CUSU Disabled Students’ Officer introduced in largest ever referendum turnout

Hayden Banks 3 February 2016

A full-time Disabled Students' Officer will be added to CUSU's current team of full-time sabbatical officers, following a university-wide referendum. 92% of voters (4315 people) voted yes.

Voters were asked the question “Do you accept the proposed constitutional changes, which would add a Disabled Students’ Officer to the Full-Time Elected Officer Team”, with the option to vote yes or no, or abstain by submitting a blank response. Quoracy required 10% of Cambridge students to vote.

4679 students logged into the referendum voting page in the space of one week, with the referendum opening last Wednesday, 27 January, and closing this morning at 9am.

With rising pressure from the CUSU Disabled Students’ Campaign, a petition was formed consisting of signatures from over 350 students calling for a referendum to introduce a full-time Disabled Students’ Officer. The new officer will work 36.5 hours a week and lead the campaign, with the same salary as other full-time officers,  currently £20,000. They will be elected along with the new Sabbatical Team when elections take place later in Lent Term, via a ballot system open only to self-defining disabled students.

Support for the Disabled Students Officer had been championed for some time, given that 2080 students at the University, 11%, have disclosed a disability, according to the Disability Resource Centre. Furthermore the Big Cambridge Survey conducted by CUSU in 2014 found that 44% of students with mental illness cited University support for the issue as Poor to Very Poor. The Disabled Student’s Campaign held a debate on 26 January, just prior to the referendum opening, with the Yes Campaign tackling the issue of funding by claiming that a small proportion of the University’s vast wealth should be invested into spearheading discussion, and action, on disability and mental health issues.

Second-year Pembroke student Tonicha Upham commented: ''The vote in support of a sabbatical officer is a huge step forward, and we should be proud that as students we are concerned enough about equal representation to enforce such an impact on a students' union sometimes considered to be somewhat out of touch with students.''