CUSU Column: Supporting divestment, year abroad welfare and more

Cambridge University
Image credit: TCS Team

CUSU Council took place tonight (the 20th November), with key developments being CUSU passing motions supporting divestment, and supporting increased welfare provisions for students on their year abroad.

In terms of announcements, CUSU President Daisy Eyre, and Disabled Students’ Officer Florence Oulds informed those attending that they had met with the bike company Ofo to organise bike-training sessions for students. This was done in an effort to increase the number of students who feel comfortable cycling through Central Cambridge. Oulds also advertised the screening of the documentary Unrest at Emmanuel at 6pm on Wednesday. Micha Frazer-Carroll, Welfare and Rights Officer, spoke about the development of a welfare guide for students abroad. She encouraged Welfare and Liberation Officers around Cambridge to attend forum, and hoped the new Breaking the Silence posters would be put in college bars. Simon Percelay, LGBT+ Officer, advertised upcoming socials, along with CUSU’s collaboration with the Union on Monday's Munroe Bergdorf event. Internationals Officer, Leo Paillard detailed upcoming bi-elections, and his hopes for an increased number of socials aimed at international students obliged to stay in Cambridge beyond term-time.

The Refugee Scholars’ Campaign spoke of how they were trying to pass a motion through individual JCRs to "add four pounds to every students’ fees with an easy opt-out system.” This would become Cambridge-wide, but so far has been passed by Caius, Newnham, and Emma.

A representative from Christ’s proposed the 'Supporting Fossil Fuel Divestment' motion on behalf of the Zero Carbon Society. It had prior support from CUSU, but needed to be renewed after three years. The Zero Carbon Society has received large amounts of student press attention recently, by pushing the University to divest, leading a march, and running town hall meetings. They pointed to recent student attendance at their events as an increased will to fight for divestment, saying: “We need the support of CUSU, and quickly.” They asked for CUSU Sabbatical Officers to show their support and participate in lobbying, and for an extra £100 to cover printing costs. No speeches were made in opposition, and there were no amendments. Eyres said that they were, “basically totally in support of the motion” - adding that she wanted the campaign to note that she had made a public statement. The Clare JCR representatives told the room that they would vote in favour of the motion, but one member wanted to comment that divestment involves a “lively academic debate” over whether it is the best way to save the environment. New NUS delegate Angus Satow responded by saying that people have attempted to engage with fossil fuel companies for thirty years, but have failed “because they are fossil fuel companies.” The motion passed with no votes in abstention or opposition.

The Council then turned to the issue of students who feel that there is no welfare or social system in place for them on their year abroad. Departments were approached (including the MML faculty), and they responded by saying that student welfare was not their direct responsibility. The motion was for resources made by students to be shared with other students - with CUSU funding leaflets since the faculty will not. CUSU was asked for £600. There were no speeches made in opposition, although there was discussion over whether students had pressed the faculty hard enough, and whether leaflets involving the faculty would allow for negative comments about years abroad (as they would “put students off”). Eyre felt the council budget could not spare this expense, with other contributors asking if the year abroad guide could be distributed without mass printing - with one answer being that having a physical copy might be something supportive for students to carry with them. One student spoke up, saying that being disabled, when she was abroad her DoS was her only form of support, and the popularity of the leaflets might encourage the faculty to do more. Paillard proposed an amendment to portion an amount of the council-free budget to be utilised at a later meeting. The motion passed with 2 in abstention, and none in opposition.

Another point on the table was about giving every student minority group a role on college JCR/MCR so they would have access to the college budgets. The motion was to mandate CUSU to change the structure of the committee so the JCRs would become better representatives of students. There was a debate over whether JCR members would need to be “harassed” to take action, with Percelay and Eyre noting that CUSU could not mandate the composition of JCRs/MCRs but could provide action and encouragement. The motion passed with one in abstention and none in opposition.

Matt Kite introduced a motion for Free Education - which campaigns on a national and university level to give the least advantaged students more support. He wanted to propose that the system is a “ticking time bomb of debt, which will cause higher education to collapse” - with 4 out of 6 Cambridge NUS delegates already supporting the motion. He asked CUSU to "publicly participate and lobby at a local level to mitigate tuition fees and maintenance loans.” The motion was passed with two in abstention and none in opposition.

Any student can attend CUSU Council. To find out about the agenda for the next meeting, follow the CUSU Facebook here.

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