Identifying the most appropriate modalities of student representation
Elections: Elections form the most popular modality of student representation. Students are asked to vote for their representatives. Elections can be organized at the institutional level or at the academic unit level. Elections are organized according to clear procedures: number of elected candidates, type of election (name or list), eligibility criteria for candidates, etc. Campaigns are conducted by candidates to present their visions and programs as student representatives.
Draws: This modality is mainly a transition method between a system without representation structure and the organization of elections. It contributes to the development of a favorable environment for student representation, especially in universities where elections are a source of clashes and problems.
Nominations: This modality consists in the nomination of student representatives by the university according to specific criteria such as GPA, engagement in the universities activities, personality traits, etc.
Potential challenges and suggested solutions
Political clashes and confrontations: When it comes to elections, given the Lebanese political context and the affiliations of students to political parties, this modality could lead to political clashes and confrontations between students representing different parties. This is the most recommended modality to prepare students to become active citizens, however, the draws and nominations could be a transitional modality to prepare the ground for clash-free elections and consequently could be better adapted to prepare the university community for future elections.
Luck over merit results: In the case of draws, the selection of representatives is based on luck and not on merit or skills of the candidates. A possible way to face such a challenge is to uphold merit while setting candidacy eligibility criteria and to have students themselves in a given program work on encouraging specific/preferred candidacies.
University administration biased results: The nomination modality is the less popular since the nominated students are not always the most engaged to promote the interests of the student body, they may be perceived as promoting and serving the interests of the university, and consequently, they may face important difficulties in earning the trust of other students. The nominated students are not considered as legitimate representatives since they have been chosen by the university administration and not by the students themselves.