U-Lose? Beleaguered Union Extends Referendum
Apathy causes Chessum to extend voting period
ULU is undergoing a referendum, announced in October, in an effort to fight for its existence.
The referendum poses the question: “Should ULU’s building, activities and campaigns continue to be run democratically by students?” The results of the referendum, initiated on November 15th, were supposed to be announced on December 13th. However, since Michael Chessum has extended the voting period, it now closes on February 7th. Does this mark an attempt to ensure that the desired outcome is obtained?
In May 2013, the University of London announced its intention to close its student union from August 2014, substituting it with a services centre run by University management. This decision was made due to consistently low electoral turnouts as less than 2% of members tend to vote. Most of the functions and services that ULU currently provides would still remain, but the elected student officers would disappear.
The decision to close ULU has precipitated many opinions. There has been a string of Save ULU protests. One of these occurred on November 13, where around 200 students protested against the closure of ULU. This involved first marching around the campus, before giving the police a headache by breaking barriers. At the beginning of the event, Chessum spoke of the referendum and stated: “we will get a strong mandate to tell them to piss off”.
Despite indicating some passion for keeping ULU, that particular protest was attended by a number equivalent to 0.007% of all ULU members – hardly suggesting rampant support.
In fact, many students seem to welcome the move as most see ULU as the very building itself, and not as a body to represent students. Many of those I know originally opposing the intention to close ULU have changed their minds following the realisation that most of the services, especially the bar, would remain. There are some stronger views to abolishing ULU, which are exemplified by a letter signed by 14 students that was sent to student management in May last year, calling for all ULU officers to be axed ASAP to ensure a smooth transition. Ultimately, many students are alienated by the narrow views that ULU perpetuates, which only truly represent a fraction of all 120,000 students.
Indeed, the referendum has raised eyebrows, perhaps initially by its very wording and now by its extension. The stated reason for extending the date of the referendum is that some campuses apparently had not opened their ballots. The motive behind extending the referendum is certainly questionable.
It appears the view predominant among sceptics is that ULU altered the dates in order to give them the best chance of securing a ‘yes’ majority.