Chigbo Facing Crucial CUSU Vote

By on

CUSU was today split down the middle by a row over its membership of the National Union of Students.

CUSU was today split down the middle by a row over its membership of the National Union of Students (NUS).

Tomorrow night the CUSU Council will vote to decide whether Cambridge should break from the NUS with immediate effect.

Ben Towse, Churchill College's external officer, told The Tab  that the NUS was an "an out-of-touch waste of time, dominated by incompetent careerist New Labourites".

He continued: "They seem to care more about vacuous grandstanding and self-promotion than actually defending students’ rights".

In an online review CUSU president Tom Chigbo strongly defends affiliation, saying that "NUS campaigns in 2009/10 have provided a strong and effective national voice to students and students' unions."

He also warned that disaffiliating would "severely damage our ability to support students, defend and extend their rights at university".

However Grayden Webb, one of CUSU's NUS delegates slammed Chigbo's report calling it "inaccurate". He condemned Chigbo for expressing "a very opinionated voice when he was only asked to provide specifics".

David Lowry, former Jesus JCR President and member of the university council, added his voice to the criticism describing the NUS as an "absolute joke". He said: "As far as I can discern, the NUS's campaigns have never achieved anything."

"They failed on tuition fees, they failed on top-up fees and they failed on points-based immigration. Why we would want to be associated with their undemocratic and unsuccessful campaigns is quite frankly beyond me."

Furthermore insiders at CUSU have laughed off Chigbo's defence of the organisation, pointing to his disastrous NUS-sponsored 'Town Takeover' in November which was attended by only 200 students – just 0.5 per cent of the Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin student body.

Disaffiliation would mean that students would no longer get NUS cards, and would have to say goodbye to the discounts from favourites such as McDonalds, Topshop, Pizza Hut and many more.

In his report Chigbo hailed the NUS discount cards as the "definitive national student discount card", the loss of which he said "would result in the loss of an income stream worth thousands of pounds to CUSU". The report's figures reveal that only 770 students in Cambridge – just 4 per cent – have applied for the cards which now cost £10.

The votes of just one third of the Council will send the issue to a campus-wide referendum in late February where all students will be able to vote. The student unions at Imperial, Southampton and Edinburgh have all broken links with the NUS in recent years.

One senior source at CUSU said that Chigbo seemed confident of victory in the crucial vote. However The Tab has learnt this evening that support is growing for disafilliation, especially among disaffected JCR Presidents.

CUSU Council will debate and vote on the issue of disafilliation in their public meeting at King's College on Tuesday at 7.15.


  • Jesus loves you

    Herrmann. You complete moron. Why are you promoting this elitist Tory anti-student crap. I thought the Tab was about giving students what they wanted-I want my discounts-we're not all rich toffs from Worth Abbey

    • Ben Towse

      Disaffiliation has support from all over the political spectrum, because there are are many reasons why the NUS is a joke. To the best of my knowledge all 3 of the named anti-NUS quotes are from people left of the tory party. We do have a large number of tory supporters too, but I for instance am well left of centre. Student discounts are great, but you can get them for *less* and all over the world with an ISIC card, and CUSU can spend £9000 a whole lot better on supporting students in other ways.

    • guest

      I can't remember the last time I was denied a student discount, despite not having an NUS card. Almost everywhere will accept your University card as sufficient evidence… I'd rather save myself the tenner and not get an NUS card!

  • lssss

    call me naive, but what are the disadvantages of staying affiliated with NUS? is there a cost per student or something?

    • King JF

      Up to now the Tab has been good fun but it is getting political now-is someone paying you to put this stuff in???Student's want student cards-Doh!

    • Simpson

      it costs CUSU about £9,000 per annum i believe.

      the people i know at CUSU just don't like the NUS and don't think it's effective

    • Ben Towse

      Simpson's right, it costs £9000 per year, which could be better spent elsewhere. Check out the campaign group to find out why the NUS is a waste of our money –

      • King JF

        It costs a few pence per student. The idea that CUSU will suddenly start doing great things with £9K is hopelessly naive-this is about politics-if NUS isn't delivering get involved, make it better-otherwise all we have is……CUSU……

        • Ben Towse

          We *are* involved. The report from the Cambridge delegates to NUS last year makes it clear how we cannot hope to change the NUS from within. The democratic structures members are supposed to use to control the NUS are messy, atrophied and ultimately ignored by the executive (by their own admission – the likely next president who is currently in the exec *told* Mark Fletcher (last year's CUSU President) that he doesn't listen to Conference.

