Sabbs to Drag SUSU into NUS?

Do the SUSU Sabbs want us in the NUS?

SUSU Sabbatical Officers Sam Ling and Sasha Watson are planning an AGM Motion to re-run last year’s controversial NUS Referendum.

On a post in the Southampton University Labour Club, Sasha Watson comments:

haha – il [sic] say this now – im [sic] 100% pro joining NUS now … myself and sam are mooting a motion at the AGM to hold another referendum next october, with one held every 2 years to re-ask the question

Both Watson and Ling were re-elected in this year’s SUSU elections, along with VP Student Engagement Shane Murphy. The NUS did not feature in any of their manifestos, nor in the manifesto of any Sabbatical Officer elected this year. Both Murphy and Watson are active campaigners in the re-election of current NUS President Liam Burns, this renewed interest in the NUS now has more significant meaning in light of this referendum plan.

The referendum, held in November 2010, was comprehensively defeated with No votes outnumbering Yeses two to one. The argument for re-running the NUS Referendum is therefore fairly weak, suggesting the Sabbs may want SUSU to affiliate AGAINST the wishes of its members. There was controversy last time over accused bias with former Sabbaticals voicing their displeasure over the conduct of SUSU in this referendum.

Under SUSU rules, any Sabbatical who intends to campaign for a cause, whether in an election or referendum, has to remove themselves from Elections committee and the whole process of managing the election. This meant that over the course of the last election period only TWO Sabbaticals were able to help keep the elections running smoothly. If two or more Sabbs do so in this proposed referendum, the effects will be substantial.

The Tab posed some questions to SUSU President Sam Ling:

ST: Can you confirm that you are planning a NUS Referendum point for AGM?

SL: I have been developing a motion on the topic of an NUS referenda [sic]. It would however not be for this year, but for Autumn term of the following year.

ST: Why?

SL: At the time I stated very publicly that the reason I campaigned for the no team was that due to the amount of change taking place in the Union at the time, from staff restructuring to a complete revision of the Officer structure, it was the wrong time to join the NUS. Since then SUSU has come through many changes and is now a much more stable organisation. There has also been a great deal of development in the NUS itself, such as the development of a digital platform offered by Nussl as a new offering to student Unions. Finally there has been a substantial change to the landscape of higher education leading to changing needs for national representation. This rapid change highlights why it’s important to offer a more regular chance to discuss these issues.

ST: The referendum was comprehensively defeated last year, you yourself being heavily involved in the No team. What purpose would the referendum serve holding it again?

SL: I have been looking at suggesting a referendum be held in the Autumn term of the next academic year. Two years give a substantial turnover of students, providing a fairly fresh electorate the opportunity to consider the question for themselves. Also around the country similar referendums yield results in the high 90%’s however ours had over 1/3rd of students voting despite being non members for 8 years. This shows a substantial interest in the topic, and a mandate to ask the question again not the following year, but reasonably two years after.  It is also worth noting that every year I receive a large number of enquiries about if we are members from new students, which shows that there is renewed interest each year.

ST: Are the sabbs attempting to “pull an Ireland” and re-run the referendum in an attempt to get the “right” answer?

SL: No, is the short answer. If that were the case I’d be suggesting the referendum be held this term  around election time when there would be less chance for a strong debate to build up, or even bringing a motion to affiliate at AGM. For me it is important that our students to regularly get a chance to discuss such issues

This proposed motion may be coming to the SUSU AGM, due to be held at some point next term prior to exams. If you have any feelings for or against this issue, ensure you attend.