Much to the annoyance of many present and some of the candidates themselves, the hustings started off with the minor and uncontested positions. Here’s an outline of how the candidates performed and where the big topics for debate will be over the next week.
First up were the candidates for NUS delegate for their first and only hustings. Fatima Junaid spoke first of her extensive experience within CUSU and the NUS. She was followed by Rahul Mansigani, whose speech left me unsure about what he actually said. The only thing I can remember is that he is not a member of a faction and believes strongly in the most un-contentious policies ever.
Amy Taylor spoke of her love for NUS and passion about what the NUS can do. Beccy Talmy provided a valuable contrast with her ‘change or leave’ attitude stating that this may be the last opportunity we give the NUS. Alex Evans was the most anti-NUS campaigner of the night reiterating the word ‘shambles’ and accusing the NUS of dodgy dealings behind closed doors. Luke Hawksbee emphasised his strengths as an activist and passion for free education.
Of the six candidates, four admitted being a member of a faction when asked. Junaid and Taylor were members of FOSIS and UJS respectively, the Muslim and Jewish factions. Evans and Hawksbee are both supporters of Education Not For Sale, the left-wing campaigning organisation fighting for the rights of Palestinians and against capitalism. Talmy is also known to be a supporter, but has recently left the faction. Junaid and Evans both claimed that their factions will not dictate how they vote, but Hawskbee revealed he was a member of his faction’s steering committee.
A speech was read out on behalf of the candidates for Ethical Affairs Chair, who were unable to make the meeting and then it was the turn of Andy McGowan to make his speech. His impassioned speech outlined his plans to enthuse student-run access schemes and to publicise the fact that the Disability Resource Centre can help people with their application. McGowan demonstrated an insightful understanding of the problems and expressed concerns for those students who not eligible for much help, but still hard up. McGowan’s speech was extremely well received by the audience of about fifty.
Much to the annoyance of journalists covering the elections, Chris Lillycrop, the only candidate for Coordinator, announced that his speeches at each college husting would focus on the detail of a specific area of policy each time. His speech at this CUSU Council husting outlined the broadness of his campaign and highlighted the ever-falling revenue stream. The Coordinator is the internal manager of CUSU, but Lillycrop made it clear that funding for campaigns was his top priority.
Student Support Officer
After the recent referendum, the position of Welfare and Graduates Officer has been replaced by the position of a Student Support Officer shared with the Graduate Union. Morgan Wild is the only candidate for this position and spoke unsurprisingly of his intent to build the relationship between CUSU and the GU. Wild highlighted the ongoing battle to prevent PhD students who have submitted but not graduated from being charged Council Tax; a battle that is showing signs of progress within Cambridge.
The first contested race saw Luke Hawksbee up against Maria Helmling for Education Officer. Hawksbee’s speech focussed on the national scene; a clear reflection of his personal views, whereas Helmling focussed on internal change in Cambridge. Helmling’s record for achievements as faculty rep for music are astounding with one music student claiming she has brought the most change to the department in its 600-year history. Helmling’s speech, however, did not impress the CUSU Council regulars and made many cringe with her catchphrases ‘Maria makes change happen for you’ and ‘How do you solve a problem? Vote Maria’.Voters will now have to decide whether they want on Cambridge or national problems.
Sarah Peters-Harrison husted first for the position of Women’s Officer outlining her idea of an ‘inclusive, dynamic and effective’ campaign on women’s rights. Goulding is probably the more experienced candidate within CUSU and she highlighted the uniqueness of being Women’s Officer on the LBGT Campaign and LBGTQ Officer on the Women’s Campaign. Added to that, she is a trained counsellor. A question on women’s colleges brought out a key distinction in policy between the candidates. Goulding supported women’s colleges arguing the need for positive discrimination to readdress the balance. Peters-Harrison also supported the idea, but focussed on the need for women’s colleges for religious reasons. Peters-Harrison later highlighted the problem of women in science, but admitted that the issue was of a national scale.
The final contest of the night was for President. Beccy Talmy entered the race for President as the clear underdog against the highly-qualified Mansigani, but outshone Mansigani in the debate. Repeated questions asked Mansigani to stop using abstract nouns and give the audience some concrete policy, but Mansigani stuck to the meaningless policies of making CUSU more useful and engaging. Mansigani’s one clear policy of a sabbatical officers’ blog has been tried several times and has failed the same number of times. Mansigani also seems intent on getting discounts for CUSU members at local shops, but it’s not clear if he’s aware that the CUSU card already contains many such discounts. Talmy, on the other hand, wanted to take a firm line on issue, particularly HE funding and would focus on securing funding for a sabbatical Ethical Affairs Officer. The race is now wide open and The Cambridge Student will be following it all the way.