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Council Calls NUS Referendum

May 19 2008 22:11
Ashley Brown
Imperial is to have a referendum on NUS membership this summer, after ICU Council called one at this evening's meeting.
Student Respect's Rob Owen (green shirt, right) has suggested he may turn up to fight on the side of the NUS (Photo: Elizabeth Hyde)

This evening ICU Council unanimously accepted a proposal by the ICU President to call a new referendum on NUS membership. Over 250 signatures have been collected, however the exam season has meant those seeking a referendum have been unable to get out with a clipboard as often as they would have liked. With a requirement of 600 signatures to call a referendum, the proposers - which include ICU President Stephen Brown and ICU DPEW Kirsty Patterson - instead presented a paper asking Council to approve one, which required and easily achieved a 2/3 majority to pass.

The paper explained why the proposers thought it was better to call one now, rather than waiting until the autumn: a delay to next year would result in affiliation fees of £46,000 for 2008-2009. The referendum itself is expected to take place in the second-to-last week of term in an effort to catch people before they leave for the summer. Online voting will ensure that all students in range of an internet connection can have their say, even if they are not on campus.

This summer's referendum looks to be remarkably different to the last. In the previous referendum the ICU President and DPEW were campaigning for affiliation, but this time their successors will be campaigning against (out of office hours, of course). The leader of the 'Yes' campaign last time around is now a member of Union Court, so will be unable to take part in the referendum. Indeed, it may be problematic to find someone to lead the campaign to remain affiliated, as even those who campaigned in favour of the NUS last time came back from Blackpool disillusioned. The high turnout at the last referendum is also unlikely to be repeated, as the exams season and approaching summer holiday period will reduce the number of accessible voters. Hitting the 1,800 students required to make the referendum valid may prove challenging.

Holding a referendum is guaranteed to have the NUS throw more resources in Imperial's direction, and an invasion of NUS officers can be expected in the run-up to voting. Disaffiliation would put a £46,000 hole in the current break-even budget. A number of other big contributors looked like they would disaffiliate when NUS reforms failed to go through, however they have since backed down.

As with the last referendum, Live! will endeavour to bring you a selection of views from both camps, along with full coverage of events.

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Discussion about “Council Calls NUS Referendum”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
May 20 2008 00:22

I voted YES to NUS Affliation in the last campaign back in 2006. At that time I was fresher who believed the NUS would offer me student discounts, a national voice and representation on issues that directly concerned me as an Imperial student.

Looking back, it seems I misjudged the impact NUS would have on my life as Imperial student. Discounts - I can use my Imperial card for pretty much anything I want and as for a national voice on Issues concerning me as an Imperial student, I think the reports on Live! over the past few months concerning the NUS conference etc speak for themselves.

With all the developments surrounding the NUS over the past year and a half, I can no longer see the benefit in paying ~?50k a year to an insitution that does not appear to give me any notiable benefits. However I would strongly request that any savings gained from NUS disaffliation are directly transferred to budgets for DIRECT use by Imperial clubs/societies.

Will I be disappointed that are national voice is reduced by disaffiliating? Not really - Its sad to say that representation of student issues that directly affected me did not seem to be high on the NUS' agenda (although that it just my view...) Yes; in an ideal world we probably should remain involved in the NUS to attempt to improve its representation on direct student issues. However when just ?500 would make a massive difference to our clubs budget, I can see sadly see little benefit (for both me personally and for my club) in Imperial paying a significant amount of money to the national union.

May 20 2008 00:56


I had the same opinion you currently hold back in 2006 - that the extra money saved from NUS affiliation should go directly to student club budgets.

Two years later, I'm now a semi-hack and I realise that what you're requesting is unlikely to happen. There is unfortunately a whole lot more to the Union than the clubs (I am reminded of this constantly by senior Union officers). The money could still impact student clubs eg if it was used to hire support staff for clubs and socs finance, but I'm guessing there are a lot of bits and bobs around the Union building where the extra money would be very handy.

Last time I heard, we hadn't quite reached our ?x.x million target to proceed with this fabled Beit Redevelopment either...

But yeah, its great that this referendum has finally been called, lets hope we can get enough keen students to vote - less of the apathy everyone!

May 20 2008 08:26

I always find it astonishing that people from other institutions feel they have thre right to come to College and effectively coerce students into voting for or against a motion. It's an in house matter, shouldn't it be kept like that?

May 20 2008 09:02

Yeah typical of student respect - how about you show some respect and stay out of it! I'd like to get some T shirts printed which, after today's exam is over... im going to parade around campus! :P

5. jess   
May 20 2008 10:46


whoop whoop!!!

