Why UCL’s NUS referendum was a sham

This evening, the results for UCL’s NUS referendum were announced, though you’d be hard-pressed to find a student who actually knew that such a vote happened in the first place.

So much so, the results have been deemed invalid as only 903 people voted. To put that into context, UCL is the second largest university in the country with approximately 40,000 students.

The Cheese Grater revealed earlier this summer that a referendum on membership to the NUS would be held after a vote in Union Council spearheaded by two sabbatical officers, one of whom has graduated from the university, and the other, who failed to take part in this term’s referendum campaign at all.

Meetings for those interested in campaigning for either side in the referendum took place about two weeks ago.

The meeting only attracted two students. One of whom was second year History student Sam Sherwood, a member of Tory Soc and who became the de facto leader of the leave campaign. He said that he felt a sense of duty to ensure that both sides were represented.

Sherwood told The Cheese Grater yesterday that he had spent £9 on blu-tac and £10 on printer credits so far (who spends equal amounts on blu-tac and printing?!) and that he and three other students had spent the last week sticking up posters.

How seriously, on the other hand, the Remain campaign felt about the referendum is up for debate.

Jack Kershaw, the leader of the Remain campaign, and Fossil Free activist, opted to not spend any of his £500 budget allocated to him by the Union on campaign materials till the last day or two of campaigning. This was because, he too believed the vote would not valid due to a lack of votes.

Regardless of how little was spent by both sides, 903 votes is still more votes than senior sources in the Union had expected, with one sabbatical officer telling the The Cheese Grater last week that they didn’t expect more than 500 votes.

The vote will now be carried onto something called an “Extraordinary General Assembly” which must be held within the next two weeks. For the vote to be binding there, it must attract 800 students, which of course, no room in UCL can hold.

And if somehow at least 200 students turn up, a vote on membership to the NUS will be “indicative and not binding”.

And then the vote goes to another arbitrary Union meeting.

Democracy at UCL, eh?

Sasha Basker and Katerina Edgar
Additional Reporting: Jason Murugesu

A version of this article appeared in CG Issue 58.