A Senior Tribunal has overruled the “students for
students” refer­endum, proposed by Charlie Steel two weeks ago, which was due
to be put to the student vote at the same time as Thursday’s OUSU election. The
referendum asked for the OUSU constitution to be amended to prevent OUSU from
having policies “on issues which do not directly affect Oxford students”. The
OUSU president, Emma Nor­ris, stated that OUSU “officers have been subject to…
late night phone calls, threats of legal action against individuals, slander
and childish public insults” as part of the contro­versy surrounding the
referendum. As
a result, the tribunal (com­posed of senior members of the University)
pronounced on Mon­day that it is preventing the ref­erendum from going ahead. 500
signatures of University stu­dents needed to be presented to OUSU before 12pm a
fortnight be­fore the elections to ratify the motion. OUSU dismissed the
petition, which had 511 signatories, because it was handed in one hour and
forty min­utes after the deadline. A junior tri­bunal later overruled the
decision of the Returning Officer, and the details of the referendum were
published, along with adverts for the Yes and No campaigns, in last week’s
OxStu. Controversy
followed as there were claims that the wording of the referendum, which can be
altered at the discretion of the president and Returning Officer, changed its
substance. Charlie steel, the referendum’s organiser and a member of OUSU’s
part-time exec, said, “it was outrageous. It completely reversed the point of
the referendum in the first place.” Steel
submitted an amendment to OUSU council last Friday, but it was “shot down”. The
Yes campaign team, including and those who submitted the motion, then decided
that because the referendum had been so “perverted”, they would actively
campaign against its being passed. The
OUSU Returning Officer, Daryl Leeworthy, then took the case to Senior Tribunal which
up­held the original complaint that the motion had been submitted af­ter the
deadline and cancelled the referendum. The Senior Tribunal ruled on Monday that
“the Return­ing Officer was right to apply to the referendum the noon
deadline”. Norris
told Cherwell, “am bring­ing a motion to OUSU Council in 7th Week asking
for the referen­dum to be held next term. It is a discussion which ought to be
had.” She believes that the referendum will “help the Student Union en­gage in
discussion about its aims”. She
added, “The way certain indi­viduals have behaved throughout the election
period has been deplorable. Gossip forums and papers have been rife with
misleading information.“I’m
not interested in fighting and name-calling: running cam­paigns and services
that matter to students is achieved through discussion and commitment, not
self-important showdowns.” Steel
said he was not consider­ing appealing the decision of the Senior Tribunal although
he was “disappointed” by it. He claims that the handling of the issue was not
“fair” or “democratic” and that he was “hindered at every possible corner in
tabling this referendum.” He further told Cherwell that the event “shows
how much OUSU resists change and won’t even let change be discussed.” He described
OUSU as projecting a “very insu­lar” image, battling for “its own agenda.” But
he concluded that sup­port among students for the refer­endum was strong
(having obtained 511 signatures in support) and that the “war will be won” next
term.ARCHIVE: 6th week MT 2005