YUSU Prez March: Student backlash leads to referendum

Free Education


A FREE education referendum from YUSU is set to go to the polls this week following student backlash.

The referendum will ask: “‘Should YUSU support free education?”

This comes after Ben Leatham, the YUSU President, received angry online comments after sharing a photo of him at a demonstration in London.

One commenter, Bethany Hannah Wright, was outraged by the cost of attending the Demo for Free Education in London, asking: “Why is York students money being spent on this and how is it helping life here in York?!”

Wright, also the York Tory Society Chair, wrote: “Free education costs so hard earned tax payers money, where do you propose cuts are made to fund this.

“YUSU seems to have a shit load, why don’t they just pay for our education… #communist #downwithyusu.”

Leatham’s original post read: “At the Demo for Free Education in London with a coach full of York students #GrantsNotDebts.”

Despite receiving over 140 Facebook likes on the cheery selfie, the discussion below revealed a not-too-cheery mood among some students.

Ciaran Morrisey said: “Marching through the streets shouting loudly might be great for PR and photography, but surely there are more immediate ways you could try to help York students out.

“What about lobbying the uni to reduce on campus rents or increase funding for bursaries and scholarships?”

Leatham said YUSU were conducting this week’s referendum “because during our consultation period with student groups about the policy idea there was support for free education, but also hesitancy and questions about how such a policy would be implemented. As a result we decided to let everyone have a say in a referendum.”

The Socialist Society designed the motion which YUSU will adopt if the referendum passes.

A spokesperson for the ‘Yes Campaign’, which urges people to vote in favour of free education, said: “Rising fees are just part and parcel of rising inequality, and yet another symptom of universities being seen more as businesses than as public bodies for sharing knowledge.

“The union needs to resist this model of education in order to represent our long-term interests as students.”

Students will be able to vote from Wednesday November 25 until Friday when voting will close online at 5pm.