‘I’m Nervous but I’m so excited’: Vanessa Mabonso Nzolo elected Student President
Updated: Mar 28
Average Student Turnout just five percent, down 14% from last year
By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco
Vanessa Mabonso Nzolo has been elected as the next Student President, AUSA announced late last week.
An event celebrating the results was held at Union Brew Friday afternoon. Drinks and pizza were served as students celebrated the announcement of the winners.
Votes were cast online last week from 8-10 March. Eligible voters included all undergraduate and postgraduate students at the University, counted at 15,185 people during the 2019/2020 academic year, the last year for which data has been released.
Mabonso Nzolo, a fourth year Anthropology and IR student, garnered 64% of the 759 votes cast for president ( which is 4.998% of eligible voters). She received 483 votes out of 759, which represents 3.19% of the total eligible voters. Her opponents, Samuel David and Nathan Hughes, received 8% and 27%, respectively.
Speaking to the Gaudie on Friday afternoon, Mabonso Nzolo said: ‘I’m nervous but I’m so excited… I hope that as a team we’ll be able to listen to students and make them work with us.’
She commented on the challenge of increasing student engagement, saying,
‘I know everyone thinks AUSA is s***, and I think it really is just a matter of increasing engagement and to tell students that this could look however they want it to look like.’
Akua Serwa Agyeman, a postgraduate student studying Energy Politics and Law, was elected as Vice President for Education with 519 votes, or 57% of the 906 votes cast.
The Vice President for Education election had the highest turnout with 5.97% of eligible voters casting votes.
Running unopposed, Adam Lambert was elected as Vice President for Activities with 677 votes (4.46% of eligible voters). Previously serving as Vice President for Sport, Lambert will be the first person to serve in the newly created role.
Sai Shraddha S. Viswanathan was elected as Vice President for Welfare, narrowly winning her race after two rounds of elections. Out of a total of 765 votes (5.04% of eligible voters), she received 298, beating her opponent Pearl Mensah by 17 votes.
She commented, ‘What I am absolutely thrilled about is working as a team with my slate who also got elected for their respective positions! We stand for and by the students here and would really like to work towards taking the sabbatical legacy forward in ways we can in our best capacities.’
Camilo Torres Barragan was reelected for a second term as Vice President of Communities, receiving 398 votes, or 52% of the 761 votes cast (5.01% of eligible voters).
Overall, the average student turnout for all five races dropped to 5.09% of eligible voters, with an average of 774 votes per race. Last year, despite many students not being on campus due to COVID-19 restrictions, the average student turnout was 5.95%, with an average of 940 votes cast per race.
By contrast, before the pandemic, in the 2019/2020 election, the average student turnout was as high as 9.2%, with an average of 1396 votes per race.
All of the winning candidates other than Lambert stood as part of the We’re Here Now slate.
Members of We’re Here Now were active in canvassing throughout the week, encouraging students to vote for their candidates and offering to work them through the process.
Professor Ruth Taylor, Vice-Principal (Education), commented: ‘On behalf of the University I congratulate Vanessa Mabonso Nzolo on her election as Student President for the next academic session, and congratulate the newly elected Sabbatical Officers on their fantastic achievement.’
‘As a University we are committed to ensuring our students have the best possible experience during their time with us, and our work with AUSA is a key part of this commitment.’
‘I look forward to working with Vanessa and the newly elected Sabbatical Officers… and wish them every success.’
The new Sabbatical officers begin their term at the beginning of July.