          • kenneth

            jesuslovesyou, you're an idiot. you clearly know nothing about politics. this disaffilation is being backed mostly by left-wingers.

            the tab hasnt even stated its views on the vote. this is a preliminary fucking vote, lets see if it actually makes it to being a campus-wide vote. and the tab mentioned the discounts anyway. it's not a fucking blog, its a newspaper

            the fact that you've resorted to talking about schools shows how sad and status-obssessed you are.

  • J Dunne

    Disaffiliation from the NUS is a positive step. The organisation has been failing for many years because it has become too close to Labour. Wes Streeting, the President, is so blatantly pro-Labour (just check out his Twitter account) that he won't stand up for students when they need it most. And they can't even run a sustainable budget (making massive losses year on year), so they now CHARGE students for an NUS card. This means students pay TWICE because CUSU already pays an affiliation fee. Students get no value from NUS affiliation. We should ditch them now

  • Ben

    £9000 is a drop in the ocean, disaffiliation would be petulent grandstanding. How the fuck will we have more influence without the support of at least some kind of national student union? I'm voting with Tom tonight.

    • Ben Towse

      Not for CUSU, which is quite a cash-strapped union. £9000 is almost double what we spend on all the autonomous campaigns at one. It's over half a sabb's salary.

      This money could be put to any number of better uses, from funding the ethical affairs sabb students voted to get last year, to improving welfare provision (e.g. we might choose to reduce the cost of CUSU condoms), to getting our voice out directly (rather than failing to do it via an NUS leadership which ignores the opinions at our level and just says whatever it likes), or simply giving the money back to JCRs and MCRs (which could always democratically choose to affiliate individually – in fact they would have proportionately more power within the NUS this way!)

  • David

    Where precisely does this national voice come in? The NUS hasn't managed to affect any of the major issues for students over the past few years: top-up fees, points based immigration, the minimum wage, interest on student loans, the generally awful student loans company, university closures, the cuts in apprenticeships, the presentation of young people as criminals, the resistance of FE colleges to unionisation, cuts in adult education etc. etc.

    And now they've thrown their all behind an absurd campaign to monitor and control student drinking.

    Good luck getting any influence in the NUS: its structures are so complex that there is basically no way for any individual not on the NEC to influence the organisation whatsoever.

  • Will

    Herrmann – I agree with Jesus loves you: there is a definite anti-Chigbo/NUS bias to this article. But something else annoys me more.

    If, as you say, only 4% of Cambridge students bother to sign up for an NUS card, and only 0.5% show up for Tom Chigbo's campaigns, why are you running this tiresome feature as your main headline? The way in which you've spun the statistics suggests that nobody will or should care about the outcome of this vote. I can't understand why, as editor, you've opted to write such a self-trivialising article. Show some discernment – I assume that the Tab aims for more than 4% representation of the interests of Cambridge students …

    • tabeditor

      Will Johnston,

      No anti-Chigbo bias is intended – he is quoted three times in fact. Neither I, nor anyone at The Tab, is closely involved in CUSU politics. I think it's a good story so I ran it.

      As for your concerns about our readership I wouldn't worry yourself too much. It goes without saying that your logic is laughable – why would those interested in paying £10 for a NUS card be the only ones interested in an article about a key vote at CUSU?!. A quick look at our readership figures for this story confirms this!

      If we're struggling for readers we'll give you a call for some editorial advice – at the moment I'd say we're doing just about ok!

      • King JF

        If you think there is no anti-Chigbo bias you need to read your piece again. It is totally one-sided. That's fine-The Tab is no longer about Totty-it's The Tory Tab! Ben Towse claims to be 'well left of centre'-yet wishes to withdraw from the only national student campaigning body that could conceivably deliver collective action. The NUS maybe imperfect but it does have democratic structures and can be changed. The anti NUS lobby wants a sherry drinking group of Russell Group uni students and what will that ever achieve-softer bog paper maybe…And what does Towse offer instead of the NUS…cheaper condoms…so if you're looking to get rogered on the cheap Towse is your man!

        • Rahul

          In fairness, while £9000pa sounds like quite a lot, it's just 46p per student. And, frankly, although the NUS doesn't have a great record of having our voice heard in government, it's hardly likely that CUSU standing alone (or possibly with Imperial or the other couple of disaffiliated Unions) will have much more success. The NUS does provide some useful services, and as Tom said tonight, they also provide informal guidance and help to sabbs– the current team clearly appreciate their help.

