Image credit: The Yorker

Campaigner withdraws mid-debate as NSS referendum voting begins

Image credit: The Yorker
(left to right) Sophie Flinders, Joshua Stubbs, Policy Coordinator James Humpish, Will Gibbs, Elizabeth Jay Edevane and Mathieu Lohr. Image credit: The Yorker

A pro-NSS boycott campaigner withdrew his support for his campaign in the middle of a referendum debate on the proposed National Student Survey boycott last night, The Yorker reports.

Students campaigning on whether the University of York Students’ Union (YUSU) should boycott to National Student Survey met in the Spring Lane Building last night to debate the referendum motion, ‘‘Should YUSU campaign for students to boycott the National Student Survey (NSS)?’

Speaking for the boycott were incumbent BAME Officer, Sophie Flinders, and Joshua Stubbs, Department Representative for the Education Department. Speaking against the boycott were the representative for Theatre, Film and Television (TFTV) Elizabeth Jay Edevane, Biology representative Will Gibbs and Mathieu Lohr, representative for the Politics Department.

However, in the middle of the debate, Stubbs announced that the anti-boycott side had changed his mind over the course of the evening. Stubbs said:

I’ve actually changed my mind during the course of this debate. I really wish I’d spoken more with [the anti-boycott side] beforehand. I’m very sorry to Sophie for doing this; if we had a team of three, it would be better, but well done, [the anti-boycott speakers] have convinced me in terms of damage limitation.

Stubbs maintained that he was sceptical of how a boycott of the NSS would affect graduate employment prospects, but reiterated that “over the last half hour or so, I think you have answered a lot of my concerns.”

Concluding with a further apology to Flinders, Stubbs left his table and did not contribute further to the debate.

After a hasty consultation of the union’s constitutional by-laws by the union’s President, Millie Beach, and its Head of Representation & Democracy, Rachel Barber, the debate continued. Students Lucas North, Mia Chaudhuri-Julyan and Lucy Robinson came forward from the audience to replace Stubbs. The Yorker‘s reporter challenged the constitutional legitimacy of the “snap decision,” but North and Chaudhuri-Julyan were accepted as valid replacements following a vote.

The loss of Joshua Stubbs means that no Department Representative has declared their official support for the campaign for YUSU to boycott the National Student Survey. The anti-boycott campaign is yet to confirm whether Stubbs had officially joined his former rivals.

Elizabeth Jay Edevane told the audience that she would resign if the referendum was lost and the union compelled her to promote a boycott of the survey. Following the debate, she told The Yorker:

Even ignoring the unprecedented concession of the debate by one of our opposition, I feel that we had the clearer, stronger arguments and I’m just as confident as ever that the NSS boycott will not achieve anything other than harming York and it’s students.

After the proceedings ended, voting on the referendum commenced.

Earlier in the debate, an audience member pointed out that YUSU had violated its own policy by holding the debate in a room with microphones but not using them, thus hindering students with hearing aids who may be in attendance. Evelyn Kramer took to Twitter to express her wish for a microphone to be used, before verbally raising the issue in the section for audience questions.

A microphone was added shortly afterward.

The Yorker has approached Joshua Stubbs for comment.

To have your say on whether YUSU should encourage students to boycott the National Student Survey, go to www.yusu.org/vote.

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Jack Harvey
Comment and Politics Editor 2015/2016, Editor 2016/2017. History and Philosophy undergraduate.