Students at the University of Oxford have voted to remain affiliated to the NUS following a referendum, the results of which were announced this evening.
The margin of victory for the ‘Yes to NUS’ campaign was 3409 votes to 2430 votes for the ‘No thanks NUS’ campaign. 136 voters abstained in the referendum and the turnout was 27.7%. Voters were asked the question “OUSU is currently affiliated to the National Union of Students. Should it continue to be affiliated: yes or no?”
The result comes following an eventful final few days of campaigning. On Monday there were accusations of cheating made against the NUS after a closed mailing list was used to email a number of students laying out eight reasons why they should vote for their union to remain affiliated to the NUS. The email was signed off by NUS Vice President for Development, Richard Brooks.
Further rule breaking was reported when a student at Christchurch supporting the ‘No thanks NUS’ campaign posted a message on the college’s JCR Facebook page urging students to vote unless they were ‘Yes to NUS’ voters, in which case they should ‘feel free to forget’.
Returning Officer Anna Mowbray said of this on Wednesday Evening: “Regarding the NUS mailing list the yes campaign were not aware of the email. But the NUS had been made aware of the ruling that said that it was a excluded mailing list well in advance of the email being sent by them. In response to complaints we asked them to send an equivalent email making the case for the other side. This second email went out this evening. However, it included a copy of the first email, which we are concerned about as each side should have equal access to channels of communication. We will be speaking to the NUS tomorrow about this. We are committed to ensuring that this referendum is carried out in a free and fair manner.”
The Returning Officer was also eager to state that the ‘Yes to NUS’ campaign had no knowledge of the initial email made on the closed mailing list.
Questions were also raised earlier in the campaign when the ‘Yes to NUS’ Facebook page saw its number of likes increase exponentially to 7000, almost ten times that of the rival ‘No thanks NUS’.
The referendum on Oxford’s affiliation was called following the passing of an OUSU council motion in First Week proposed by former OULC co-chair David Klemperer. The motion came after the controversial election of Malia Bouattia as NUS President. Bouattia has been condemned by the leaders of university Jewish societies for comments that she has made in the past, including describing the University of Birmingham as a ‘zionist outpost’. Bouattia in response has categorically denied being anti-semitic and has said that her words have been taken out of context.
In the past few weeks a number of other student’s unions at universities across the country have held similar referenda to determine the futures of their relationships with the NUS.
Students at the University of Cambridge also voted to remain affiliated to the NUS in their referendum last week by a margin of 51.52% voting to remain affiliated to 46.62% who wanted to disaffiliate. 1.86% of voters abstained.
The University of Lincoln meanwhile voted to disaffiliate with 50.8% of those turning out voting to disaffiliate and 46.37% voting to remain affiliated. Turnout was just 12.6% of union members. The University of Hull and Newcastle University have also had referendums where students have voted to disaffiliate.
Oxford last held a referendum on OUSU’s affiliation with the NUS in May 2014. It was however declared void after serious electoral malpractice was discovered. After students narrowly voted to disaffiliate it was noticed that a large number of left over voter codes had been used from a single location in order to manipulate the result.