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NUS Referendum: Fair or Farce?
Two weeks of complaints, an impounded publication and a sour taste in the mouth. Was the referendum fair, or just a farce?
Wait a minute. No! campaigners were removed from the referendum mailing list and the rest were counted as supporters of a yes vote? Thats a very serious accusation to make. If thats true then that calls into question the integrity of the result.
People who signed the petition calling for a referendum were treated as seconders for the 'Yes' side. I was advised that people obviously on the 'No' side were removed from the list.
"This information was considered 'commercially sensitive', so the Sabbatical Officers were required to keep it confidential. "
That's simply not true. I sat down with the Live! and Felix editors and talked them through the finances in detail in good time for them to be published in Felix. The financial figures were published on the front page of Felix two weeks ago.
If I had wanted to keep the finances quiet then I probably wouldn't have invited the Live! and Felix editors into my office and shown them all of the relevant spreadsheets and financial forecasts.
When written up like that it seems to have been (by IC standards) farce-free. No appeals, no disqualifications (hard to disqualify someone in this campaign i know) and only some "minor" squabbling.
"No appeals, no disqualifications"
Depends on the Returning officer being bothered to take any action in time!
With all due respect, John, that is absolutely not what happened. Ashley Brown (Live! editor, for those not in the know) approached you a number of times (that I know of) to get the numbers from you, but didn't manage to obtain them.
It was only when myself and Ashley approached you together, and stood in your office and asked you numerous questions, did you actually open a spreadsheet containing the numbers. I never received a copy of the sheet afterwards, though I did ask you for one. Maybe Ashley did; I haven't spoken to him about it. I wrote the Felix story from memory, and to be honest, it was terrible.
We were not "invited" at all. We came to Beit Towers at least three times during the day, uninvited, and questioned both you and Jon Matthews for the numbers. Jon was reasonably helpful, or as helpful as Jon "it would not be appropriate to make a comment at this juncture" Matthews can be (our little joke).
And lastly, yes, the information was initially to be kept confidential, by your orders. The sabbs confirmed this to me.
John, be assured I have no interest in making you look bad or otherwise, merely reporting the truth. The truth is that Ashley and I were stonewalled when we approached you for the numbers.
Andy (Felix Editor)
Oh, and I hardly had time to write the story, in the end, which is why it was badly written.
You told us the numbers on Wednesday evening after the 'harrassing', and I came in at 8am on Thursday morning (our print deadline is at 6pm) in order to get it done in time.
I did not receive a single email from you requesting information about affiliation costs.
Ashley did email me. I was in the process of writing him a long letter when you both turned up at my door. Rather than finishing the letter, I chose to show you the spreadsheets there and then instead.
I have sent the letter to you and Ashley now (it's unfinished, but it contains the raw facts).
I don't recall offering to send you the spreadsheet. If I did and forgot, then I apologise. Usually if I promise to do something and forget to do it then I get reminded of my promise. I received no correspondance from you or Ashley regarding affiliation money following our meeting.
The important thing is that the affiliation costs were publicised by Felix and Live! so the electorate knew (roughly) what was at stake.
Thanks for the letter, and what I said above stands.
This has to be one of the most pointless articles I have ever seen on Live! during my time at Imperial. But I think a few points need to be made:
Complaints: I know for a fact that at one point the NO team were bombarding the returning officer with complaints which were not upheld, so to suggest that somehow this was petty action by the YES (who complaints were largely upheld) is completely without merit.
Referendum List: The returning officer agreed that this list could be treated as a list of seconders. As such it was available to both sides (James Fok, the leader of the NO campaign, was present at the Exec meeting where this list was circulated). Members of the NO campaign were removed from the list simply to avoid spamming them - if they feel aggrieved at this I'm more than happy to forward the several hundred spam e-mails I receive each day to them.
Highly Charged Debate: Someone was called 'Lazy'. Wow. During the course of the campaign the YES team were referred to as Islamofacists, rapists, racists, 'unclassy', liars, self-serving and much more besides. I hardly think 'Lazy' is that much of an insult really.
Complaints: I didn't suggest the complaints by the Yes campaign were petty. I also indicated that they were upheld, which would indicate that they were valid... Stephen Brown freely admitted the complaint against him was valid and none of them were appealed.
Referendum: I pointed out that No members were taken off precisely because if they weren't it would be considered spamming and probably break some rules. If the readers wish to make other interpretations then that is their right. The information I have is that the list was treated as supporters of a 'Yes' vote.
Highly Charged Debate: There was a lot of shouting going on on both sides. On Sunday I asked for replies on a number of issues. So far no-one has given me any hard facts as to who on the Yes side was called what, just that there was name-calling going on. Posts on Live! don't count, to the best of my knowledge none of the campaign team have called you any names on here. RCC hustings doesn't count either, as that was a farce of epic proportions and nobody came out of it looking good. Having said that, I think some of the external people were called liars for saying that the affiliation fee money was ringfenced and that College would take it away if we didn't join.
I haven't named any names except Fok, because (as I said) I thought him getting into an argument with a penguin was comical. There is also the irony of him representing his students in the blue cube when he was called lazy. It was also the only case I can recall where someone *external* has caused an argument.
Why do our Sabbs waste their time on Live! during working hours?
They have every right to reply to criticisms on here during working hours ... as long as they don't hit refresh every 5 minutes during the day.
Also, their core hours are 10am-4pm so Ben's post was outside their "working hours". They've all been working extra hard lately so have earned a break to whinge at me.
