Oxford votes YES to a disaffiliation referendum

OUSU decides to put NUS disaffiliation to a vote while the CUSU referendum decision will be made next week.

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CUSU has confirmed that next Monday, they will vote on whether students should vote on NUS disaffiliation. 

For those who are understandably confused by the previous sentence, here’s what’s happened since Monday in the ongoing #LetCambridgeDecide drama:

CUSU Council Motion

A motion for a disaffiliation referendum, proposed by current Tab columnist Jack May and seconded by Adam Crafton, members of the NUS: Let Cambridge Decide Campaign, will be put to CUSU Council next Monday.

The motion notes Bouattia’s failure to “address and apologise for previous anti-Semitic language” and that “anti-Semitism is seriously damaging”.

The proposed NUS disaffiliation referendum timeline suggests a voting period from 17-20 May. This would coincide almost exactly with the start of the Main Exam Period, which begins on May 16.

To pass, it will require a two-third majority of the voting members of the CUSU Council, which is made up of JCR and MCR representatives, the GU President, Faculty representatives, Heads of the Autonomous campaigns and the CUSU Sabbatical officers.


The motion submitted requires sabbatical officers to abstain from expressing public views on the referendum. The Tab is informed that the motion was submitted before it was clear that CUSU President Priscilla Mensah would not have a position with the NUS,  and “as such it would have been possibly an issue for CUSU to hold a referendum over an organisation that their President could have been working for next year”.

It’s also been raised that CUSU is supposed to hold an annual vote to renew affiliation with the NUS – a vote which has failed to happen at any point in the last six years.

JCRs react to referendum calls

Christ’s, Churchill, Girton, Newnham, Peterhouse, Queens, St Catharine’s and Selwyn JCR Presidents have all supported the referendum motion. King’s will hold an open meeting about the issue before CUSU Council on Monday.

Trinity’s open meeting (to vote on whether the JCR President and VP should vote on whether students should vote on NUS affiliation) foreshadowed the concerns that are likely to be aired at CUSU Council, albeit in a civil and productive discussion. The discussion quickly descended into a debate over the merits of the NUS and allegations of Bouattia’s anti-Semitism, rather than being limited to whether or not affiliation should be put to students.

The consequences of disaffiliation and whether there was a coherent vision of what disaffiliation would look like also came up. It was noted that the proposed motion may be amended to mandate a second referendum on re-affiliation in 2017 when Bouattia’s term as President has concluded.  While Trinity voted in favour of a referendum, it added a caveat. Representatives were not bound to support the parts of the motion which refer to Bouattia as “anti-Semitic”.

Trinity JCR Vice President Finn Kristensen supports disaffiliation

JSOC backs referendum

After becoming one of 57 JSOCs nationally to condemn Malia Bouattia’s comments, on Tuesday Cambridge JSOC endorsed disaffiliating from the NUS entirely. Varsity reported that not only did a motion to support a referendum pass, but a 64% majority also supported JSOC backing disaffiliation.

JSOC’s statement: “In light of the election of Malia Bouattia, whose rhetoric has disturbed many of our members, a referendum will allow Cambridge University students to decide whether they wish to be represented by the NUS.”

The NUS would certainly be ‘transformed’ with only half the members

OUSU votes YES for referendum

In not-so-surprising student politics style, The Other Place took more than three hours to decide that YES, students should have… another opportunity to decide whether to say NO to the NUS.

A dramatic meeting saw the date for the referendum moved to the 2016-17 academic year and then back again, motions were torn up and thrown in the air and student journalists were ejected for trying to video the whole conference.

Those opposed to the referendum also encouraged others to leave the room as the votes were being counted, to deny the quorum necessary for a valid decision. The meeting’s chair was forced to clarify that disrupting quorum was an undemocratic move.

The results of the vote – a secret ballot to protect voters from abuse based on their voting position – were 67 in favour, 56 opposing and 3 abstaining.

Such a contentious meeting doesn’t bode well for Monday’s CUSU Council…