EUSA sabbaticals to proceed with referendum despite format criticism

Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) sabbatical officers have confirmed the university-wide democracy referendum will proceed according to schedule, despite some opposition to the structure of the vote and calls for the process to be revised and reset.

Addressing a series of questions at Student Council on Thursday, the representatives described the voting process as fairly constructed and amply advertised, and said that the process would continue ahead as votes had already been cast.

“We feel that the referendum needing 2000 students to vote for it is the most democratic way of putting proposals to the student union,” said EUSA-president Jonny Ross-Tatam, who helped to draft the referendum question.

The end-result of a half-year consultation process on the part of the sabbatical officers, the referendum would radically change the democratic structures at EUSA.  But the rollout has been dogged by criticism of poor transparency and an all-or-nothing question format that prevents specific provisions from being voted down.

Addressing frustrations with the format, Urte Macikene, Vice President Services, said that splitting the provisions was considered by the Association but was ultimately decided against.

“It’s something that we thought quite a lot about,” she said.  “But having consulted with so many students and the fact that quorum is 2000 votes for every single question that would be put to referendum—and generally in a sabb election we usually get around that number or just under that number—we decided that because we had done ten months of consultation working towards these final proposals that we would propose them together and the opportunity would be for people no to that if they disagreed with it.”

She continued: “Unfortunately because we called the referendum in this way, we put that out there, and people have already voted, there’s no chance to change that now.”

The sabbatical officers also faced critical questions regarding the motion’s transparency.  Critics have said that inadequate attention was drawn to the referendum’s existence in the weeks leading up to the voting period, preventing a “No” campaign from being properly established in time.

Vice President Societies & Activities Andy Peel rejected the characterisation.  Responding to the criticism, Peel said that the calling notice had been published on the EUSA homepage a week earlier, included in two all-student news emails and mentioned consistently in sabbatical reports.

“We feel that we’ve done a good job of publicising the fact that there will be a referendum,” he said.

Sabbatical officers will be engaged in promoting the Yes campaign across campus in the next few days.  Meanwhile, a Facebook page titled “What Referendum? Vote No” had accumulated over 80 likes at time of publication.

A debate with representatives from both sides will be held tomorrow at 5:30 in the Teviot Debating Hall.

Image: EUSA

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