NUS Delegate Elections: Connor MacDonald

Image credit: Connor MacDonald

In the run up to the elections for the new Cambridge NUS delegates, TCS is speaking to all candidates about their manifestos, what they would accomplish, and why they are best suited to carry out their roles. Voting opens at 00:00 on the 31st of October, and closes on the 3rd of November. The following is a transcript from an interview with Connor.

 

How will you carry out the key points in your manifesto?

The first responsibility of an NUS delegate is to vote on the motions at conferences. I want the NUS to campaign for maintenance grants, and much better financial support for students. It’s also the responsibility to vote for the 6 full-time sabbatical NUS officers. In the past, there has been a tradition of electing very ideological figures, one of whom called Theresa May a fascist on live television in 2016. I don’t think this gives the NUS any credibility with policymakers. It’s important that I elect candidates whom I feel can represent students and bring about real change.

 

Why would you be a better NUS representative than the other candidates?

First and foremost, I have more experience, and am the only candidate who has previously been to an NUS conference. I’ve been struck by the very naive way CUSU approaches NUS - there’s an expectation that they will show up at the conference and ‘fight’- but usually they find that by the time you arrive, most of the factional agreements have already been made. This is not productive for students. We need delegates willing to fight against factionalism and ideological foolishness. It’s unacceptable that there are people negotiating with the government who feel entitled to call government members fascist. At the conference 2 years ago, there were people being clapped when asking why we commemorate the Holocaust specifically: this is utterly nuts. We need students who will take a stand against behaviour like this.

 

What would you like to achieve in the position?

I'd like to be able to speak on a few motions at conference, as this is the biggest thing you can do in terms of impact. We don’t know the motions yet, but I want to speak against factionalism and the kind of ridiculous motions put forward. Previously, there was one on abolishing prisons, which is not a key priority for most students. You might be able to have a productive intellectual conversation about abolishing prisons, but the NUS is the biggest political body for students, with its biggest political ramifications. What the NUS does and says matters to the outside world. Much as I don’t like the Daily Mail or the Sun, we cannot afford to have the name of students in the UK splashed across newspapers as, “Students Debate the Holocaust.” It’s morally wrong, and is also bad for the student movement generally, and our credibility.

 

What do you think are the biggest issues facing Cambridge students today?

This is difficult, because there’s no average Cambridge student. I’m glad CUSU talks about how wide the variety of students here is, and how their needs vary so dramatically (and of course we need to push further for more diversity). However, there are universal issues like student debt being too high, the abolishment of maintenance grants, and rents being too high. In Cambridge specifically, we must do much more for mental health. At college JCRs, and in the University as a whole, we see people becoming more aware of the problem, but we need more funding for these services to really tackle the problem. University mental health support services are really over-taxed. Also, I’d like to see College JCRs give more support to CUSU for mental health problems. While CUSU has its flaws, it has identified a problem and tried to make inroads into solving it, which is really admirable.

Another big issue is access. We should push for more access, and for the University to be more open to all applicants. This is not NUS specific, but we must see progress on these fronts.

 

If you could only make one change in Cambridge, what would it be?

I would improve access, for sure. We still don’t do enough for students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds of any kind. It’s not just Cambridge’s fault. In every conversation I have with College and fellows, everyone recognises it’s a problem - although we do need to point to the grossly unequal British education system. However, Cambridge could do more to soften its image, and intervene more in certain communities to encourage students who would benefit from a Cambridge education.

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