Plans have been made to make the University of York Students’ Union hold a referendum in Week Two of third term this year, on whether it should have a position on the nationwide European Union referendum. The motion is being proposed to YUSU by York members of the pro-EU campaign group Stronger In.
YUSU President Ben Leatham said: “A group of students have submitted a policy proposal relating to the coming EU referendum. As the referendum is taking place in June we are currently exploring options on how best to consult with students in a timely manner.
“This may well be through an extraordinary referendum, although nothing is confirmed yet.”
An extraordinary referendum is one that happens without the context of a prior timetable. The motion for the referendum, if passed, would commit the representative body for students to favour staying in the European Union (EU). This would give pro-EU groups the right to campaign on campus and would enable YUSU to campaign on behalf of staying in the EU (and also potentially fund campus campaign groups).
Mike Green, a member of York’s Stronger In, said “We at York’s Stronger In Europe think our continued membership of the EU is vital to York remaining a top-tier university and a world leader in research. Our membership of the EU brings in millions of pounds of funding, enables international research collaboration, and assists European students in studying here. We hope the student body will clearly demonstrate its support for Remain in the upcoming referendum.”
The referendum would not commit the University of York itself to favouring membership of the EU, due to it being separate from YUSU. The University has decided not to take a public stance on the referendum, though at his recent Vice Chancellor’s Question Time event, Koen Lamberts said he believed the prospect of Britain leaving the EU poses a “great risk to this University”. University Registrar David Duncan, when asked for comment, said that “All shades of political opinion are represented in the University community, and while it is right that we provide a platform for debate and discussion around the issues, the University Council felt that it should not take a formal position on the referendum (similarly, we don’t take a position in general elections).”
“The potential impact of Brexit on the University is hard to assess at this stage, but it is true that it could have a profound effect on access to research grants, access to capital and development funding, recruitment of students and staff and career opportunities for graduates.”