Kerry Sclater


24 May 2016 15:48

Petition: To Referendum or Not To Referendum?


I’ve been on the redbrick this afternoon, giving out free pizza and talking to students about their thoughts on democracy and elections, and a few people asked me what I, as VP of Democracy, thought about the prospect of a referendum. Quite honestly, I’m torn! Obviously I really value the democratic principles of a referendum, as every student would be able to have a say on a choice of polar options. That being said, at this stage it would be perhaps foolish of us not to acknowledge the potential damages and risks that would be associated with this referendum, were it to happen. For example, if the referendum is approved, it would be down to Democracy Zone to set dates etc – this will be incredibly difficult to set for starters, as we are now faced with distracting students in exams; potentially not getting quoracy if we do it over summer; or having a largely different set of voters if we do it in September. There are also significant reputational and financial risks to think about if the outcome were to reverse the rebrand, which students should definitely consider.We now have a live petition on the website, which poses that we have a referendum on the following question:


Request for a referendum of the SUSU rebranding, asking two questions:

1) Do you prefer the name SUSU or Union Southampton (Us.)?

2) Do you prefer the old SUSU branding or the new Us. branding?


If this petition reaches 250 signatures, these questions will then be put to referendum, and if that referendum meets quoracy (10% of the student body, so about 2400), then we will act upon the decision made in the referendum. The petition will be up for 7 days.


I think from this experience the team have had to be humbled a little, and we’ve all had to accept things that could have been improved and will strive to learn from them. We had already started making changes to democracy (e.g. scrapping Union Council, making democracy more online), and we sure do have a hell of a way to go with student engagement and communication, but that aside, we need to consider the best way to move forward as a Union together, and I’m in two minds about what the impacts of a referendum could be. But anyway, at the end of the day it’s up to students, so please do exercise your democratic rights, and keep your feedback coming in- I’ll be on redbrick giving free food away again tomorrow lunch time, and Ben will be about on Thursday, and we’re always happy to meet with students, and speak via email or You Make Change.


Sign the petition here. 

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2 Comments on "Petition: To Referendum or Not To Referendum?"

  1. kerrysclater
    Southampton Students Union
    24/05/2016 at 5:28 pm Permalink

    Could we not have a rebrand to a better branding? I feel like this referendum is just giving us the choice between SUSU and Us. SUSU is great and all but I’m more than happy for a rebrand if they actually do a good job of it in the first place..

  2. kerrysclater
    25/05/2016 at 10:41 am Permalink

    The way it sounds is that if 2,400 people vote in a union referendum, then it is considered a representative sample and whichever side gets more votes wins. This is going to lead to a wholly ridiculous and undemocratic situation in this particular referendum, which will no doubt occur again and again unless the rules are changed.

    Firstly, I think this vote is likely to fall in favour of a brand reversion. Not because more students support it, but because those on the “revert” side seem to have stronger convictions whereas those supporting the new brand seem to feel, at most, only mildly strongly about it. Referenda tend to lean towards the more charged side.

    Secondly, the “revert” side is very unlikely to meet a quorum alone. The petition has something like 1,800 signatures, and people have only got less interested since then.

    These two facts lead to a stupid conclusion for those on the “new brand” side: Don’t vote. If those on that side simply elect to abstain, then the referendum will fail to meet a quorum and fizzle. If they do vote and push the referendum into being quorate, however, they need to turn out in droves and beat the “revert” side which is very unlikely, again, due to the generally greater conviction with which the “revert” crowd supports their side.

    So the system for quoracy that is in place actually PUNISHES one side for showing their support and voting, which is absurd. The system should instead be that the referendum is only quorate once 10% (or 7% or whatever) of the student body votes for the same side. That means, then, that people can never be punished for voting for the side they support.

    As it is this is ridiculous, and it means I’m simply not going to be voting.

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