This Monday, the 16th of November, the Liverpool Guild of Students held its first ever ‘preferendum’, which is a vote that includes more than the two ‘yes’ and ‘no’ options. Additionally, a ‘Modified Borda Count’ is used, which ranks all options in order of preference using a points system. This happens, according to the Guild website, when ‘a student’s idea divides Guild Summits opinion. They will identify the different options which are causing debate at the meeting, and these will be put a campus wide ballot for one week.’ For the result to be valid, at least 3% of University of Liverpool students must vote and, if unsatisfied with the decision of a preferendum, there is the option of a ‘Challenge Referendum’, by collecting signatures which constitute at least 1% of the student body.

According to the Guild, the idea of support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (in relation to certain parties in conjunction with Israel and certain decision of this nation) was put to a Guild Summit last year and was rejected. Following this, ‘a group of students’ appealed and asked for it to go to a preferendum. Over a thousand students cast their vote, with (in accordance with the Modifies Borda Count) 1,866 points in support of the boycott motion, 934 points opposed it and 1,479 points supporting the outcome of the previous Summit, which opposed the motion.

Below are reactions to the passing of the BDS motion and the Referendum, by people who were inside the Guild building at the time of the result.

 


Physics, 3rd year student 

Did you know about the fact there was a vote?
‘I found out about it on Friday, so on the last day.’

‘When I was reading up about it…I can see merits on both sides of the argument. I guess I’m kind of glad that…something’s happened and it wasn’t just completely ignored. ‘cos wasn’t there something like it had to have ‘x’ amount of people for anything to happen? That’s what I was told…’

What will this mean to us as students?
‘Probably absolutely nothing. I mean, how many products do we import from Israel? Well it’s more of…it’s more of a statement than actual substance, isn’t it?’

 


Alex Ward, English & Politics, 2nd year 

Did you know about the fact there was a vote?
‘I had no idea, no.’

How do you think this will affect students/will it affect students?
‘Is this in the Guild shop we’re talking about? Personally, I don’t understand what will happen…at all I don’t really understand if anyone will notice, if I’m honest. I’m not really sure. Unless, like, there’s a big announcement made about it, I don’t think many people will realise on a day-today basis, but it’s interesting to find out about it… I wasn’t aware of it, I don’t think anyone I know would be aware of it. Yeh, I study politics, so i probably should be aware of it, like, from an international perspective, but I’m not at all.’

 

 

Geography, 1st year student 

Did you know about the fact there was a vote?
‘No.’

How do you think this will affect students/will it affect students?
‘I have no idea. I don’t know, to be honest with you…I have honestly no idea. Like, it could affect us, but I just…I just don’t know…I haven’t heard anything about it, I don’t know anything about it, so I just don’t know.’

How does the fact of the vote in general make you feel?
‘Indifferent really… I don’t really have any opinions about it, so…’

 

 

Geography, 1st year student

Did you know about the fact there was a vote?
‘No.’

How do you think this will affect students/will it affect students?
‘I don’t know enough about it to know what effects it would have so… ‘

How does the fact of the vote in general make you feel?
‘It’s information that doesn’t really nother me so… It doesn’t bother me, because I don’t know anything about it.’

 

 

Honey Hammer, Egyptology, 3rd year 

Did you know about the fact there was a vote?
‘No, I didn’t hear that there was a vote. I knew that people were raising awareness, because I saw leaflets, but it didn’t come to my attention that there was an actual vote. ‘

How do you think this will affect students/will it affect students?
‘I’m not entirely sure… It probably won’t affect me much, because I’m too busy doing all of this crap (she was working on some Egyptology-related work on her laptop), so I don’t really pay attention to much else at the minute. So I’m not entirely sure. I think the people, who are more sensitive to the subject, they will be affected by it. The people, who aren’t as sensitive probably won’t be affected.’

 

 

Philosophy and Literature, 2nd year student 

Did you know about the fact there was a vote?
‘No.’

How do you think this will affect students/will it affect students?
‘I didn’t know about the result… The boycotting of, like, trade from anywhere…it is not good. It is not fair and I’m not quite sure how it’ll affect students, because I don’t know how much produce and all of these things is… Still, I don’t think it’s a good thing to have happened.’

