The Student Representative Council (SRC) is a body of student leaders who seek to serve and represent students of a particular institution. Through meetings and student interaction, the SRC acts as a platform through which students may voice their needs and concerns. In return, the SRC attempts to meet these needs and deliver solutions to the students.
UP’s annual campaigning period takes place in the weeks leading up to the elections. It is during this time that student-aligned organisations or independent students aim to gain the votes of their peers. The objective is to win enough votes to secure one of the 12 SRC portfolios. These portfolios include president, secretary, study finance, and transformation. In electing the SRC, each student may vote for one candidate for each portfolio. The Independent Electoral Committee (IEC) renders monitoring services to the polling stations around campus. After the elections, the chief electoral officer confirms the appointments. However, not all SRC elections are structured this way. The elections and student interaction may also differ from university to university.
According to Stellenbosch University’s Student Constitution of 2011, students elect nine members for their SRC. These members can be independent candidates or aligned to a political organisation. Each student may vote only once and each vote holds equal weighting. Once the election has closed, appointed election convenors and the election committee count the votes. Subsequently, the election results are published electronically and sent to all of the election candidates.
Stellenbosch University also has a Student Parliament. This Parliament is an independent forum which serves as an interaction mechanism between the SRC and students. All registered student of the university may hold a seat in this Parliament. It holds the SRC accountable and ensures that the SRC “fulfils its constitutional mandate” by keeping the council “accountable and transparent”, as stated in the Student Constitution. The Parliament is entitled to request an SRC member to explain their actions to the Parliament, as well as institute a “vote of no confidence” if they are not fulfilling their portfolio obligations.
The University of Cape Town’s (UCT) SRC is made up of 17 elected students who either represent other student organisations or are independents. This includes a president, chair for day students, and chair of residences. During the elections, all students may vote once either on paper or electronically. Votes are then counted by members of the election commission, while SRC members who are not candidates for the election may apply for “observer status” during this process. Subsequently, the commission publishes the provisional results. An objection period is open for 24 hours regarding these provisional results. Election results are then declared final.
Much like Stellenbosch’s Student Parliament, UCT has a Student Assembly, a body which keeps the SRC “accountable and transparent and rooted in the principles” of the SRC Constitution of 2013. The Student Assembly consists of SRC members, members of the Postgraduate Students’ Association, and the day students, societies, development agencies and sports sub-councils. The SRC is bound by decisions made by a two-thirds vote of the Student Assembly.
Rhodes University allows any registered student to run for SRC, but has specific requirements for some of it’s portfolios: students running for president must be in second year or above, the residence portfolio must be filled by someone who was in a residence, and applicants for the treasurer portfolio must have taken first-year accounting. The runner-up for president becomes the vice-president. All of the portfolios are voted for by the general student body except for the residence portfolio and the Oppidan councillor. These are voted for exclusively by residence students and Oppidan journalists, respectively. Rhodes had a 48.69% voter turnout in their last election, while Tuks usually gets a 10-15% voter turnout.
One of Rhodes’ measures to hold their SRC accountable is the SRC portfolio of secretary general, who has a mandate to hold SRC members accountable internally. The secretary general also gives a report to the Rhodes Student Forum on what the SRC members have done in their term, and the members of the Student Forum can query or critique these reports. In extreme circumstances, the Student Forum can also elect to hold a vote of no confidence in an SRC member.
The University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN) has a unique SRC. The UKZN SRC is made up of 60 members. The university has five campuses, each with its own SRC, referred to as a Local SRC (LSRC), while the university as a whole has a Central SRC (CSRC). The CSRC consists of ten members, including the five LSRC presidents. Moreover, each of the LSRCs has ten members: five from clubs and societies, and five independent candidates. Each student of the university is entitled to vote in the elections. The commission announces the provisional results within hours and the final election results are then declared two days after this.
The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) has an SRC made up of 19 members. Fifteen of these positions are voted for by the student population in elections across all of the Wits campuses. Any student is eligible to run as long as they are not a first year, a part-time student, or have a disciplinary record. The top 15 candidates then hold a constituting meeting where they elect the members to the various portfolios. The remaining four positions are filled by elected representatives from the residence council, the sport council, the postgraduate council, and the faculty council.
Although the SRCs of the various universities differ according to size and characteristics of their election processes, each university establishes a monitoring body which holds the SRC to account. These bodies collectively interact with all the students of the university. Much like Stellenbosch University’s Student Parliament and UCT’s Student Assembly, UP has a Student Forum. UP’s Student Forum is responsible for receiving reports from the SRC president during a meeting on a quarterly basis. These reports must be made available on ClickUP and placed on notice boards two weeks prior to the next quarterly meeting. Moreover, during quarterly meetings, a question and answer session is conducted where Student Forum members submit questions to the SRC secretary. Subsequently, Student Forum members ask questions to the relevant SRC members. The Student Forum may also make recommendations to the SRC to adjust and amend its programme of action.
Illustration: Jackie Zhang