On Thursday 10 February members of the Students’ Union decided on its future status, as 866 students voted yes and 435 voted no to what the union declares a “new, strong and independent union”. A total of 1301 votes meant that quoracy was reached.
The Student’s Union is now ready to register under the Charities Act of 2006.
The Charities Act requires all Students’ Unions to change their statuses to ‘registered charities’. There is a legal requirement to produce a new set of governing documents (known as Articles of Association) for the new Students’ Union.
The Students’ Union said: “The Education Act of 1994 effectively means that the university is in control of, and holds sovereignty over, the Students’ Union. They have to ratify every change of the constitution and ask the union to do a number of things in order to justify its block grant of over £600,000 a year of public funds.”
The yes vote means that the union will have more independence from the university. Even though the university would have to ratify the union’s constitutions and can cut their funding, the union will be able to apply for further “grants and funding, borrowing money and operating as a legally independent body.”
This vote also means that the future funding of the Students’ Union is secured and that the union will get sued and not individuals acting on its behalf.
The Students’ Union, who was supportive of the yes vote throughout the campaign, reacted to the results: “We’re really glad that we reached quoracy even it was only by 35 votes! Following this vote we will look to close the deal.
“This is far from the end though, the final proposed constitution will have to go to Union Council to be ratified, so we urge students to continue their involvement past the ballot box.”
Simon Englert, member of Sussex Stop the Cuts, who voted no on the referendum comments: “I don’t think the battle is over. At LSE the vote was overturned after a year, with a second referendum. That will be the task of the sabbatical officers and the student movement at the University of Sussex overall. I wish all the future full-time officers strength for the struggles to come over next year.” Stacey Whittle, a postgraduate student at the University of Sussex says: “I think it’s a sign that democracy and representation have been weakened in union both in the way in which the campaign has proceeded and at the result. I’m very frustrated.
“If it were run on a fair basis we wouldn’t feel so frustrated, but the question was deceptive and not enough people were informed what the effect of the changes would be. I hope that students will resist external influence. All trustees must be directly elected, accountable and internal to the student population which the new constitution doesn’t allow.”