How does the fact of the vote in general make you feel?
‘I don’t know… I don’t know. It just seems like a very silly thing to have done. An…an unreasonable thing.’

 

 

Jennifer Shaw, Politics and Philosophy, 3rd year

Did you know about the fact there was a vote?
‘Yes, I knew it was going on. But no, I didn’t know the result until you just told me…and, yes, I voted.’

How do you think this will affect students/will it affect students?
‘…I don’t know. Because I don’t know, like, I didn’t see any information put out about how it would affect us. So, I mean, things might change dramatically, if it turns out that everything that we own comes from Israeli products, but I don’t know. So…at the moment it doesn’t seem like it will affect us at all, but maybe it will. Yeh, I don’t know…I don’t even know what the political responses would be, so…’

How does the fact of the vote in general make you feel?
‘Well I think it’s a good thing, like…we’ve had a chance to be democratic, like, I mean, not many people have heard about it so that questions the legitimacy of it a bit. But the option was there… More people knew about it than might have known, like, about the Guild summit, so there was a democratic chance to vote and get a response to it, so that’s good. I don’t know otherwise…’

 

 

Tor Smith, Egyptology, 2nd year

Did you know about the fact there was a vote?
‘I’d heard about it, I sort of knew it was happening, I voted in it, but…and I heard about the result this morning, on Facebook, but that’s only because somebody I know was quite invested in it, I didn’t find out through the Guild or anything.’

 

 

 Marine Biology, 3rd year student

Did you know about the fact there was a vote?
‘I was aware. I was made aware of the result today via social media. They voted ‘yes’. Which I support…I did vote. It came up on my news feed, you see…from a Facebook friend.’

How do you think this will affect students/will it affect students?
‘Only those in the student body, who are aware of the situation and those who it indirectly affects. The majority though, perhaps not.’

How does the fact of the vote in general make you feel?
‘I feel very proud of those in the student body, who did vote and felt that it was more importamnt that human liberties and rights were upheld. I’m very proud.’

 

 

Benjamin, English, 1st year

Did you know about the fact there was a vote?
‘I hear it this morning, yeh.’

How do you think this will affect students/will it affect students?
‘I don’t really know… Well, surely prices of things will rise, probably, because there’ll be less available, I don’t know.’

How does the fact of the vote in general make you feel?
‘I don’t know, i don’t know… I suppose it’s that we have, you know, a position on stuff like that, you could say, I suppose, rather than being passive about it.’

 

 

Stuart, Music, 1st year

Did you know about the fact there was a vote?
‘No. And haven’t heard the result until now.’

How do you think this will affect students/will it affect students?
‘I have no idea about how many products we buy from Israel. I can’t imagine it’ll be…maybe I’m being ignorant, but I don’t know if there’s like a massive… I can’t imagine there’d be a huge change to anything from that. I mean, I don’t know what their production is like, what they…what’s going, d’you know what’s going, what would go?’ (‘No, I don’t…’)

How does the fact of the vote in general make you feel?
‘I don’t know. I just wonder how much everyone knows about it or whether it’s like a…just a cool thing to do. I don’t know… Just, like, ‘I have have a strong opinion on this’, but do they actually know anything? Yeh…I don’t really know the details, so i can’t talk.’

 

 

Ezra, Bio-Medical Science, (19 years)

Did you know about the fact there was a vote?
‘I knew that there was one…I think, as the voting was closing, on the day of the vote, I did vote. I did choose spoiled ballot though, because I didn’t think I was informed enough about the issue. So I thought it would be best, if I did vote, to show, well, I say ‘support’, but to show my stance on it or lack of stance on it or lack of information that I knew on it, yeh.’

How do you think this will affect students/will it affect students?
‘I couldn’t tell you, I wouldn’t know myself, I… I can’t say I’ve known anything about it to be honest. I know a couple of people that I know personally, who are a bit angry at it, a bit disappointed in the vote being ‘yes’, but that’s about it.’

