Key referendum approaches

Voting opened this morning for Referendum 2008, which gives students the chance to influence the future of the current Freshers Fortnight and student inductions.

The referendum is open until 9pm on Friday, and students have two motions to vote on.

The first is to actively integrate home and international students through “a range of measures including merging Orientation and Freshers Weeks”. The second is for the Students Union to lobby the university for a “Freshers/Induction Week free of academic commitments, in the week before Term 1 begins”.

Students can vote online, through the SU website. There is also a specialist internet booth in the Union where students can cast their votes. For each motion to gain a result, at least 1,000 students must either vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’, or a total of at least 1,500 must vote. Last year the number of students participating was up by “over 200%”; an increase which can be put down to the comparative ease of online voting compared to traditional ballots, and an increase in publicity and student awareness.

Union president Stuart ‘Tommo’ Thompson told The Boar that Warwick is “one of the only universities that doesn’t have one in the country”, and that he believes that “the students are overwhelmingly in favour” of the motions.

However, passing the motion for a lecture-free Freshers’ Week will not guarantee change. It will give the Union a mandate to go and lobby university administrators on the students’ behalf. Thompson is involved in initial early discussions with faculty heads and heads of department, which are said to be “going very well.” A decision is expected by Easter.

It is thought that most academic departments would also support this, with a “full 10 week term” they could have more teaching time, and students would get “more buck for their money”.Should these discussions then be successful, a freshers week will not be able to happen until 2010 however, because of logistical challenges and booking of accommodation.

Foreign students would lose their week-long orientation, although Thompson said that there remains a “definite need for them to come earlier”, so there is likely to be a compromise with overseas students arriving on Thursday and Friday before fresher’s week, and domestic students arriving on Saturday and Sunday.

Noam Harris, of Leeds Student Union Council, warned that at his university, Fresher’s week for some students was not an entirely positive experience, with high pressure to drink lots of alcohol, and little else organised to do during the week.

However, Thompson said that there are many things planned for the proposed freshers week, which could have a similar structure to the current international orientation week. For example, there would be society and sports fairs, trips to places in the surrounding area, such as Leamington, Coventry. There would also be more practical events such as introductions to the library, departments and in general “showcasing” what the university has to offer.


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