for the students from a position that is independent from the university administration.”

The final question of the survey asked respondents whether they knew how and how much ANUSA receives funding annually.

59% either knew that ANUSA receives funding of at least one million or knew its funding comes from student contribution. But 28% also said they either did not care nor had any idea about where ANUSA receives its funding, and 6% thought ANUSA receives funding directly from the ANU administration.

The major source of ANUSA’s funding comes from SSAF allocation. SSAF stands for student services & amenities fee. Full-time students each pay $298 per annum, while part-time students each pay $149 per annum. In 2018, nearly $2 million (36% of SSAF Funds) was allocated to ANUSA.

According to the ANUSA expenditure report from 1 December, 2017 to 15 August, 2018, besides “Salaries & Wages” which constitutes 40% of ANUSA’s total operating expenses, the three other major expenses included $295,823.91 on “O-Week Events”, $117,096.00 on “Health & Wellbeing Co-ordinator”, and $84,073.86 on “Departments & Collectives”.

The handover of ANUSA will take place on 1 December, 2018. The elected ANUSA Student Representatives will then serve for one year until 1 December, 2019.