Calls for full-time disabled students’ officer

Stevie Hertz 27 November 2015

A petition was launched last week to campaign for the addition of a full-time disabled students’ officer (DSO)to the CUSU Sabbatical team. 

The petition needed 350 signatures before Wednesday 4 December in order to be able to change CUSU’s constitution via referendum. 

The petition asks for a University-wide vote on changing the CUSU constitution to create a full-time Disabled Students’ Officer role.The petition states that in order to challange the ‘‘deep institutional problems’’ within the University, the Disabled Students’ Campaign needs a full-time officer. 

The petition lays out several plans for the proposed full-time officer, including campaigning for the Disability Resource Centre to receive more funding, pioneering a shadowing scheme for disabled students, and campaigning for tutor training to be expanded and made compulsory, as well as being extended to Directors of Studies and other teaching staff. The role of the proposed DSO is compared to that of the women’s officer, in terms of working with the committee. 

Founded in Lent 2010, the Campaign was revived in Lent 2015 after a hiatus and has a mission of ‘‘uniting and representing disabled students throughout the University aiming to fight inaccessibility for all disabled students.’’ The Campaign is lead by the executive, elected at quorate open meetings. The current Disabled Students’ Officers are Robert Corbyn-Smith and Jessica Wing.

The petition attained the necessary 350 signatures early this week, but will be accepting any additional signatures until the morning of Friday 27 November. 

In a recentstatement to The Cambridge Student, CUSU’s sabbatical officer team commented that: “The sabbatical team wishes to withhold judgement out of respect for the work that has been done by and the autonomy of the Disabled Students’ Campaign, particularly whilst the petition is still being circulated. We will be meeting with them later this week to discuss.”

A second-year student who identifies as disabled commented to  TCS: ‘It’s immensely important that the needs of students with disabilities are taken seriously. Having a sabbatical officer with lived experience will help, and will mean that there is a more conscious consideration of a group who are generally under-represented. There are often discussions about our lack of representation, which centre around the fact that as full-time students we don’t, owing to our various situations, have the ability or the energy to mount a sustained campaign to get our voices heard.”