How does the fact of the vote in general make you feel?
‘I’m just interested about the impact of it. Maybe I need to go and have a look at what BDS is and how it’s going to affect our student body or how the Guikd is run.’

 

 

Tropical Disease Biology, 2nd year student

Did you know about the fact there was a vote?
‘Yes, I voted a few days ago, yes… I just found out the result now, thank you for that by the way. And I’m pleased with the result, yeh.’

How do you think this will affect students/will it affect students?
‘I have to be honest, I’m not sure what Israeli products are currently provided to us anyway, so, yeh. So, I’m not sure it’ll make, like, you know, on our day-today being around uni, if there will be any difference, but I’d be interested to know if there is an actual, you know…something like a burrito ingredient, or something like that, that will no longer be available to us as a result. But, I mean, I think it’s for the right reasons so I’d stand by my conviction of being supportive of the ‘yes’ result.’

How does the fact of the vote in general make you feel?
‘I’m happy that the ‘yes’ vote was the result. I’m glad that democratic process was able to take place, so I think it’s a testament to, you know, how university runs itself and, like, that as a student body we’re able to…we’re give these opportunities, like, I have to say, if you can be arsed. And it’s…it’s very mature, which is nice.’

 

 

Daniel, History, (19 years)

Did you know about the fact there was a vote?
‘I had no clue whatsoever. It feels like something that I probably should have known about, something that I might be interested in doing, but I had no idea.’

How do you think this will affect students/will it affect students?
‘It’s hard to say. It could affect it in ways that we didn’t expect. Like, initially I’d think, you know, nothing had changed…you know, I could not think of any Israeli products that the university sells so… But it would be interesting to see if there is something that I’m unsure about that is provided by them that is going to get taken away, so…’

How does the fact of the vote in general make you feel?
‘I don’t even know. Like, about the whole thing… No, I care a lot about the whole issue. It’s just, like, coming from my background, I don’t really know how to support, what I should be doing, ‘cos there’s a whole «free Palestine», but then my mum, like, is proper pro-Israel and I’m…I don’t know, I just… I haven’t quite formulated an opinion about anything yet, I don’t think I know enough about it yet. Yeh, I’d say confused…’

 

 

Johnny, Aerospace Engineering, 1st year student

Did you know about the fact there was a vote?
‘No.’

How do you think this will affect students/will it affect students?
‘I…don’t think I would have noticed if you hadn’t told me, to be honest. I’d probably have seen a poster around or something, but, aside from that… I think a lot of people are in that situation. Obviously it’ll affect people who, like, pay more attention to it.’

How does the fact of the vote in general make you feel?
‘Pretty neutral. Fairly neutral about it, I’d say… Well… like I say, I hadn’t heard anything about it, yeh, yeh. I suppose it’s good that people who have an opinion can, sort of, voice it and, like, make their point through the vote, yeh.’

 

 

Rhys, Astrophysics MSc, recent graduate, still in Liverpool

Did you know about the fact there was a vote?
‘Yes… I’ve just found out about the result.’

How do you think this will affect students/will it affect students?
‘It won’t. Probably not, I mean, maybe some products will change, but others will take their place. Like, I don’t think it’ll affect the student body at all.’

How does the fact of the vote in general make you feel?
‘I’m not surprised, I guess, it was a ‘yes’ and probably would have voted ‘no’ myself. It’s getting invoved in something else, isn’t it, really, taking sides. And, I think, it’s not as black and white, I think, boycotting…it’ll affect both sides. It’s not as clear cut as that, so I think, both sides will be affected by it. I don’t think it’ll make that much of a difference… Do I think it’s good that university held a vote? Yes. I think it’s good that…it’s good that there’s an effort to keep students educated and people should be aware nd should have the right to vote and I think it’s good that the vote was put to a student body as opposed to just being made in an office somewhere. And that’s good. I, myself, I was obviously made aware of it. I remember there being two stalls in the Guild, ‘vote ‘yes” and ‘no’, which is good – it was an opportunity to get both sides of the argument.’

 

 

Liam, Politics & Philosophy, 2nd year student

Did you know about the fact there was a vote?
‘I did not, no. I didn’t [vote].’

