STEM students are being left behind during election season

According to a survey carried out in the week leading up to the TCDSU elections, voters in STEM courses feel that candidates do not pay them enough attention

For a week-and-a-half in the early spring, Trinity experiences election-fever. The Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) elections bring with them hundreds upon hundreds of manifestos, flyers, and business cards. For many, it seems like you can hardly move in some areas of campus because of all the hustle and bustle of campaigning. Speeches are given, questions are asked, answered, and obfuscated. It is a hectic yet exciting time around campus for both candidates and voters alike. However, this seems to be the case for only a certain portion of the student population.

In early February, I distributed a poll to Trinity’s students to ask about their personal experiences of student elections. Of the 50 respondents, 32 were STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) students, and 18 were AHSS students (Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences). The results of the survey revealed a major disparity in how students from different disciplines experience election season.

Whilst the overall majority of students polled were registered to vote, only half of STEM students said that they were, compared to almost three quarters of AHSS students (72%). This is almost directly in line with the percentages of students who voted in the 2022 TCDSU Presidential election, with 57.1% of STEM students voting, compared to 72.2% of AHSS students.

It would be disingenuous to claim that AHSS students are simply more interested in student politics than STEM students. The actions and policies of the student union affect every single student in College, regardless of their degree. There is credible evidence to suggest that the reason for the disparity between STEM and AHSS responses lies in the methods of campaigning that candidates utilise during election season.

The majority of students surveyed (58%) have said that they have never received a flyer from an election candidate. If this seems improbable, considering the sheer volume of election manifestos and leaflets distributed, it helps to once again break it down based on degree. Only a third, 33.3%, of AHSS students have never received a flyer, compared to a staggering 71.9% of STEM students. Over half of respondents (52%) said that they believed that election candidates do not pay sufficient attention to their end of campus. 71.9% of STEM students believe that not enough attention has been paid to campaigning in science buildings, whilst over two-thirds of AHSS students (66.7%), believe that the level of campaigning is adequate. Only one STEM respondent believed that candidates pay enough attention to their buildings. When given the option to explain their response, a senior sophister STEM student said that they believe “arts students generally visit [the] Hamilton less”. Comparatively, a junior sophister AHSS student said that there was “too much” campaigning, and that “it is impossible to get around the Arts Block come election time!”

When asked if they wanted more campaigning this year, while over half (53%) of STEM students said that they did not care, over a third (34.4%) said that they wanted more, and only 6.3% want less. Exactly half of AHSS students want more, but 11.1% want less campaigning. 

The current student council is weighted 2:1 in favour of AHSS students. It is not unlikely that the levels of campaigning in AHSS buildings versus STEM buildings is a large factor in this. STEM students should not feel left behind during election season, especially since TCDSU is adamant in insisting that they represent “every student in Trinity College Dublin”. Their campaigns should also reflect this.

Eve Conway

Eve Conway is the Online Editor of Trinity News and is currently in her Senior Sophister year studying English Literature and History.