Vote yes in the CUSU constitutional referendum

1 March 2008

Mark Fletcher

This week you will be able to vote on who will be next year’s Executive Officers of the Cambridge University Students’ Union (CUSU). Alongside the battles for the individual posts, you will have the opportunity to approve the proposed new Constitution for CUSU. We urge you to vote yes.

In 2006 a review was commissioned to look into how CUSU works internally and how it connects with its constituents. After much consultation, the review led to large-scale restructuring proposals, put together by the Development and Planning Committee (DPC) in 2007. These proposals were warmly welcomed by the then members of CUSU Council, and were put to a vote alongside last year’s election. Unfortunately, despite a ratio of 9:1 votes in favour, that referendum failed to reach quorum as too many people who voted abstained or only registered a vote in the CUSU elections, not the referendum.

Over the past year, CUSU has been able to implement many of the most substantial proposals from the DPC’s plan through changes in its Standing Orders. The proposed team structure has been implemented, restructuring the part time executive into groups specialising in certain policy areas or service activities, including Access and Funding, Ethical Affairs and Green Campaigns, and Educational Issues. This has made it easier for students to get involved in CUSU, and for CUSU to operate efficiently; it makes clear the lines of responsibility within the organisation and allows CUSU to specialise in certain areas. Faculty Reps have also been incorporated into CUSU’s structure, to help it reflect the role that faculties and departments play in students’ lives in Cambridge.

Many of these changes are undeniably internal and their effect on student welfare is not always direct. They help CUSU to act effectively behind the scenes. Whilst they may seem of little significance outside of CUSU circles, these are the first steps towards making your Students’ Union a more effective, visible organisation. To continue this process there is still an underlying need to change the Constitution. Many parts of the current Constitution are internally contradictory, presenting difficulties in its interpretation and application. There are also questions about the legality of the Constitution as it currently stands; senior members of the University have advised that changing the Constitution is a necessity.

The changes proposed in the new Constitution are not controversial. Nor are they politically charged. They are a simple case of tidying up the loose bits of the rules of our Union. These proposals have been around for over a year without any serious opposition. Now we are asking you to help your Students’ Union add a final seal of approval to them.

These are not the sexiest reasons to go out and vote this week. A change of Constitution is of little direct importance to the vast majority of students in Cambridge.

It is, however, essential to those who are looking to improve and expand the Students’ Union into a body of which all Cambridge students can be proud. The proposed changes provide the opportunity to solve CUSU’s internal problems and allow it to transition from an introspective body into one focussing full-time on the ever-growing list of issues that affect students in Cambridge. We urge you not to abstain from this referendum; we do not wish to see these problems and solutions resurface in a year’s time. Have your say by voting online on Monday or Tuesday, or in the paper ballot on Wednesday. Support the new constitution by voting yes.

The new Constitution is supported by the following JCR Presidents:

Dan Jalapour – Queen’s

Yi-Xun Tan – Sidney Sussex

Josh Jowett – Homerton

Lucy McMahon – King’s

Pilar Garrard – Peterhouse

Joe Farish – Trinity

David Lock – Trinity Hall

Harry Bullivant – Churchill

Lucie Fortune – Jesus

Iain Barr – Robinson

David Clinton – St Catharine’s

E-mail questions about changes to the new Constitution to elections@cusu.cam.ac.uk.

Mark Fletcher is CUSU President. He studied Land Economy.