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.