The Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) Referendum includes two questions, one putting forward proposals based on the wide-ranging democracy review, and another changing the name of EUSA to the University of Edinburgh Students’ Union (UESU). It should be considered to be unconstitutional as it may breach some of EUSA’s own Democracy Regulations.
First, the timeline for the EUSA Referendum must be established. According to an email sent to EUSA Representatives and Facebook posts from VPS Urte Macikene on the ‘Vote Yes’ Facebook event, the calling notice for the Referendum was released on February 15. The calling notice made clear that the deadline for an official No campaign to come forward was 12pm on February 24, with a Referendum Debate on the same day at 1pm, and voting to begin at 1pm on February 25 with the closure of voting at 5pm on March 10.
With that in mind, EUSA’s own Democracy Regulations state that during any Referendum Period (which should itself last no more than four weeks), there should be three consecutive periods. They are defined in section 5 of the Democracy Regulations.
In the timeline of this Referendum, EUSA has failed to abide by its Democracy Regulations in that the campaigning period, specifically described as an immediate consecutive period that should not last less than one week, has instead lasted only one day after the end of the planning period.
It is therefore possible to argue that the Democracy Regulations have been breached: by limiting the campaign period to one day, the executive has not abided by the regulations that assert that these periods should be immediately consecutive, and therefore cannot overlap.
In order for the timeline of this Referendum to abide by those regulations, the Voting Period should have started on March 3 following a week of campaigning by both sides.
The methods of publicity surrounding the Referendum have also been extremely disappointing. The Democracy Regulations state that publicity should be made clear: in Section 5, it states that “this calling notice will be widely publicised to the student body”. The initial announcement of the calling notice was posted as a news article on the EUSA website, alongside emails sent out to EUSA reps.
However, unlike with the normal EUSA elections, which had emails with clear publicity sent to every single student through the EUSA mailing list, that luxury has not been extended to the referendum calling notice. Whether or not this constitutes a breach of that specific regulation is up for debate, as “widely publicised” can be interpreted in many different ways, be it reaching at least a certain number of students, or being included in a certain amount of different types of publicity such as Facebook events and emails.
It cannot be ignored that not only have EUSA breached Democracy Regulations, but that they have arguably gone against their duty of care as trustees and have disregarded the general democratic principles of fair exposure of elections and equal campaigning power. Whether the actual proposals that are up for debate are good or bad for EUSA does not come into this specific debate.However the fact that EUSA (probably not maliciously) have reduced the possibility of the student body fully engaging in the referendum debate that is crucial to the future of EUSA is extremely disappointing and arguably undermines any mandate that follows either a Yes or No vote.