CUSU referendum announced on full-time Disabled Students’ Officer

Elsa Maishman 26 January 2016

CUSU Council has introduced a student referendum on the quesion of whether or not to add a Disabled Students’ Officer (DSO) to its team of full-time elected sabbatical officers.

The referendum, which will take place on 27 January, comes as the result of a petition launched by the Disabled Students’ Campaign. If passed, it would add another permanent sabbatical offcer to serve the interests of disabled students, bringing the number of full-time CUSU elected officials to seven.

Voting will open at 9am on Wednesday 27 January and close at 9am on Wednesday 3 February. A simple majority will decide the results of the referendum, given that 10% of CUSU members cast a vote, in accordance with the CUSU constitution. For the first time in a CUSU election, no paper ballots will be cast, and electronic ballot boxes will be set up in each college.

The DSO would be elected by students who self-define as disabled, similar to the Women’s Officer, who is elected only by those who self-define as women. The rest of the sabbatical officers are elected by all members of CUSU.

Like other sabbatical offcers, the DSO would be paid a salary – currently £20,000 – by CUSU. This has led to debate over whether a DSO is the best use of CUSU’s limited funds.

Robert Cashman, CUSU Education Officcer, said during the meeting that the referendum “would be a good thing”. “I welcome the fact that it has come from students who want to improve CUSU’s representative structures, and I think that this question should be put to a referendum,” he said in an email.

At the meeting, CUSU Coordinator Jemma Stewart also discussed the referendum campaign rules, including a ban on messaging email lists and the use of unoffcial Facebook events not created by the CUSU Elections Council. If these rules are violated, CUSU could void the referendum, according to CUSU President Priscilla Mensah.

Jessica Wing, a student holding the position of Disabled Students’ Officer, commented: “The petition we presented to CUSU was enthusiastically supported by every autonomous campaign, who agree that this particular issue of structural inequality is one that deserves to be addressed democratically.

Comment Debate: Has the time come for a sabbatical Disabled Students’ Officer? Yes (Tonicha Upham) or No (Cornelius Roemer)