May 20 2008 10:52

Once more on the giddy roundabout of in/out shake it all about....

Hurrah! - now this time let's stay out for longer than last time.

May 20 2008 13:51

I will strike down the NUS with the hand of Thatcher!!!... naked

May 20 2008 17:48

I can't help thinking that Stephen Brown is not a good advocate for Imperial students. At every turn he has only concerned himself with his own petit politics and self interests.

Personally speaking, i wish we could ban Student Respect off campus as they do nothing to support ordinary students, and their views towards Israel and people who do not agree with their they is disgusting.

May 20 2008 17:57

You can't have a go at him for concealing his views on NUS. His contempt for the organisation isn't exactly uncommon amongst Imperial students.

May 20 2008 18:03

Andy - you'll have to give some concrete examples to be taken seriously... As far as I can see Steve pushed quite hard for the reforms. If you're accusing him of calling for a referendum because he doesn't like the idea of the NUS, then it was actually the DPEW who started collecting signatures while Steve was on holiday and not even aware it was happening. This is the same DPEW who campaigned to join the NUS in '06.

May 20 2008 18:14

What personal benefits does someone stand to gain from being anti-NUS?

May 20 2008 18:14

Yes, I accept all responsibility for the disaffilliation referendum. Steve was still quite positive after conference that we might get two extraordinary conferences in. Given that NUS failed in this regard he is now jumping on my bandwagon. :)

13. ummm   
May 20 2008 18:43

could somebody please explain the consitutional issues?

is it unconsititutional for the council to call for this referendum or not?

14. nope   
May 20 2008 18:59

2. A referendum may be called by:

1. Five percent of the Full Membership of the Union, or

2. The Council by two-thirds majority,

May 20 2008 19:06

In 2002 we banned any non IC people from campaigning on campus. This seems like a fair tactic to repeat again...

May 20 2008 19:25

Whats to campaign? Chances are the campus is going to be nearly empty, most would have finished exams by then.

May 20 2008 19:27

I can't see why it would be unconstitutional, it achieved the required majority. It does have to be ratified by the Court though, so I see little chance of it being a problem.

Also, with regards to college no doubt being descended en masse by NUS staff, officers and supporters, what will the Union and/or colleges policy be on this I wonder. I imagine they could be banned from College and Union property if it became a danger, but I'm not sure how it would.

May 20 2008 20:43

ban those scum bags from coming on to campus with their stupid costumes and air head ideas, I say

May 20 2008 23:18

i will join the fight and offer my services to the leave campaign

May 20 2008 23:19


May 20 2008 23:20

Sorry I meant NUS, wrong Discussion

May 20 2008 23:36

What happens if fewer than 1800 students vote? Does the referendum fall?

May 20 2008 23:44

No, it becomes "null and void". You can't have two referenda on the same issue (of external affiliation) in the same academic year, but a null and void referenda would not count towards that.

Not that it matters - the academic year will end not long after the referendum anyway! We could have another one in October whatever happens.

May 20 2008 23:46

To clarify - its like it never happened in the first place, so although it effectively "falls" (status quo is retained), the limits on frequency of referenda would not include it.

May 21 2008 01:38

whats the likelihood of referendum achieving quorum given exam season, etc?

26. farce   
May 21 2008 08:28

just a farce

27. Joke   
May 21 2008 09:48

The whole situation is ridiculous, the arguments are the same as for the affiliation referendum. As far as I can see we have paid close to ?100,000 over two years based on the arrogant assumption that "we can help change the NUS from within". I cannot see any advantages that we have gained from being in the NUS.

A question though. If the reforms had gone through, would people still be rapidly pushing for a disaffiliation? Or would they want to stay in it, still paying huge fees? Or would they want to leave, having carried out their "knight in shining armour" role, and "saving" the NUS?

May 21 2008 09:55

As a keen voter I want to know if there's going to be a hustings? Last year there was one with free beer, I think that was a very wise choice. We should have another one like that. It would help me and my brother students make up our undecided minds.

May 21 2008 10:11

From my (personal) point of view, I would still be rapidly pushing for disaffiliation even if the reforms had gone through. My time at conference showed that the students at the top are just as bad - if not worse - than the loony left. I expect I'll write a rant on it in the run up to the referendum.

What I'd quite like is for us to pay ?20k to keep the staff support, but kick the useless political structures out. NUS staff are very good, the stupid politicking is a waste of money.

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