The Southampton University Student’s Union will not be joining the NUS after 67% of Southampton University students voted against the motion in a referendum.
Voting began on Monday the 29th of November at 2 pm, following the NUS Debate held in the Cube, where Aaron Porter, President of the NUS, was one the speakers. Voting closed at 8 pm on Friday, with the results announced at 9 30 pm.
The ballot finished with 2293 votes against joining and 1151 votes for; the total number of votes cast was 3444, 14% of the student population. On the first day of voting alone, 1200 students had cast their vote.
The No campaign leader, Aaron Bali said he was “elated”, after what was a hectic week of campaigning. In their victory speech, Bali said “The result was wicked, and it’s great to see students have a say on a serious issue. I’ve got to give a big credit to the Yes team, they got over 1000 votes, and we had the status quo on our side.”
The Yes team were courteous in their defeat, with team leader Adam Scott saying in their concession speech: “I just want to say thank you to everyone in my campaign team – you’ve all been excellent. I think a big congratulations has to go out to the No team, and clearly the student of Southampton didn’t want to join the NUS and I respect that.”
Both sides were nervous before the result, with no clear conception of who was likely to win; numbers on facebook fan pages put the No team slightly ahead in the run up to the vote, and the “Vote No to NUS” event had four times that of its opposition, but the Yes campaign team had much more of a campus presence throughout the week.
Also, during the week, the SUSU Twitter hash-tag, #votesusu, had been a live-wire of arguing between sides, which included many NUS employees and former Sabbatical Officers of SUSU weighing in with their thoughts. The referendum was originally intended to be a purely student-led debate, but it became apparent quite quickly that quelling the external noises would be very difficult.
There were worries before the referendum that only a tiny proportion of the student population would turn out to vote, citing fears that NUS affiliation was a “non-issue” for students, and “irrelevant to their day-to-day lives”, but the 14% turnout will be a big boost for the reputation of student politics. Charlotte Woods, VP Media and Communications, was delighted with the turnout, citing “this was the number of voters in the SUSU Sabbatical Elections a few years ago – this is brilliant!”.
Billy Fitzjohn, SUSU President, said after the results, “I wanted two things from this referendum: A big turnout and an overwhelming majority. I wanted a big turnout so that it showed students were interested in their union, and we got that. I also wanted a clear victory because it’s always hard for one side to lose, I saw that at the SUSU Elections last year, and I didn’t want it to boil down to just a few votes; it is clear that students of Southampton do not want to join the NUS right now.”
The results were announced at Montefiore Hall’s bar, the Boiler House, following the Union and University’s closure due to the bad weather. Roughly 50 people were in attendance to hear the result, mostly campaign team members, all of whom stayed for the Twisted after-party, which also had to change location.
The Yes team, whilst feeling disheartened about the result, were proud of their efforts, and were glad that the question had finally been asked after 8 years of disaffiliation. They were also happy with the fact that it was a clear cut result, as it “showed students of Southampton had a definite opinion on the issue”.
Attention for the Sabbatical team will now move to the Tuition Fee vote that takes place on Thursday the 9th of December, which the Wessex Scene will be live-blogging from 12 pm onward. They will also be focusing on finalising the Sabbatical Review, where the changing of the Sabbatical roles will be discussed, as well as preparing for the SUSU Sabbatical Elections, which are due to take place at the end of February.