Lessons learnt from the NUS referendum

It’s all over now… after endless months of campaigning finally the question of should SUSU affiliate to the NUS has been answered with a 73.4% vote of NO. It’s been […]

It’s all over now… after endless months of campaigning finally the question of should SUSU affiliate to the NUS has been answered with a 73.4% vote of NO.

It’s been a long and messy referendum with fault on both the YES and NO sides. Hurt has been caused and it’s fair to say the majority of people from both teams are just glad it’s over. After any great debate SUSU requires a debrief so that we are able to learn, grow and move forward together.

Personal attacks have been one of the major issues during the referendum; in particular against Shane Murphy (VP Student Engagement), Sasha Watson (VP Academic Affairs) and Sam Ling (Union President). I have read some stomach-turning disgusting trolls attacking these three and have spoken to students who actively loathe them.

I’ll admit, I’ve asked them some very blunt questions which could have been considered “personal”. Upon reflection that was probably the wrong way to get them answered. Perhaps at the beginning of the referendum they could have conducted an interview with The Tab so that these questions could finally be answered publicly and with room for discussion.

Things got personal quickly, from both sides with Yes team attacking No team on Facebook, and vice versa. One of the biggest accusations levied at our sabbs was that they were in it for themselves. But were they? Not a chance, if they were surely they would have stopped campaigning after being ‘outed’.

There’s always the worry that students may have voted out of spite rather than informed decision. There was a massive backlash on this article and similar articles on the Wessex Scene.  It appears that this anger never really subsided, as was clear at the debate. Over the last week when I have been door knocking and chatting to students on campus, many have said

I’m voting no because students run the Union, not the sabbs

God knows, I don’t want another NUS referendum for at least 1000 years but in a different world I would love to see the result if the sabbs hadn’t campaigned.

It’s really hard to remain impartial. David Gilani et al did an amazing job considering that they no doubt had the worst of both teams coming at them all the time. All in all, they did their job and we achieved a record turnout which is a victory no matter if you were Yes or No.

The Soton Tab, SUSU TV, Surge and the Wessex Scene all work really well together. Our last live blog had a link to Surge and SUSU TV embedded (a first for all media groups!),  and half of the Soton Tab editorial team signed the Wessex Scene‘s open letter. It’s been really great collaborating with our affiliated media colleagues and something we would love to continue to do. If you thought we all hated each other, a big sorry but you were wrong!

This referendum broke records for turnout. A massive 4891 students voted. That is amazing and certainly helps to make it all worth it. Student engagement was better than anyone predicted which just shows how many people care about our union. Yay for democracy!

Finally a lot of passionate people got to meet each other and gain skills that can only benefit them in the future. For some people that might have meant becoming a little more thick skinned and for others, improving their public speaking at debates. I’ve been lucky to meet so many wonderful people from both teams and that can only be a good thing. It’s time to move on and build on lessons learnt from this referendum as only Southampton University students can.

How well do you think the referendum was conducted? What can be learnt from this? Let us know in the comments!