How do you think this will affect students/will it affect students?
‘No, I don’t. I don’t think so. I don’t think that people will notice it, to be honest.’

How does the fact of the vote in general make you feel?
‘I’m surprised that I didn’t hear of it before. To be honest it won’t really affect me that much. I haven’t really bought any Israeli products to know what I’d be missing out on.’

 

Medicine, 3rd year student

Did you know about the fact there was a vote?
‘No I didn’t, I was vaguely aware that there was viting going on, that when I voted for NUS Delegate I saw there was something else, but I just sort of, I didn’t have time to do it so…that’s the only thing I knew about it… So are we now boycotting anything Israeli? That’s not on…’

How do you think this will affect students/will it affect students?
‘I think for people who know about it, I think it would definitely…if any effect, it would be to casue more, like, deepened tensions and animosity. But I don’t, sorry, I’m not really answering the question. But I feel like, depending on the voter turn out, there can’t have been many people voting, I don’t think that action like that should be taken, without, like, majority turn out.’

How does the fact of the vote in general make you feel?
‘Who called for the vote? Was it the Friends of Palestine or somthing? So like, was this a Guild initiative or was it from students and a society?… I don’t know, like, my gut instinct is negative, but I don’t know enough about it to say. Like, I’m not saying tha I’m pro-Israel, I’m just saying, like, we’re a multi-national, multi-cultural Guild and university and, like, I don’t know… I don’t know if it’s the right solution, I don’t know… I think it should have been made a bigger thing of that is was happening, ‘cos it’s quite a dramatic stance, like, action to take, especially given that, like, I knew so little about it and it seems to have been done quiety and, like I said, unless you’ve got the majority of people voting on it, that’s not representative. You can’t…I don’t think you can decide to take action like that, with so few people voting.’

 

 

Angela, Law, 3rd year student

Did you know about the fact there was a vote?
‘What? Right… No, no.’

How do you think this will affect students/will it affect students?
‘I can’t see it affecting people, just because, like, no one that already knows about it anyway. And like, something like that, I feel like to make a difference, everyone has to be quite aware of it for it to make a positive change or anything. Yeh, I dont know much about the actual thing, but i think it’s the kind of thing that people, if it doesn make a positive change, people won’t notice it or be able to recognise it as change, because they don’t know it’s happened.’

How does the fact of the vote in general make you feel?
‘I feel like… I’m out the loop and there’s a selected, like, percentage of the student body that participates in those kind of things. Yeh.’

 

 

English Language & Literature, 3rd year student

Did you know about the fact there was a vote?
‘i knew just before the vote, yep. I was aware before the vote, not before long before. I didn’t vote, no and didn’t know the result until now.’

How do you think this will affect students/will it affect students?
‘Well once they got what they want, they’re porbably going to be happy about that. The other side hasn’t got what they want and I’m pretty sure they’re going to be upset about that. In the middle, I reckon, general apathy will continue. Like, maybe, I don’t know, I don’t know how many Israeli products we have in the Guild. Like, maybe there’ll be a change…maybe there’ll be a change in price. If so, I don’t hink the Guild will affect the student body very much.’

How does the fact of the vote in general make you feel?
‘I feel like the information we and voted for, the reason why I didn’t vote is because…I was trying to get information on both sides and both of them were like ‘my side’s right, your side’s wrong’. I assume there’s probably a hell of a lot of bias in all of the information we’re given, I don’t know enough information, like, other than that that’s told to me by people who are basically organising one side or the other. So…I don’t feel like I was in a position to…to know anything, have an opinion on a subject. The fcat that we had a vote – sure. I feel a bit weird, ‘cos like, it got ‘no’-d so many times – like can you just ‘no’ it enough times until eventually you get a ‘yes’ and then that becomes the institution? Or d’you have get ‘yes’s for as many times as you get ‘no’s? It seems a bit finite that, like, after all these ‘no’ votes, they finally got, like, a student body who will vote ‘yes’ in enough numbers for it come through, like, maybe… But maybe this is the best system to have. Maybe there is a change inbetween those last ‘no’s and this ‘yes’, that it was worth it, but I doubt it.’