Referendum in the pipeline

The President of the Warwick Students’ Union, Stuart ‘Tommo’ Thomson, has fueled controversy by he saying he would consider holding a referendum over oil sponsorship.

The issue of oil sponsorship was raised last year when a motion was presented by the Sabbatical Team to the Union Council in order to have bans on sponsorship from some companies, including those in the oil industry, lifted.

Lifting the ban would potentially subsidise the incomes of sports clubs and societies during difficult economic times.

Tommo, a vocal supporter of removing the ban, has said that he believed campaign groups’ voices were being heard over that of sports clubs and societies, something which he deems to be unfair.

The sponsorship debate became a heated affair at Union Council where the resulting vote was a tie. This was then broken by the Chair of Council, who voted against lifting the ban.

Tommo said shortly after the debate that he believed it was “irresponsible” of the Council to have voted this way and that it was a matter for sports clubs and societies to decide.

In an interview on RaW, Tommo said that he would be consulting with clubs and societies this term in order to find out their opinions, but he did not rule out the possibility that the Union may seek to overturn Council’s decision via referenda next term.

He said that he was “greatly concerned” as sponsorship this term was reduced for sports clubs and societies. Furthermore, he told RaW that some sports clubs have not been able to get any sponsors.

Tommo also said that students would suffer from “voter fatigue” if they were forced to vote too often in the second term. Furthermore, he stated that he “could not see an argument” against having a referendum on this issue in the summer term.

Figures from the Union show that society sponsorship has fallen by £6000. Given the economic situation, the financial position for sports clubs and societies is likely to get worse.

The Boar is also touched by the debate, having been offered a £1100 advertisement by oil giant Shell, which was rejected in lines with Union policy governing external advertisers.

However, there has been a great deal of opposition to this measure. Campaign groups such as People & Planet and Weapons Out of Warwick have been vocal in their support for the bans which they believe are crucial in order to ensure an ethical Students’ Union.

There has been opposition to referenda in the summer term by some who believe that it would limit the scope for campaigning and allow the ban on oil companies to be lifted through the “back door”.

However, Tommo stated that he believed that campaigning in referenda had a limited impact and that most people would judge based on the manifestos put forward.

The timing of a referendum in the third term may be controversial and result in opposition from those in favour of these bans.

They would prefer having the referendum at a time which would give them a chance to campaign on a larger scale.


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