NUS: your vote may not count

Beck Sage – Deputy News Editor 5 February 2010

CUSU’s Democracy and Development Team (D&D) ruled on Wednesday evening that, should an insufficient number of students turn out to vote, the National Union of Students (NUS) referendum result would not provide a mandate to affiliate or disaffiliate from the NUS.

The CUSU constitution states that at least a tenth of the student body must vote in order to reach quoracy – the number of votes required for a motion to be valid.

In the past, referendums have never achieved the quorum of 2000 votes and so re-affiliation to the NUS has occurred by default.

However, this year, inquoracy would mean that the matter of affiliation would be brought back to CUSU Council for decision. This would take place through a motion proposed by the D&D, which would resolve whether to affiliate or disaffiliate.

It would then be up to Council to vote on whether CUSU affiliated to NUS for 2010/11, and so the vote would effectively be taken out of student hands.

The decision comes amongst controversy this week surrounding the issue of quoracy, with ‘No’ campaigners calling for default disaffiliation from the National Union of Students (NUS) should an insufficient number of students turn out to vote.

The debate centred upon an email exchange sent to the Education Not for Sale (ENS) list by several ‘No’ campaigners – Chris Lillycrop, David Lowry, Ben Towse and Grayden Webb. Lillycrop, former Chair of CUSU Council, stated that he believed “our best chance of disaffiliation is an inquorate vote and D&D ruling that such a vote leads to disaffiliation”. Webb, a CUSU NUS delegate, agreed, stating “if it’s inquorate we disaffiliate”.

If the D&D had ruled in favour of disaffiliation in the case of inquoracy, the ‘no’ campaigners would have benefited from voter apathy, raising the question of whether a public ruling by the D&D would have influenced voter turn-out.

At the time, Webb emphasised that “like Tom on the Yes campaign, we want to make sure the issue of quoracy is sorted in advance of the referendum, so that all voters are informed”.

David Lowry, former Jesus JCR President and member of CUSU council, had also participated in the email exchange published to the ENS list.

He pointed out to TCS that “Quorum exists for a reason – if over 90% of students either oppose or are indifferent to the NUS, we must question the relevance of our affiliation”.

This statement still stands in light of last night’s D&D ruling, which explicitly acknowledges the possibility that quorum may not be reached.

Kenichi Udagawa, a second-year Education student from Homerton, told TCS, “I hope that no matter the result, the referendum expresses the will of the student body. In the event of inquoracy it would be a shame to see such an important issue decided by default or by a committee.”

NUS Referendum: Key Facts

National Union of Students (NUS)

Confederation of 600 students’ unions – over 95% of all higher and further education unions in the UK. Membership each year costs CUSU around  £9000.

Democracy and Development (D&D)

CUSU team consisting of Tom Chigbo, Joshua Marks, Fatima Junaid and Ben Hosford. Responsible for the long-term development of CUSU, and ensures that CUSU follows the procedures and rules set out in the constitution.

CUSU Council

Comprises JCR and MCR Presidents and External Officers of all 31 Colleges, the CUSU Executive (minus Sabbaticals, apart from Women’s Officer), representatives of autonomous campaigns and four representatives of the Faculty Forum. Any student may attend CUSU Council, propose motions and amendments, but only Council members can vote.

Beck Sage – Deputy News Editor