Who funds the Union? You fund the Union. It’s your tuition fees that go into the grant received from the University, it’s your money spent at Starbucks and Shabang, and presumably it’ll be your £2 spent on meal deals next year, that means the Union gets to do the things it does.
So if students like you and me fund this Union, and if we’re all members equally, why is there such hatred for referendums, just because policy ‘should be Council’s job’?
The Union is at a cross roads – we can either continue to allow a tiny Council to have a say over everything we do with the building we effectively fund, from what is on sale in the shop to where the Union spends its money; or we can tell them ‘enough is enough’, and remind this barely elected body who they’re representing in the first place.
The Union says it wants to hear your voice, but in reality it only wants an echo of its own. Make the Union stand up and listen.
Voting ‘Yes’ in the current referendum sends out a clear sign to Union Council, the Sabbs, and the NUS: that they cannot use our public body for their own political ends. A ‘Yes’ vote means that any future political bans or boycotts (ie, adopted for reasons other than student safety or legal issues) cannot take effect without a vote from the whole student population. This means that unless bans can get 1,000 votes on the matter, they cannot come into effect, effectively stopping any unpopular, knee-jerk bans in future.
Critics of the referendum say that Union Council was elected precisely with the purpose of making policy on behalf of students, whom they purport to represent. I say that’s rubbish!
The fact is, nobody on Union Council has over 100 votes to their name (out of a student population of 22,000). A referendum like this challenges their legitimacy, their representation, and essentially, their point. Holding referendums on issues like bans and boycotts forces Union Councillors to interact with students, to hear their views, and to seriously consider whether or not their policy is what Students want, before they vote it in.
Referendums like these show Council, and perhaps more importantly, Sabbs (who can be voted out by referendums), that we the students are what the Union is built on; ignore us at your peril.
Gratingly, the original question requested, that would mean current (including the infamous boycott of the Sun and even Nick Clegg!) bans would also be put to the vote, has been rejected by the Union’s Steering Committee, on the grounds that there is no current mechanism to vote for bans already in place. I disagree completely – there are the mechanisms, it’s just a matter of interpretation. The Union rulebook clearly states that a referendum may overturn Union Council policy – therefore, if successful, the ‘Stop the Bans‘ referendum should remove any current bans/boycotts from Union policy, pending a further vote. I will certainly continue to fight for referendums on all bans, both current and future.
Despite this, some credit must be given to those members of the Union (including some on Union Council and Steering Committee) who have gone out of their way to facilitate a debate and hold the vote, even if it is during exam season (another issue, presumably foisted upon ‘Stop the Bans’, to be taken up later). These are the people who stand around in the library and the Union, with iPads and laptops, and ask you to vote, despite their deadlines being just days away. Hats off to them and if you can, spare them a minute, and vote ‘Yes’ to take back our Union.
You can vote in the referendum by following the link: www.leicesterunion.com/referendum.
By Chris Everett