Exeposé News Issue 630, Front Page and Page 5 (10 November 2014) and Exeposé News online (10 November 2014)
Exeter students will vote on whether the Students’ Guild should remain affiliated with the National Union of Students (NUS) in December, but not until after the NUS has decided whether to condemn Isis.
In a meeting on 5 November, the Guild Council resolved to let students decide whether Exeter remains a member of the NUS, but also postponed the vote from Week 11 to Week 12 – much to the frustration of the vote’s proposer.
Third year Economics and Politics student Charlie Evans originally submitted the Student Idea to hold “a student vote on continued membership with the NUS (in week 11).”
While stating that the Idea was “triggered by Isis-gate” – the NUS’ refusal to condemn Isis in October – Evans stressed that this was not the only reason behind his call for a vote, commenting: “holding an open, transparent and democratic election […] on Exeter’s NUS membership is absolutely in the best interests of students.”
He continued: “Disillusionment has set in for a long while,” asking during the meeting: “How can an NUS president who never went to university represent students in the best way?”
Numerous comments in support of disaffiliation were posted on the Ideas page. Thomas Chapman stated: “it is clear [the NUS] no longer represents the views of so many students,” while another student commented: “Refusal to condemn Isis? #NotInMyName.” Only 25 votes of interest were needed to trigger a referendum – and with the Idea receiving 174 votes, 103 in favour, the Guild Council immediately resolved that a vote on disaffiliation should take place. Acting Council Chairperson Oscar Maddox confirmed: “It’s going to happen – it’s just for us to decide when we do it.”
The next two student voting rounds would usually fall in Week 11 and March 2015. However, a March vote was widely rejected as too late.
“The best opportunity to engage as many students as possible is Week 11,” Evans argued, continuing: “I think “this could be one of the most invigorating student debates that has taken place in many years.”
A vote on the motion was held, with three options: to hold a student vote on NUS affiliation in Week 11, Week 12 or in March 2015.
With no votes for a Week 11 vote, 18 for Week 12, one for March and one abstention, a motion was passed to hold the referendum during Week 12.
A 66 per cent majority will be needed for Exeter to leave the NUS, due to the financial implications of this decision – implications which sparked criticism for the original Student Idea, with commenter Simon Mackley stating: “Disaffiliation would have incredibly serious financial consequences for the Guild.”
Fourth year Sport and Exercise student Anna Collin added that disaffiliation “would result in increased prices in Guild outlets, including the RAM, Lemmy and Guild Shop.”
VP Activities Matt Bate said: “Students’ Guild democratic bylaw states that student votes which have a significant financial implication, such as affiliation to NUS, will be decided by qualified majority – where two-thirds of the voting members will be considered a majority.
“The Students’ Guild’s first priority remains the student experience and our democratic policy is shaped to ensure that students are able to express their views while protecting the future of the organisation that represents them to the University, locally, and nationally.”
The referendum will take place after the NUS’ National Executive Council on 3 December, when a motion will be presented “which will specifically condemn the politics and methods of Isis and offer solidarity for the Kurdish people.”
The motion to condemn Isis was presented at NUS’ October NEC, but rejected as “islamophobic.” An NUS spokesperson claimed some felt the motion would “demonise all Muslims rather than solely the group of people it set out to rightfully condemn.” A new vote will be held on 3 December.
Voting on NUS affiliation will begin on Monday 8 December. Meanwhile, the University Debating Society will see speakers explore the consequences both of remaining and leaving the NUS in their debate ‘This house believes the Students’ Guild should disaffiliate itself from the NUS’ on Friday 28 November.