In the era of democracy where people’s voices are heard and upheld, the practice of voting in the election is the manifestation of clean and good democracy. In democracy, the centre of power is the people, people have absolute voices, people have absolute rights and people have authority in deciding the power holder. In the smaller context, in IIUM, we heard the issue of the postponement of the campus election proposed by IIUM Student Union Election Commission because of few reasons and justification. Ofcourse, in a healthy democracy, students’ voices and opinions are highly celebrated and of course this postponement triggers a lot of views and criticism. From one perspective, those criticisms express the feeling of insecurity, the feeling of being threatened where the rights were violated. However, some argue with the name of Student unionism, elections should be held democratically, where all students are aware of their rights, and why there is the need for them to vote. To be fair, both have a point, and to be more fair, let us see what is the best way to react on this issue.
First of all, let us consider this unprecedented situation where not just students are affected with the new norms where all of us struggle to adapt with the emergency remote teaching and learning of IIUM during the covid 19 pandemic, but this pandemic is affecting the whole world. As students, we face a lot of difficulties in facing this new norm, some of us may struggle to have stable internet connection, some of us are fighting in stabilizing our state of mental health, and of course some of us may face financial problems, or in short all of us are striving to survive. In the state of survival, it is very unfair for us to conduct an election at the campus level as people are not aware and this might be beneficial only to certain parties who have political interest.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory, needs lower down in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to needs higher up. From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization, and now we are struggling on deficiency needs rather than growth needs. It is very upsetting seeing people talk about power struggles while some of us are merely trying to survive. If we really want to talk about democracy and students’ unionism, we should be wisely clear on students’ issues that have urgency to be catered to. Yes no one argues that elections are important in order to prevail democracy and transparency, however, in this unprecedented situation, we have a more important issue to be focused on, students’ welfare.
Consequently, the party who is being given responsibility to manage our campus election, IIUM Student Union Election Commission should not act irresponsibly. As we are aware, IIUM SUEC had posted an official statement regarding this postponement of the campus election to semester 2 2020/2021, because of several reasons. However, the one go statement couldn help, some students need explanations and some of us may have concerns and questions regarding the statement. For example, if the purpose of postponement is to ensure the students’ readiness (which agreeable) to what extent we can consider as ready, what is the benchmark? Without any intention of blaming games, we suggest IIUM SUEC to conduct an open platform to have a Question and Answer session with students, for the sake of transparency. It is because vagueness leads to uncertainty, uncertainty leads to misperception, misperception leads to assumption and it leads to hoax, malicious deception and backlash.
To wrap it all up, I believe that this issue should be seen from the emphatic lens, we should consider all factors, all variables before we jump to a conclusion or solution. I believe that student autonomy should be manifested in the form of election, I also believe that the fundamental principle of student unionism is inclusivity and unionity, and by believing so, campus elections should be held. However, under unprecedented circumstances, under uncontrolled factors, we should wisely prioritize one thing to another and let go of our personal interest, but to uphold students’ interest and inclusivity as a whole.
Founder of VIRTUE IIUM
Activism | Intellectualism | Welfare