I ran for the UTMSU elections and I lost

Next year's news editor on being a candidate in a UTMSU election

I ran for the UTMSU elections. And I lost.

As a person who can’t give all my time to studies, I have to get involved. Since the first semester of my first year, I took part in founding the Egyptian Student Association on campus. In March of my first year, I heard about The Medium and rushed to write for it. Shortly after, I became an associate news editor in the first couple of weeks of my second year and continued to be an associate all through my third year as well, writing consistently every week, contributing to around 45 articles in total until now. My goal was to become the news editor, and maybe even the editor-in-chief someday. Journalism defined me. It’s where my passion lies and where I want my career to be. That’s all I knew.

Then, just as I was almost a week and a few days away from covering the most important event of the year—the UTMSU elections—something changed.

“Hi Menna, we’re forming a team for UTMSU elections. Your name was brought up several times, and we would like you to run for VP university affairs and academics.” Very strange, very unexpected… This was a phone call I received from a team. A team I barely knew.

I don’t know how or why or when it all started—and ended—but when I heard of the opportunity, The Medium was the first thing that came to my mind. If I had agreed with my editor to be responsible for covering the UTMSU elections, it would now be me who would be reported on, right? If I run for UTMSU, does it mean I’m bailing on my relationship with The Medium? What will my editor think of me now that I’m thinking of leaving at such an important time? Can’t I try something new? Will I regret it if I don’t run? If I lose, does it mean I lost both UTMSU and The Medium?

Hundreds of questions worried me. But two main reasons came to mind: first, with dedicated reportage on campus every week for two years, interviewing the administration, dealing with different UTMSU executives, strike updates, spotting the process of fee increases, etc., I thought this could result in an actual change on the ground of UTMSU. Second, whether I won the elections or not, I knew I wouldn’t get to experience something like this ever again.

So I agreed to run for it.

And I have to admit, running for the UTMSU elections was one of the most remarkable events of my entire three years at UTM. Coming to campus every day for two weeks straight, talking to students, running between buildings, working with my team… I now feel different. Elections taught me so many things. I think they have even enhanced my public speaking skills. I now feel more comfortable talking to people the first time I meet them—sitting at their table and generating conversations with them. For the first time in years at UTM, there were three other teams running and away from the elections game, we managed to keep a respectful zone between us. We’d sometimes even chill together before we started campaigning. My team, those whom I’ve met only right before the nomination period started, are now my family. The day after the elections were over, I missed them. We’ve joked, stressed, worried, laughed, and worked.

As a third-year student specializing in political science and majoring in professional writing, and as a potential future political journalist, I always heard I was getting into the worst, dirtiest field. I knew politics was dirty. I just didn’t expect to try it myself that soon on campus.

I tried to take it as a game, to enjoy it as much as possible. But there were those who would start being super nice just because they want your vote, or at least your help in volunteering, and the minute they realize you are running against them, boom, everything changes. Or, like, constantly scaring you that demerit points will get you disqualified, when you know that they won’t do it because most likely, they would want the students to decide who they want. Or when you campaign with someone, and any “rival” would keep rotating around you, just to make you uncomfortable or to hear the way you talk.

Aside from seeing things I never thought I’d experience, and aside from realizing many things that happen behind the scenes, one thing that will always remain in my mind is the last minute of the elections period. After three days of straight campaigning from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., the second it hit 6 p.m. on that last day, we screamed: “It’s 6 p.m.! We’re done!” Then all of Davis cheered, clapped, and laughed. And we, the “rivals”, hugged and congratulated one another, because all of us believed that we’d done something great. Running itself was an achievement.

If I were to go back, I’d still do it. And I encourage anyone who gets the chance to definitely go for it. Even hanging your posters around campus, getting random people who tell you they’ll vote for you, or receiving smiles with an assuring nod to support you, or just going out of your way to try something new… This is what your university life should be. Go for it. Yes, I have lost, but I have also gained so much in return, because the entire experience was worth it. And I know that in a few years from now, I’m going to remember the experience, not the loss. And I know I’ll be smiling at that memory.

The person that started university three years ago is different from the person I am today. And I am grateful for this accomplishment.

Moral of the story: Don’t let your years of university go to waste. Studies are very important, of course, but the experience you can gain from school won’t be found at any other phase of your life. Go out of your way, seek change, chase opportunities, work on improvement, and you won’t regret it. Do everything you possibly can to end your years of school with no regrets. You’re a student once. And that is worth it.

Menna Elnaka
3rd year
Political science & PWC

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