Furious campaigning kicked off on Friday as the two campaign teams took to the streets to try and win voters in SUSU’s referendum which is set to decide whether the Union is to affiliate with the NUS.
Voting opened yesterday afternoon at 2pm after the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaign teams debated the matter live in The Cube, answering questions from voting students.
NUS President, Aaron Porter was present for the debate, arguing the case for the ‘Yes’ team. He tweeted saying he was ‘keen to ensure NUS UK provides support to make Southampton Students’ Union even better and to also shape our national work too.’
Southampton University Students’ Union left the NUS in 2002 as it ‘did not provide good value for money’ and was ‘dominated by political factions’, Union Council minutes reveal.
The debate on re-joining the national organisation has been a fierce one between campaigners and those involved with the Union. Past sabbatical officers have also joined in the debate online.
The Wessex Scene spoke to two random students at the University regarding affiliation.
William McStay is the Technical Officer for Monte JCR. He said: ‘I voted no to joining the NUS in the referendum. Through previous experience, I don’t think adding another layer we should be accountable for, and report to, will be beneficial for the Union. I also think that the price is quite a high one to pay. I do think a lot of students will vote – it’s the first thing you see come up online when you log into a University computer.’
Third year History and Politics student Thomas Adu Jnr. said: ‘I’ve already voted yes. I think our Union has done a good job independently, but there are more benefits to joining the NUS. I live in London, and my student discount card means nothing when I go there. There are definitely lots of people voting, it seems quite a big issue around campus at the moment.’
A referendum was last held in 1999 when SUSU was still affiliated with the NUS – a 1700 student strong majority voted to remain in membership.
In May 2002, however, a motion was passed at the Union’s Annual General Meeting to disaffiliate with the NUS, with 111 votes in favour, and 99 votes against leaving. The motion was proposed by the Clubs & Societies Officer elect Alex Bazin, and Vice-President Education & Welfare Elect Cat Brown. Students have not voted on the matter since.
Minutes from the AGM also reveal that the Union believed that ‘the NUS [was]not representative of our Union’, and that ‘It was lobbying by the Aldwych Group – a campaign group of students’ unions from the Russell Group Universities – that put an end to plans to charge ‘top-up’ tuition fees’ before they were later introduced.
SUSU President Billy Fitzjohn promised in his election campaign last year that he would hold a referendum on the matter. He said allowing students to decide if we should join the NUS ‘carries an answer with a huge impact on our Students’ Union in many ways.’ He continued, ‘the referendum is about making sure that students get to vote and have their say on the issues surrounding the debate.’
A motion proposed by the President to hold a referendum was passed at the first Union Council of this year on Monday October 25. An independent Union Elections Committee is overseeing the process.
The NUS provides research, representation, discounts, officer training and targeted advice for individual students and students’ unions, and describe themselves as the largest student organisation in the world.
SUSU is one of five universities in England that isn’t affiliated with the NUS, along with Aston, Durham, Imperial and Sunderland. Joining the NUS will currently cost SUSU 49,337.40 in annual membership fees.
Campaigning will continue until 8pm Friday when voting closes, and results will be announced live in The Bridge Bar at 9pm. Students can vote online now at www.vote.susu.org.
Read the full arguments for and against joining the NUS, presented by the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaign teams, online at www.susu.org/referendum/facts.