Democracy Zone (3rd June 2016)


Switch to Agenda

Name of Committee Democracy Zone
Date and time 3rd June 2016, 14:00
Place The Board Room
Present Members
Union Council Representative (Physical Sciences & Engineering Faculty Officer) Giles Howard
Chair of Council Jade Head
Vice President Democracy and Creative Industries Kerry Sclater
Union President Ben Franklin
Vice President Sports Jamie Wilson
Clubs and Societies Officer Catriona Philip
Union Council Representative (Humanities Faculty Officer) Frazer Delves
In Attendance
(non-voting officers and staff)
Democracy Co-ordinator Guy Drury
Chief Executive Scott Mccarthy
Policy & Volunteer Manager Christopher Small
Democracy Assistant Ed Baird
1. Referendum

Kerry welcomed everyone to the meeting. Also in attendance were:


Will Garside

Alex Hovden

Emma Morris

Elliot Grater

Cameron Meldrum

Tom Newton

Hannah De La Salle

Oliver Barrett

Rebecca Lake

Thomas Gravatt

Sophie Pitman

David Allwright


Kerry explained the structure of the meeting would include:

  • A discussion of the important factors in the decision.
  • An opportunity for any new information and a recap of the existing information.
  • A discussion of the pros and cons of each option.
  • A vote by secret ballot to ensure that the voting members are not pressurised at all.


There was general agreement that these were the important factors to consider when the referendum should be held:

  • Maximising engagement to ensure quoracy.
  • Ensuring a balanced debate and that students have access to all the information.
  • The perception from the student body.
  • Making a legitimate decision and following the correct procedures.


Kerry explained that statistics for each petition are now available on the website and that they show that the majority of students who signed the petition for a rebrand referendum will still be here next year.



The main issues discussed were:

  • That students can still engage and vote online if they are not in Southampton.
  • That there are over 7,000 postgraduate students who will be on campus over summer and the referendum could actually be a good way to engage them.
  • That other Unions are holding referendums at a similar time in the year. It was noted that some of them have met quoracy, some haven’t and some students’ unions have decided to delay until the next academic year.
  • That if quoracy isn’t met then that tells us that students don’t care enough about the rebrand either way.


Informed vote

The main issues discussed were:

  • That the Union Southampton brand hasn’t had enough time to be fully explored and that the SUSU brand won’t be have been experienced by new students.
  • Suggestions for improving this were to publish the brand guidelines for the Union Southampton brand and for the Union to set out a balanced argument for each brand to allow students to make the decision themselves.
  • That for the NUS Referendum in 2012, students got involved in the presentation of the arguments, which would probably happen this time too, so students would ensure that an informed vote would occur.



The main issues discussed were:

  • Holding the referendum next academic year gives the perception that the Union isn’t responsive to issues that students care about.
  • Students would likely also complain if the referendum was held next week especially if quoracy wasn’t met.



Emma said that a poll should have been set up to decide the timing of the referendum which would have resolved the issue in a fairer way. Kerry said the petition feature was new and that they would look to make improvements in the future.

Trini said that there are a lot of assumptions about what students want and that it’s not easy to know when students wanted the referendum. Furthermore, the students with the negative opinions are often the most vocal and that there was no option for people to say that they didn’t want a referendum. Emma said that the Union should be listening to the most vocal side of the argument because if people are silent, then they are apathetic.

Jamie argued that the petition simply asked for a referendum, which is definitely happening. The best way to engage students is to give a longer time to prepare for the referendum.

Alex said that having the referendum in the new academic year gives the impression that the Union doesn’t care about the opinions of leaving students.

Thomas suggested that future petitions could include an option for specifying a preference for timing which would be useful so people know exactly what they are signing for.

Frazer said that it’s important to start next year with a clean slate, especially considering the Democratic Reform.

David said that we would be ignoring what students want by having the referendum in the next academic year. Union Council is the highest decision-making body and has clearly voted in favour of having the referendum this academic year.

Emma argued that future students aren’t members, but current students are so we should be giving current students the chance to vote on the issue.

Rebecca said holding the referendum next academic year would ruin the reputation of the Union and make the new brand toxic, negatively affecting the new Full-Time Officer team.

Alex said that he has heard lots of positive comments about the rebrand but students seem to have lost a lot of respect for the Union in the timing of the referendum.


The options were:

Option 1 - Voting open from 8th June (12:00) to 10th June (16:00).

Option 2 - Voting open from 9th June (00:00) to 10th June (16:00).

Option 3 - Next academic year.

In a secret ballot, there were 2 votes for Option 1, 0 for Option 2 and 3 votes for Option 3.

Key: P (Papers Provided), PF (Papers to Follow)