The NUS Referendum: What you need to know

This week, University of Lincoln students can vote on whether their Students’ Union should remain affiliated or leave the National Union of Students. In this article, we answer some of the big questions surrounding the NUS referendum.

What is the NUS?

In simple terms, the National Union of Students can be defined as being the organisation which represents students on a national level. More specifically, they campaign regularly on issues affecting students; host demonstrations; support liberation groups such as disabled, LGBT and black students; as well as providing training for students’ union staff across the country.

What is the controversy surrounding them?

The NUS has recently come under fire for anti-Semitism, as reports suggested that students heard delegates applauding points against commemorating the Holocaust at the 2016 National Conference. The current president, Malia Bouattia, also faced criticism over comments about “Zionist-led media outlets” and delaying a motion to condemn ISIL.

In a comment piece for the Guardian, Malia explains that the delaying of the motion was “because of its wording, not because of its intent. Its language appeared to condemn all Muslims, not just the terror group.”

Malia also clarified her comments about Zionist-led media outlets, and said: “I was being critical of media outlets that unquestioningly support Israel’s actions and maltreatment of Palestinians, I was not talking about the media as a whole, or repeating despicable antisemitic prejudice.”

With regards to the University of Lincoln Students’ Union’s decision to hold a referendum on their affiliation with the NUS, this came after SU staff returned from last year’s National Conference.

At the time, former SU President Hayley Jane Wilkinson said: “As a group of elected officers, we no longer felt confident that the NUS represented the views of our students.”

What was the result of the referendum?

With 1,734 votes, only 12.6% of members had their say in the referendum. 804 students voted to remain affiliated with NUS, whilst 881 students voted for Lincoln SU to disaffiliate. The ‘no’ campaign won with a lead of 77 votes.

In turn, Lincoln SU were on course to disaffiliate from the National Union of Students on the December 31 this year, until a second referendum was called last month.

Why was a second referendum called?

In a statement on the Students’ Union’s website, current President Sammi Storey said the Executive Committee were approached by “a number of students” wanting to have a second referendum in the 2016/17 academic year.

Sammi said: “ULSU governance allows for a resolution to be put to referendum only once in an academic term; as the previous disaffiliation vote occurred in the last term, the question can be legitimately asked again under ULSU bye-laws.  ULSU governance allows a referendum to be called by a variety of means; one method being a petition from the student body of 50 signatures.

“Given the Officers believe it is inevitable that a referendum will take place, the Committee have requested that the Trustees allow a referendum to be held at the beginning of the academic term to allow the student voice to be heard and for the outcome to be managed in the most effective way for our members.”

The Linc has approached the Students’ Union for an exact number of students who expressed a desire for a second referendum, but they were unable to comment to “prevent any unintentional bias that may occur.”

The decision to hold a second referendum did cause some controversy, with some students confused and frustrated about the second vote when a decision has already been made. The SU’s decision to ask the question once more to enable new students to have a say also led to some members wondering if this will set a precedent, with a referendum taking place every year to allow new first years to have a say.

The SU were unable to comment.

What happens if not enough people turn up to vote in the second referendum?

Whilst a ‘yes’ vote means we will re-affiliate, and a ‘no’ vote means we will leave on December 31, a lack of votes in this second referendum will mean that the SU trustees will make the final decision.

How can I vote?

Voting is open from now until 12pm on Friday 7 October. You can vote online at lincolnsu.com/elections.