CUSU Presidential candidate already in hot water

With the nominations period for this year's Cambridge University Students' Union (CUSU) Elections closing at noon today, the race for CUSU President has thrown up its first scandal, as former Selwyn JCR President Ben Gliniecki breaks strict election rules by announcing his candidacy early, and campaigning outside the permitted period.

A website (homepage pictured) has been online since at least Friday carrying the masthead "BEN GLINIECKI FOR CUSU PRESIDENT – For a Fighting Student Union". CUSU Election Rules 2012 stipulate: "You must not publicly declare your candidacy until after the candidates' briefing on Monday 27 February. You may of course discuss your intentions with your close friends and ask people to join your campaign team."

The rules go on to say: "You must not campaign for votes outside of the time that is specifically allocated for campaigning (between the end of the Candidates' briefing on Monday 27 February and the close of voting at 7.00pm on Wednesday 7 March)."

CUSU runs a three strike policy on election rule-breaking, with the first strike leading to a written formal warning, the second to a loss of 200 votes, and the third to complete disqualification. However, the rules do also say that the "Elections Committee reserve the right to issue multiple strikes or non-standard penalties where appropriate".

Gliniecki was the JCR President at Selwyn for 2011, and was also the CUSU Rents Officer for the academic year 2010/11. Last term, Gliniecki, a 3rd-year Law student, successfully proposed a motion to CUSU Council that students support the public sector workers' pension strike on 30th November 2011, the last day of lectures in Michaelmas term, by walking out of their lectures. He has also proposed a motion at tonight's CUSU Council to support the National Union of Students (NUS) Week of Action from 12th March to 16th March, which is set to include a national lecture walkout by students on 14th March, the final day of lectures this term at Cambridge.

The website also also contains Gliniecki's manifesto in full, where he pledges, as President, to campaign more vigorously for increased bursaries for Cambridge students, and for the elimination of tuition fees. He is seeking to unite previously autonomous campaigns such as the Women's campaign, the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) students campaign and the LGBT students campaign "under the banner of CUSU" so that the students' union "as a whole" can decide on best policy. He is also, rather controversially and somewhat vaguely, outlining plans to "plug some of the gaps between different students' experience caused by having a University made up of 31 individual Colleges" by campaigning for a University block grant for CUSU, as well as contributions from Colleges themselves (not from JCRs or MCRs) to CUSU. Gliniecki believes this money could then be used by CUSU to itself provide services to students at "disadvantaged Colleges" should deficiencies exist in areas such as "rents, charges, quality of supervisors, quality of welfare provision", relative to other colleges.

Nominations for the elections of the six full-time CUSU Sabbatical positions (President, Education Officer, Welfare Officer, Access Officer, Women's Officer and Coordinator), as well as the roles of Graduate Union (GU) President, NUS Conference Delegates and the part-time post of Ethical Affairs Chair opened on Monday 20th February and close at noon today. Voting will take place between Monday 5th March and Wednesday 7th March, with results announced on the Wednesday night.

Other candidates rumoured to be standing against Gliniecki for the role of CUSU President include Akilah Jeffers, the current head of the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) students campaign, and Rosalyn Old, the current CUSU Membership Engagement Officer and former Robinson JCR President.

Michael Yoganayagam

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