When you send emails laying out why the referendum breaches EUSA’s regulations to the ‘neutral’ returning officer and receive a reply from the student President (the leader of the ‘Yes’ campaign) laying out why he thinks everything is fine, it is clear there’s something very wrong.
There’s been a worrying lack of democracy all year from this year’s sabbatical officers. From ‘forgetting’ about the climate March, breaking a mandate in regards to sharing a platform with Princess Anne and, despite a clear steer not to, implementing procedures and ‘forgetting’ to tell students about this in relation to the Government’s racist Prevent agenda. However this referendum just takes the biscuit.
The fact that EUSA want to potentially change their structures to open themselves up to being more democratic and accessible is great but what’s not great is how they’ve gone about it. EUSA is clearly abusing its role as both the leader of the ‘Yes’ campaign and promoter and adjudicator of the election.
Firstly a referendum needs to be widely publicised. Students need to know exactly when it’s going to happen and how they can get involved in campaigning for either side. The only way this referendum and the option to run a no campaign was advertised was one small line on the website in an article about the main EUSA election. The sabbs hadn’t advertised it on any of their blogs or social media and the talks they have been giving. There’s been nothing out from the EUSA social media, not even an event for the supposed referendum debate they called (at a time that clashed with another event they were hosting which had been advertised). The referendum debate was only advertised on the website the afternoon before.
Secondly, the questions breach the democracy regulations on so many levels. Had a student submitted them, or a question in the same way, there’s no way EUSA would have let the referendum go ahead. The regulations clearly state that all proposals have to make students aware of how much proposals cost. It also says: “That where costs are incurred they are offset elsewhere, making the Proposal revenue-neutral or generate a surplus.”. There isn’t a single cost laid out in either proposal. In addition, the regulations are written to ensure that such simple yes/no questions are forbidden. They say that “The For and Against Responses will be a full sentence succinctly explaining the two options. Each Referendum Proposal shall explain three things: the changes being proposed, the reasons behind the changes, the other relevant implications of the changes” These questions come with no for or against and do not give enough information about the implications.
And all of this doesn’t even cover the ideas of actual questions. I’m definitely against moving to unelected trustees and I like the idea of paid liberation officers but it is impossible to put forward these opinions in the referendum.
Students are perfectly capable of, and should be allowed to, make their own decisions but they cannot do so without the right information. So, for at least these reasons I urge you all to vote ‘No’ in the EUSA referendum.
Image: Paul Stainthorp