RON vote ignored as new NUS delegates selected by CUSU Council

Joseph Winters 17 March 2014

CUSU has decided to fill the position of NUS Delegate for the University of Cambridge from within its own committee, despite students having voted to Re-Open Nominations (RON) for the position in this year’s elections.

The fourth and fifth NUS delegates, to join Kevin Chang, Rosalyn Old and Mark Chonofsky, were selected at a meeting of CUSU Council on 10 March. Representatives from JCRs, MCRs, autonomous campaigns and faculties voted for Helen Hoogewerf-McComb and James White to attend the national conference.

The NUS National Conference, which will take place from 8 – 10 April, is the main policy making body of the National Union of Students. According to the NUS website, “delegates decide the political direction of the organisation and elect the President and five Vice-Presidents for the next year.”

Flick Osborn, CUSU President explained to The Cambridge Student, “as there was too little time for the whole student body to vote for individuals running on their own platforms, Helen and James will be voting in line with existing CUSU policy, which is decided by CUSU Council."

Evie, a first year HSPS student, said: “I understand the impracticality of reopening the elections to the overall student body, and realise that they tried partially to solve this by reopening to representative bodies in the university.”

However, she added, “In light of the recent issues over student participation, I feel that because CUSU is a body that represents us, it should be upholding our decisions, and thus in this case, should have followed through on our RON vote. By not, they have gone against the wishes of the student body electorate.”

The decision comes in the light of controversy surrounding RON. In this year’s CUSU elections RON received 40% of the presidential vote, and won the first round of the CUSU Councillor election. Of the total votes cast, 39% were for RON. With very few positions contested in the entire election, many suggested that the unusually high levels of support for RON represented a wider frustration with CUSU.

Helen Hoogewerf-McComb, who will be representing Cambridge students at this year’s NUS Conference, was elected President for the year 2014-15. As part of her campaign, she told TCS: “Next year I want to focus on improving CUSU’s links with the student body and empowering more of you to step forward and take a lead in making meaningful change for students at the University.

“I think that it’s really important that we have RON on the ballot; when there aren’t a lot of candidates it’s important that people have the option to vote for something else and ask for change.”

Yet students have expressed frustration that the latest nominations were not opened up to the student body. “This is frankly ignoring the democratic system which CUSU should endorse,” stated Finn McRedmond, a first year classicist at Peterhouse. 

Similar views were expressed by Michael, a second year Mathematician, who told TCS, “It seems like the whole thing is a bit ridiculous. People voted RON for a reason. They haven’t re-opened nominations [to the whole student body], so they have actively disobeyed the election results, and have no mandate for what they have done.”