woman's hand with pen signing document, close up

YUSU to incorporate following student referendum

woman's hand with pen signing document, close up
Image: Global Meat News

The University of York Students’ Union (YUSU) will change its legal status and adopt a new constitutional document following the results of a referendum put to the student body.

Over 1000 students voted in favour of YUSU becoming a Charitable Company Limited by Guarantee and to replace its current constitution with a Memorandum and Articles of Association.

1066 students agreed with the motion ‘Do you agree that YUSU can change its legal structure to incorporate as a charitable company limited by guarantee?’, clearly defeating the 150 who voted against it. 76 students abstained.

The referendum was announced on the 14th of February. Campus newspaper Nouse reported that YUSU intended to incorporate as a CCLG but would consult students on whether the union should adopt a memorandum and articles of association, which would replace the current constitution. Sabbatical Officers Millie Beach and Alex Lusty went live on Facebook to reiterate these claims and to request that students voted in favour of the new constitutional document.

However, this report would be rendered inaccurate after last-minute legal advice from the union’s legal advisors, Bates Wells & Braithwaite London LLP. Lusty confirmed to student media that the referendum would now ask students for consent on incorporation itself.

Campaigning on the referendum began on the 20th and closed on the 28th. A debate on the referendum was held on the 21st to a small audience mostly composed of YUSU’s staff, including its CEO Ben Vulliamy.

YUSU advised students to vote ‘yes’ to incorporation. The Sabbatical Officers joined students seeking election in the 2017 officer elections to promote voting in the referendum and to vote in favour of the motion.

Reacting to the results, Alex Lusty told The Yorker:

We’re very happy to have reached quorum and comfortably passed the incorporation referendum. This will offer better protections for the organisation and trustees, as well as protecting our members’s democratic rights. In the future, we look forward to greater student engagement and interaction with YUSU’s governing documents, which will ensure that we continue to be with, for and by students.

YUSU’s incorporation will grant its trustees limited liability, meaning that, were the union to enter financial difficulties, the trustees would not be expected to pay YUSU’s debts out of their own pocket.

Incorporation also means that YUSU will follow the government’s Companies Act 2006 alongside the Charities Acts. YUSU will be regulated by both the Charities Commission and Companies House. Besides rights laid out in the current constitution, members’ rights will be protected under company law.

YUSU is currently an Unincorporated Association. The union states that incorporation will not affect its charitable objectives or its ethos. The incorporation process will be complete in time for the start of August 2017.

The incorporation referendum makes the second referendum of the academic year, following the vote against union promotion of a proposed boycott of the National Student Survey.

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Jack Harvey
Comment and Politics Editor 2015/2016, Editor 2016/2017. History and Philosophy undergraduate, seeking postgraduate study in Philosophy.