"They've all been working extra hard lately so have earned a break"
You surely don't mean the referndum, which I understand was a participation they made outside of their normal duties.
I would like to know a few things:
1. Who made the decision to allow the NUS on campus, and how do they justify this decision?
2. Was the affiliation fee actually ring-fenced? I heard this from various members of the yes campaign (and I believe I read it in various places in the student media), but it seems absurd.
I would presume the referendum committee made the decision to allow the NUS on campus.
The affiliation fee was, as far as I know, not ring-fenced. Some of the external people on campus seem convinced that college would take away the money if we didn't affiliate and I don't believe that's true either.
Both points really call for a response from Jon Matthews as returning officer and DPFS, respectively.
Could we also have some clarification from James Fok as to whether the list of names on the petition was available to the no campaign.
I was one of a number of people that signed the petition to see a democratic process and not as a supporter of the yes campaign.
The list was in paper form that was presented at the ICU executive meeting. I was not made aware of the usability of the list and most certainly did not have an electronic copy that might or might not have been available to either the YES or NO campaign.
When I questioned that returning officer, he stated that I had equal right to the list. Had I not been at the exec meeting, how I would have know the existence of the list I do not know.
It is also pointed out to me that the list was typed up by Mr Matthews and Mr Harris on computer for ID check. This e-list was not given to the NO campaign at any stage and I was only made aware of the use of this list on Thursday morning.
I am shocked to read that the list was supposedly available and yet the only people who seemed to know about this and thus the only ones allowed take advantage of the list were the Yes Campaign.
It makes the request to have Guildsheet impounded for reasons of "unfair access to media" look like a joke.
Did it also not occur to the Yes Campaign that people may have signed the petition to call for a democratic refurendum and not to state their support for the NUS?
Can we not disqualify the Yes Campaign on the grounds of Spam just like someone standing for election can be disqualified?
Furthermore, when's the earliest we can organise another refurendum to make the union independent from/revoke membership of the NUS?
I am going to shove that petition in Alex Guite's not-so-yellow-anymore face.
Are you all so bitter and twisted?
I guess it because you are too busy making love to Linux to realise that you lost. You lost because students voted against the hacks.
Thank god for that.
I can accept that some people are bitter and twisted. But to say that people voted against the hacks, when they voted WITH John Collins and Alex Guite - superhacks - is ridiculous. They also voted for all the NUS hacks who were around campus.
Far from voting against hacks, I would say they voted for them.
I think it's quite telling that:
a) The yes vote pulled ahead after the personalised e-mail was sent, increasing turnout.
b) As the vote continued the yes vote continued to pull away from the no vote.
That a higher turnout meant a better result for the yes vote. Most hacks will have voted early. So most 'normal' 'random' students were voting yes.
"Who made the decision to allow the NUS on campus, and how do they justify this decision?" That's the key question, as that's what decided the result.
So, in your twisted little world,
Anti-NUS = Linux Geek
You sir, are a complete idiot.
Assuming that all seconders of a call to referendum are automatic supporters of the yes vote is like assuming everyone asking for a referendum on joining the Euro is supporting a single European currency for Britain.
If one team had direct (electronic) access to a database of students and their contact details, and the other did not, then the former team was at an unfair advantage. Having a significant proportion of a campaign's efforts impounded and hidden from view adds to that advantage.Together with the minute majority, this renders the entire referendum void in my eyes.
Frankly, taking the "yes" vote as binding and running with it, under the circumstances, is no different to putting George Bush in the White House in 2000: It's proof that cheating, deceit and dishonesty work, and that campus democracy is a farcical illusion. A victory to the NUS is a victory to corruption.
The leaders of the "yes" and "no" camps have signed a contract stating that they agree that this referendum was conducted fairly. End of.
The "no" team lost because they spent all of their time writing comments on "facebook" and "Live!" whilst the "yes" team actually made an effort to talk to students.
Not everyone was regarded as a supporter of the yes vote. Both Edmund Hunt and myself, active supporters of a No vote, were removed from the list following a discussion between the yes campaign and the returning officer.
Apparently this was so that we didn't receive any spam that we didn't want. How thoughtful of them? (sarcasm)
Unfortunately no matter how much we complain or how many reservations we have about dodgy campaign tactics involving mailing lists that we did not have access to, the yes vote is binding for now. Neither myself or the redoubtable Mr Fok are around next year so all this talk of us promising a disaffiliation petition is nonsence but if anyone who isn't graduating feels strongly enough about getting one together we would be more than happy to advise them. Whether or not we are going to see history repeat itself and see ICU vote to withdraw shortly after affiliating remains to be seen.
For now, A-NUS are being pragmatic and for the rest of the year we will be keeping a very watchful eye on issues surrounding our involvement with the NUS and most importantly, to ensure that the promises of the yes campaign are held. Last time I checked we were still missing the £35k for this years membership fee so I wish them all the best in their seach for it. I have said several times before, if the NUS could deliver what it promises it would be fantastic for ICU and I would happily eat my words. All the evidence suggests though that it is just going to be one very large, very expensive farce that is both a waste of our officers time and more importantly, our money.
Please feel free to contact me to discuss the levels of effort the No campaign put in, including the amount of time we spent posting on live and facebook which, unless James and Ashley were particularly committed, would amout to an average of a few minutes per day. Im sure its very easy to criticise us from behind a pseudonym, but until you identify yourself you can't really expect to be taken seriously.
I look forward to hearing from you!
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