The result of the recent Referendum, as confirmed by the Returning Officer, regarding the University of Lincoln’s affiliation to the National Union of Students is as follows:
Should the University of Lincoln Students' Union (ULSU) be affiliated to the National Union of Students (NUS)
Turnout: 2614 (15.7%)
Therefore, as a result of this student vote the Students’ Union will no longer be affiliated to the National Union of Students from the 1st January 2020.
Thank you to everyone who voted in this Referendum and exercised their democratic right as a member of your Students’ Union.
Responding to Feedback from Students on the Process
Over the last few days there has been a range of feedback from students online about the referendum, and both your elected representatives, and the Board of Trustees recognise that this Referendum, and the circumstances that have led to this Referendum, have led to some mistrust from some of our members.
The Board of Trustees (the non-executive body that oversees the Students’ Union) (the Board) acknowledge that the Returning Officer has ensured that the Referendum has been enacted in line with the rules that govern referenda (Bye-Law 8). However, it is also acknowledged that these rules have also never been fully tested before and that they have been found insufficient during this Referendum and not to the satisfaction of some of our members. As a result, it unanimously agreed that the Returning Officer for Referendum should be independent from the Students’ Union, as it is with our Election process and rules.
When the Board agreed to serve notice to NUS, it was always the intention that it would be the student body who would make the final decision on whether to leave NUS or not. The Board recognises that it should have agreed with the Executive Committee at that stage the exact nature of the process students would use to make that decision, rather than waiting until the Autumn to lay that out for students. The Board is keen to reflect on this and make sure that lesson’s learned are fully taken on board.
The Board has an honestly held belief that it has acted in the interests of our members, the student body when it gave notice to NUS. This notice could have been withdrawn at any time up until the 31st December. Given the feedback from the Student Leaders, this was the responsible thing to do to avoid excessive notice payments should the notice have been given after the 30th June.
Background leading to the Referendum
For the last three years your elected Student Leaders have been raising concerns about continued membership of NUS. These Student Leaders looked to engage with students on this issue and took the approach of carrying out conversation and consultation over two years, informing students of their experiences of NUS and the lack of support that they had felt, and then allow students to decide based on this information. The Executive Committee called an All Student Members meeting to discuss our membership of NUS, that meeting legitimately took the decision to a campus wide Referendum to set Union policy.
Process of the Referendum
The Referendum was organised at a time, and for a duration that the Students’ Union was able to accommodate with its available resources and in line with the rules.
The Executive Committee took a position on the membership of NUS in the Referendum as they felt given their direct experience of NUS it was the right thing to do. They also wished to ensure students were aware of the view of the last three elected Student Leader teams.
It is very normal for a Students’ Union Executive to take a stance and promote a view on a Referendum matter.
Whilst the Executive took this view, steps were taken to ensure that both sides of the debate were available on all emails sent by the Students' Union in regards to the Referendum.
On the Referendum voting pages, there was no promotion of one side over another.
The Board are going to carry out a review of Bye-Law 8 to address the issues that have surfaced during this Referendum, and been raised by our members, some of which are mentioned above.
The Executive Committee will be holding a series of drop-ins to discuss and answer any questions and receive feedback from members on this process and what improvements they would like to see. The time and location of these will be announced shortly. We ask that students engage in this opportunity in a way that fosters mutual respect.
They will also, in due course, be holding an All Student Members meeting to discuss and vote how the student body would like the money that has been saved on the costs of NUS affiliation this year to be allocated this year.
Rebuilding our Student Community
There has been much debate online and in-person around this Referendum vote, sadly some of which has been wholly inappropriate, personal and caused divisions and mistrust.
The Board of Trustees is keen that this cannot happen again, so the review process will seek to address all concerns raised by members. This review will be published to our members when it is completed and accepted by the Board of Trustees. We will be inviting students to be able to share their feedback into that review.
The Executive Committee of the Students’ Union hopes NUS is able to deliver its turnaround project and the SU will continue to engage with NUS where we are able. It is hoped that the National Movement is able to recover from its current period of turmoil and change and in the future will be an organisation that our members wish to affiliate to.