Voting opens for CUSU Election, after intense hustings

Will Tilbrook 7 March 2017

Voting is now open for the CUSU/GU Elections, after the candidates were tested in an intense hustings on Monday evening. With many of the candidates running uncontested, hustings was one of the major opportunities for the candidates to be taken to task over their manifesto pledges.

For the uncontested positions, members of the student press stood in as speakers of the opposition, as CUSU election rules stipulate that one of the options in each election race must be to reopen nominations (RON). Each candidate gave a two minute speech, before the floor was opened to questions.

Hustings for the role of University Councillor will be held tonight (Tuesday) at 8pm. Voting will close on 5pm on Friday.

Click here for TCS' live-blogging of hustings: Tweets by TCSNewspaper .

The Candidates:

CUSU President: Jack Drury, Daisy Eyre, Keir Murison

CUSU Education Officer: Martha Krish

CUSU Access and Funding Officer: Olivia Hylton-Pennant

CUSU Women's Officer: Lola Olufemi

CUSU-GU Welfare and Rights Officer: Micha Frazer-Carroll

CUSU Disabled Students' Officer: Florence Oulds

University Councillor: Joshua Jackson, Umang Khandelwal, Marcel Llavero Pasquina


Hustings: As it happened:

Hustings began with an irate student chastising the attendees for talking too loudly outside the lecture which was taking place at Mill Lane Lecture rooms. Soon after, proceedings began smoothly as Martha Krish began her speech, arguing for why she should be elected Education Officer. Hannah Dawson of The Tab Cambridge played the role of RON.

Krish spoke about shifting styles of learning, the boycott of the NSS and said that “the idea that there’s widespread student apathy is simply not true”. Dawson suggested that the NSS Boycott is pointless as the University can use previous years’ data for the government’s TEF programme.

Olivia Hylton-Pennant stood next, running for the role of Access and Funding Officer. Louis Ashworth of Varsity was RON. Hylton-Pennant referenced the role of an Access visit in encouraging her to apply to Cambridge and said “I’d like to have more communication with [JCR] access officers”. She also suggested that a handover document should be provided for these access officers.

Micha Frazer-Carroll then stood for Welfare and Rights Officer, with Matt Gurtler of The Cambridge Student playing the role of RON. Frazer-Carroll said that her own problems with mental health would help her to relate to students in a similar position.

When it was pointed out by Gurtler that she hadn’t served as a JCR Welfare officer, Frazer-Carroll defended her position by saying that being the only candidate to stand in the first round of nominations showed that she was passionate about the role, and that she also had experience on Corpus JCR Committee and as a Student Minds rep.

Lola Olufemi put forward her manifesto for election to the position of Women’s Officer, saying, “I want this University to be a more bearable space for female and non-binary students.” Hannah Dawson (standing again as RON) said that “the women's campaign needs to be accessible for women who wouldn't call themselves feminists”. Olufemi then expressed her desire to work closely with the Disabled Students’ Rep (DSO) on the CUSU committee.

Florence Oulds discussed her experience on the Disabled Students’ Campaign, and highlighted the varying experiences disabled students can have across colleges: “It’s not at all fair for one student to receive worse care than another just because of their college”. She suggested that resources emailed to students and left in pigeonholes, in addition to collaboration with the student press, would contribute towards provoking a broader University-wide dialogue about disabilities.

Oulds also advocated basic information about colleges being given to potential applicants, such as the accessibility of rooms.

After a brief interruption by current CUSU President Amatey Doku regarding the “dry topic” of the referendum about changes to CUSU’s constitution, which will take place alongside the elections, the three presidential candidates took to the stage.

In his opening two-minute speech, CUCA’s Jack Drury argued that he was “the candidate that offers an alternative trajectory to the one that CUSU is currently on”. He added: “I will make CUSU work for you, because it can.”

Former JCSU President Daisy Eyre outlined her three key priorities – access, mental health, and student workload. She claimed she was running for “all the students who are done with accepting all systematic problems.”

Keir Murison, formerly President of Student Minds Cambridge, was the final presidential candidate to speak. He stressed his desire to “equalise” college policy, arguing that he “will make sure that we are actually doing the things that students want us to do”.

Tension grew as divestment was brought up. While Eyre said that she would take an “active stance” in supporting divestment, and Murison advocating that CUSU should work with societies like Zero Carbon, Drury argued that “divestment comes at a cost”. Zero Carbon has since posted a statement on its Facebook page, responding that this response “reflects a common misconception about divestment. There’s simply no evidence that divestment has had a negative impactons tudent funding at other universities.”

When asked about student engagement with CUSU, Eyre admitted that “participation is a stumbling block in allowing CUSU to achieve its full potential.” Murison said that CUSU “need[s] to talk to people” in order to increase student participation. “Talking not doing,” Drury said, was the way to get students more involved. He took a more polemical stance, asking, “I don’t know how any one of us can stand up here and not be embarrassed.”

Hustings ended with two question from Doku, who drew attention to CUSU’s lack of funding compared to other Russell Group universities’ student unions. He asked the candidates how they would deal with the bad press it would receive when underfunding leads to abandoned policies. Murison replied that “bad press is always going to happen, it’s CUSU”, but said that “it’s about […] showing the student body that CUSU is value for money.”

Eyre advocated the reform of CUSU, given that its problems are “deeply structural”. Drury, on the other hand, criticised CUSU’s previous “incompetent management of funding”.