Cambridge University Students' Union accused of censorship

Newspaper publication delayed by Student's Union 26 February 2010

Chris Lillycrop, candidate for Cambridge University Students’ Union (CUSU) Coordinator at the upcoming CUSU elections, has complained about the redaction of his manifesto by the CUSU Elections Committee.

The following sentence was blanked out: “Employing a Union Development Manager costs 10% of our annual budget: we must stop spending money we can’t afford on a position we don’t need.”

Lillycrop does not believe that the employment of a Union Development Manager (UDM) is acceptable if CUSU’s current economic position is considered, although he made it clear that he would follow due process in all the interactions he would  have with the UDM himself, and that his views are merely ideas on how CUSU itself could develop.

According to CUSU’s budget for 2009-10, as passed by CUSU Council in Easter 2009, the Manager cost CUSU £39,250 this year.

In Lillycrop’s manifesto he outlines how “CUSU’s staff has grown rapidly over the past few years so that they now outnumber Sabbatical Officers”. He added: “CUSU needs to question the wisdom of continually enlarging its staff. “CUSU is about to come under severe financial pressure as our £80,000 per year deal for the Careers Handbook comes to an end. The Coordinator will have to balance priorities to address this new situation. We must stop cutting core Union budgets to pay for unnecessary self-promotion, external relations and staff costs.”

Lillycrop sees cost-cutting as one of the major duties that the CUSU Coordinator will have to undertake next year. He feels that the redaction has seriously affected his manifesto as he feels that his outline of how he would deal with funding shortfalls were some of his key statements.

Lillycrop alleges that Duncan Mann, the current UDM, influenced the decision that there was a legal imperative to redact his manifesto. He suggests that there is a conflict of interest present.

However, the decision to print a redaction was made solely by the CUSU Elections Committee, a body which is not answerable to the UDM. The CUSU Elections Committee, however, has argued that the redaction was necessary for legal reasons. In a clarification of election rules, the Elections Committee stated: “Due to relevant employment law and legislation, candidates may not make statements about the suitability or viability of individual staff positions (including, but not limited to, manifestos, verbal statements or written material online). “This ruling is not intended to unnecessarily restrict candidates’ campaigning, but to ensure that candidates’ campaigns are conducted in such a way that the CUSU elections process abides by relevant UK law.”

In a further statement to The Cambridge Student (TCS), the Elections Committee explained that the decision was made after “consultation with relevant staff members at the NUS as well as individual research into the relevant legislation regarding employment rights”. They cited the Employment Rights Act of 1996.

The views expressed in this article are not the opinions of CUSU. Comments expressed in this article are the opinions of individuals, and not of The Cambridge Student.

Andrew Georgiou – News Reporter

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