Week 6 marks the beginning of online campaigning for the new referendum sweeping across campus. The motion to create a new YUSU position of Working Class and Social Mobility Part-Time Officer (PTO) was passed in the summer term of 2017, with strong opposition and support for the motion when taken to a YUSU Policy Review Group.
Week 7 sees Campaign Coordinators (for and against the motion) going head to head in the official referendum debate, on 6 November at 6pm in P/L/001, with both campaigns’ leaders attempting to persuade the student body through speeches and responding to open audience questions. The end of the debate sees the start of the voting period, which will be open until 5pm on Friday 10 November. During this week, either team can campaign face to face or using materials around campus. Referendum results will be announced to campus in Week 8.
The referendum for the creation of a Working Class and Social Mobility PTO promises to be a contentious issue, with feedback given to the YUSU Policy Review Group calling the motion “insulting, patronising, condescending, and just plain unnecessary”, and worries being raised about the proposal’s “horribly vague” wording and the possibility of it undermining liberation networks.
There have also been concerns raised about the potential exclusionary impact it may have on international students as “many… have difficulty being assigned to any particular social class, coming from… different political background[s] than British students”. Other concerns included that if it were merely a finance-based definition of “working class”, the community may be better served by the finance and fees team.
However, not all students view it as a negative prospect – the Campaign Coordinators for the invention of the new position are Connor Drake, Chair of the University of York Green Party, and Michaela Tharby, a PTO Women’s Officer for YUSU and fomer Labour Chair, who was also one of the two people to propose the idea to YUSU. Leading the opposition campaign will be another duo, Jack Worrall of the University of York Liberal Democrats, and Dominique Samuels.
When asked for comment regarding why he believed the position would be important, Drake told Nouse: “I want to get students’ views heard and presenting them in a way which shows that we need someone to stand up for working class students. I don’t think it’s enough to simply say ‘more students from disadvantaged backgrounds are at university’, because that’s not enough. They still face significant barriers while at university, both social and economic.”