Durham Students’ Union (DSU) is to rejoin NUS, after 60.4% voted to reaffiliate on the back of the highest turnout in recent years.
2282 students voted for the motion “should Durham Students’ Union be affiliated to the National Union of Students”, with 1498 voting against.
DSU President Sam Roseveare, who openly supported NUS during the campaign, said: “I am delighted that the student body has voted as I had hoped.
“By reaffiliating with NUS, we will regain the access to a national voice and will make the DSU’s position stronger.”
Speaking about the result, a spokesman for the “No” campaign remarked that “it is not entirely surprising.”
Questions had been raised about the timing of the referendum and the comparative ability to both sides to run their campaigns. Mr Roseveare insisted that all concerned have been aware of the date of the referendum for some time.
“The No campaign were fully aware that this was happening, and we have had this in our diaries since June.”
The turnout was markedly higher than in the previous two referenda, as 21.6% of the student body voted, compared with just 14.5% in last year’s vote which led to the DSU disaffiliating from NUS.
Kristina Hagen, DSU Societies and Student Development Officer, said: “I’m overjoyed at the absolutely fantastic turnout. It’s great to see such an increase and it’s really encouraging for the future.”
Concerns were also expressed about Roseveare’s personal and public proclamation of support for the pro-NUS campaign. The DSU President admitted that had students voted to remain apart from NUS, he would have proposed a vote of no confidence in himself.
Roseveare insisted that there was “no conflict of interest”, adding that he believes “it’s highly unusual for Sabbatical Officers not to take a position.”
St. Cuthbert’s Society was the only college in which the majority of students voted against reaffiliation. The lowest turnout was at Stephenson College, where just 5.34% of students voted.
The vote took place almost exactly a year since Durham students chose to disaffiliate from the NUS in last year’s referendum, which was called after the aggressive actions of the NUS caused a debate about multiculturalism at the Durham Union Society to be cancelled.
Controversy began when two executive members of the NUS sent a letter to the Union Society which seemed to threaten violence if the debate, featuring members of the British National Party, went ahead.
The letter attracted significant criticism with its strongly-worded claims, asserting that the NUS would be “mobilising nationally and organising coach loads of students to demonstrate at your university,” and “If any students are hurt in and around this event, the responsibility will lie with you”.
The debate was subsequently cancelled after the University deemed it a safety risk to go ahead. An internet campaign, known as “Durham University Students for Freedom of Speech”, was set up in response, and attracted several thousand members.
In recognition of the high profile of the case, last year’s NUS President Wes Streeting came to Durham to personally address the issue in front of a crowd of around 300 students. Although he agreed that the NUS had made a “huge, monumental cock-up”, Streeting’s appearance did little to appease students and a petition was filed shortly afterwards which prompted the referendum.
Despite the fact that a vote had already been held on the issue in November, with 80% voting in favour of affiliation with the NUS, a second referendum took place in March. The result was close, but the majority of students voted in favour of the motion, with 1295 students voting to leave the NUS, and 1217 voting to stay.
Roseveare added that he hopes “this decision will last for a little longer than 12 months.” For the full result visit https://www.dur.ac.uk/student.elections/dsu/index.php?results=58.
Look out for full coverage of the result in the next edition of Palatinate.