NUS fallout: a CUSU conspiracy?

Katie Spenceley 21 November 2008

A row has erupted in the wake of the NUS (National Union of Students) conference, after a member of the Cambridge delegation was accused of “aggressive” behaviour towards his fellow delegates.

CUSU delegate, Ed Maltby, who opposed the recent proposed changes to the NUS constitution, has been criticised by fellow delegate and CUSU Education Officer Ant Bagshaw for aggressive conduct –complaints which have since been passed on to the University’s Junior Proctor for further investigation.

In an email sent to The Cambridge Student (TCS), Maltby explained to the members of the Cambridge Education Not for Sale group that he had been invited to an “informal chat” with Bagshaw following the criticisms of Maltby’s conduct at the conference.

Speaking to TCS, Maltby expressed his anger at the way he had been treated and strenuously denied that he had intimidated his fellow delegate members:

“I absolutely deny that I intimidated any other delegate – it’s something I take extremely seriously, especially as intimidation is completely contrary to democracy. In fact, all of the delegates agree that I was not intimidating – all of the delegates, except Ant Bagshaw.”

He has also criticised the way the complaints have been dealt with:

“Ant Bagshaw told me that I was “aggressively intimidating”, though he has refused to specify exactly what it is I have done – whether I shouted, or was physically aggressive, whether I shook someone by the shoulders or swore. It’s very difficult to make any comment on the matter when no charges have been made explicit.

“I think this whole situation is politically significant; it is clear that the President of the NUS is embroiled in a plot to intimidate me and others who vote against proposed policy. On the surface, this all sounds very conspiratorial, but look at it nationally – people who voted against motions were disciplined or intimidated by their student unions upon their return.

“It’s a shameful, churlish vendetta and is a faintly infantile attempt to intimidate the students who are opposed to constitutional change.

CUSU Education Officer Ant Bagshaw, however, has defended his position: “I am not in a position to comment on individual cases and I do not think it is professional to do so, however I can tell you there were allegations of intimidation. No disciplinary action has been taken by CUSU, and I am not in a position to discipline anyone, nor have I tried to. Given the nature of the political sensitivities the matter is being dealt with by external authorities.

“Also, Wes Streeting has not made any allegations to me about individuals.”

An anonymous member of CUSU commented on the situation: “If we were going to start a vendetta we’d have been much better at it – give us some credit.”

But Ed Maltby was similarly sharp in his own surmising of the affair: “Ant Bagshaw is perfectly within his right to make a complaint – it’s just a question for his own conscience as to whether his complaint is true or not.”

Katie Spenceley