Petitions & referenda: let’s not get carried away…

The last few weeks have been a bit of a rollercoaster. Watching the rebrand was an… interesting… experience, but it's been great to see so many people having and expressing opinions about the Union. 

I am not going to talk about the rebrand in this blog post. In view of the fact that the petition on the Union's website has obtained over and above the 250 signatures threshold to trigger a referendum, to break my silence on the matter would be pointless. Trustee Board is next week, and there will no doubt be a discussion about the situation there. 

Instead I want to talk about the threat to the very existence of the Union that has cropped up this evening: that is a petition for a referendum on the dissolution of the Union. At the time of writing, this has acquired 5 signatures, and needs 245 more in 7 days to trigger that referendum. I've been assured by several people (including the proposer) that they don't expect it to achieve 250 signatures. That may well be true, but who can honestly say they expected the rebrand petition to achieve the number of signatures it did in 3 and a bit hours? The reality is that in internet terms, 7 days is quite a long time. 

So if, for arguments sake, this petition did achieve 250 signatures in 7 days, and then went to a referendum, the result of which was that the Union should be dissolved, and ceased to exist – would students really lose anything?

The answer most definitely, categorically has to be YES!

Here's a list…

  • Starting with Freshers:  no more people to help you move in and settle into uni life during freshers, no more co-ordinated halls events, no more Laughter Lounge, no more Karaoke in the Stag's (which wouldn't even exist).
  • No more academic representation – noone to go to if there's a problem with a lecturer or a deadline or any other academic problem. Sure, you could try and fix it yourself but it is better to come from an elected representative, with the full weight of the Union behind them.
  • No more spaces or funding for student groups – you'd have to go to the university if you wanted money to run an event, but unlike the Union, they are in no way required to even support your existence. 
  • No more Stags, no more of the Bridge, no more of the Shop, no more Union Films, no more Advice Centre…

The list could go on and on and on. 

The university is required by its own governing documents to have a Students' Union, therefore if the Union in its current form were to be dissolved, there would be another one set up as a replacement. HOWEVER… it would be a complete and utter blank canvas. The services and facilities as listed above and in my head wouldn't just magically reappear – it would take a good few years, maybe even decades to build the Union up to the point where it is now. This means that all that the good work that is done by the Union now wouldn't be able to be enjoyed by future generations of students. 

Whilst I fully recognise that there is a lot of anti-Union feeling right now, let's not have a knee-jerk reaction to that by throwing away all that is good about our Union. Let's work through these problems, the frustrations that people have, to build a more united Union, a more powerful Union, and a more forward-thinking Union, whilst maintaining and building upon the bits that we all currently enjoy. 


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