EUSA caught up in firestorm over referendum changes

How are you supposed to pronounce UESU?


Online voting has opened for a campus-wide referendum that seeks to shake up EUSA’s democratic foundations, with some groups unhappy about how it has been organised.

The referendum’s first question focuses on ways to reform EUSA elections and how students are represented.

For example, sabbatical officers would be able to run for re-election in a bid to improve the sustainability of their manifesto promises. The question would also mean some student positions would be appointed, rather than elected.

The second question proposes changing the name of the union from Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA) to the University of Edinburgh Students Union (UESU).

Voting is open now, with a debate on the referendum to be held on the 2nd of March.

Democracy in action

The announcement of the referendum provoked a backlash on social media.

Facebook pages have been set up denouncing the lack of opportunity for a “No” campaign, slamming EUSA for allegedly not giving enough notice for an opposition to be mounted. The referendum voting page has pro-Yes information, but no alternative advice, which according to the ‘What Referendum? Vote No’ Facebook page, is against EUSA’s own rules.

It’s fair to say Kirsty Haigh (a former sabbatical officer) and Urte disagree

The first question is also problematic for them, due to the long list of the changes it includes, with over a dozen major changes. There’s no opt-in or out of certain provisions.

The referendum aims to motivate students’ to seek representation by including a provision for part-time paid offices, as well as trying to improve accountability by referring contentious student council issues to a University-wide referendum.

The second question would also involve a complete rebranding of EUSA, as staff uniforms, posters, and other promotional items would have to be redesigned. Some students are concerned about the costs of this, which they think could be better spent.

Major drama kicked off in the Facebook comments of one event, with former Vice Presidents Max Crema, who once survived an emergency general meeting after writing an official blog post titled “Why We Spit in Your Drinks”, and Kirsty Haigh getting involved. The former Editor-in-chief of the Student, as well as existing and former EUSA staff, all set to bickering about the potential changes.

Current sabbatical officers Urte, Andrew, Imogen and Johnny all weighed in on the comments, defending the changes and the organisation of the referendum.

Speaking to the Student, Urte Maickene, EUSA’s Vice President Services, said:

“We want to give students the support and opportunity to really take initiative and responsibility as reps, something which many students can’t do because they are working part time to support themselves.”

“We foresee the most room for growth in terms of campaigns and projects, which would mean potentially greater demands on students’ time; by paying the students in these roles, they will be more able to devote time to these activities.”

Voting in the referendum closes on the 10th of March, the same day as the EUSA presidential campaign voting closes.