QUB students voice confusion over last minute SU referendum

The Students’ Union Council have voted to make substantial changes but students were given no prior notice to a referendum concerning the proposed amendments

In just over a week the Irish referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment takes place. It has attracted large media coverage in the South, UK and indeed at Queen’s. The SU gave it, much coverage, more so indeed than its own referendum asking students to ratify significant constitutional amendments and rule changes which were passed by it in mid-April.

Changes include three new part-time Faculty Rep positions “elected by students from the faculties, to represent students at a faculty level in Queen’s”.

Further, there is an “amendment to increase the lifetime of Union policy from one year to three years”, which is to be accompanied by another amendment to distinguish between “advisory” and “mandatory” policy. In essence what this SU leadership agrees could linger well beyond its mandate.

The full list of changes can be seen pictured below, and a more detailed explanation can be found here.

Image may contain: Text, Letter

However, the referendum is causing controversy today as few of the main representative bodies, apart from the Student Council, were aware it was taking place.

Even such important groups as the QUB Law Society, which represents around 500 students, and which could be substantially affected by the proposed changes to admin surrounding clubs and societies, was out of the loop. When asked if he had been told about it, the society’s President, Morgan Hickman, responded: “I had absolutely no idea!” However, it should be noted that he expressed no opinion on the changes themselves.

It is claimed that little to no informational material was distributed about the referendum. Many students only became aware of its existence when it was posted on Queen’s Online today.

This sense of confusion is most adequately reflected by “The Wizard”, who took to Twitter to call out what he feels to be the injustice of the situation.

Image may contain: Text

Few seem to actively object to the policies. One key source comments: “Going by the shortened summary of proposed changes on the QUBSU site, many of them seem like positive changes that would improve the SU”. However, it is this “shortened summary” that many object to, claiming there is insufficient time and information to make an informed decision.

Shea Glasgow, Treasurer of the Literary and Scientific Society (the Literific), describes the document as “extremely vague”, as it only outlines the goals of the policies, not the methods that will be employed. He goes so far as to question the referendum’s legitimacy.

According to Shea, the vagueness “makes the democratic exercise completely worthless because you cannot really know what it is you're voting for. It's also extreme procedural impropriety and bad practice to not publicise a vote at all beyond the literal day it is happening.”

His sentiments are echoed by fellow Literific council member, Edmund Doherty, who feels that the descriptions of these policies are “incomprehensible to those not constantly involved in student politics, and even some that are will find it confusing.”

The VP Education, Lucy Gault, has responded on behalf of the Officer Team. When asked if she had any comments on the lack of information surrounding the referendum Gault responded that the SU was not “attempting to pass amendments unnoticed” and assures students that “any lack of awareness or information was not intentional, it is a difficult time of year to reach students and ordinarily we would have gone out to classes to inform our students of the proposed changes.”

Gault goes on to affirm that the proposed changes have gone through the proper amount of debate before the Student Council and were passed legitimately. She also claims that the proposed changes “will serve to increase accountability for Student Officers, increase student representation by allowing positions to be created where student representation has never previously existed, and making the Students’ Union more accessible, and more transparent for everyone”.

Voting closed at 8pm and the results shall be revealed at some point this evening. Updates will follow.

More
Queen's University Belfast