          The other thing to consider is that, for the sake of argument, if we withdrew from the NUS, it's not as if it would save CUSU or Cambridge students much money. Chances are that CUSU, no longer bound to pay the NUS affiliation fee, would reduce its own affiliation fee– this would not mean that individual JCRs had more money to play around with, but rather that their colleges would simply give them less money.

          • Grayden Webb

            A few quick answers:

            If you had been to conference last year, you would realise we have no democratic voice inside the NUS due to the factions. By leaving, we would actually gain more power. The NUS has done more things which have negatively impacted this university than things with positive impact. Raising the issue of cheap drinks in student bars led to Cambridge bursars putting pressure on JCRs. Without the NUS, Cambridge colleges might not have lost their 'exempt charity' status. Without the NUS driving myths about Oxbridge access, Cambridge would have more success with its access schemes. The NUS is failing to make its opinions heard, but its opinions don't even line up with students' opinions.

            Even if disaffiliation went disasterously wrong, I'd rather have no voice than a wrong voice and we'd still save the £9,000.

          • Grayden Webb

            You claim that the current sabb team clearly appreciate their help, but at Council last night only one of them stood up to defend the NUS. It looked at one point as if there wasn't even a second person in the room after Tom Chigbo who supported the motion. The last two years' sabb teams completely disagree and saw the NUS as a waste of time and money. Don't forget that a lot of the President's job is taken dealing with the NUS, when he or she could be fighting for our issues in Cambridge. Mark Fletcher, who spent two years dealing with the NUS (as opposed to Tom's 6 months), has publicly supported our campaign to disaffiliate. There's no way you can say that CUSU sabbs support the NUS.

          • Grayden Webb

            The fact that you think the CUSU affiliation fee would be reduced shows that you have no idea how CUSU's finances work. CUSU's budget is extremely tight and does amazingly well with little resources. There are many possible long-term uses for the money, such as a Caseworker, and also many short-term uses, such as a greater Welfare budget to run events to reduce stress. CUSU could also be able to put on more training for JCR officers. It will ultimately be up to Council to decide, but CUSU is desperate for money and is not going to blow the money on unimportant things.

        • Ben Towse

          Leftists have just as much reason to be disappointed with the NUS as right-wingers. We can agree on disaffiliation and then have what is really the more important debate – where do we go next and what do we do with the resources. Welfare and other CUSU services is just one possibility (even marginally cheaper condoms WOULD be more worthwhile than Wes bloody Streeting). My personal perspective is that I want to see bold, effective campaigning for university funding, against course closures and job cuts and against fees. The NUS isn't capable of producing the goods, and you're wrong that it can be changed from within. Conference is farcical, it's 90% stitched up, and anything that does get through the leadership doesn't like, they'll ignore. In recent times, a CUSU sabb was publicly called a liar by the NUS treasurer, who was busy trying airbrush out of history a policy (to keep discount cards free) that was introduced by Cambridge and that he disliked and had broken.

          This leadership's grip on the NUS is now fully consolidated. It's time to face facts – we've lost the battle to fix the organisation, and need to seek alternative ways of being heard. We can more effectively speak and organise with other students outside of it.

          Though I did get a kick out of both the idea of myself as a sherry-swilling tory, and the rogering thing.

        • Grayden Webb

          I wasn't planning to join this debate, but I am shocked at what I'm hearing. Ben and I feel that by disaffiliating we will have a greater voice nationally. If you believe the NUS is able to deliver collective action, perhaps you should go to NUS conference. The factions within NUS are too busy fighting amongst themselves to act collectively and the democratic structures don't work. For example, when the government proposed the introduction of minimum alcohol prices nationally, the wannabe politicians in the NUS mimicked it with their own policy to raise student bar prices. I am yet to find a student outside of the conference hall who thinks that was a good idea.

          Finally to accuse Ben of being a Tory is horrendously naive. This campaign has got support from all sides, with people aligning themselves to Education Not For Sale (a left wing organisation), Lib Dems, Conservatives and even Labour. David Lowry and I are members of the Labour Party. This is not about party politics, it's about ensuring our opinions are heard on a national level.

  • Come On

    How can you say you represent the students when you aren't fighting for us over
    this issue! I voted against disaffiliating last year, so did 2897 other
    students. Just over 300 voted for it. Why does my vote sudddenly not count?

  • onlywentforthesweets

    If you want to talk about disaffiliating from a waste-of-space organisation, then JCRs disaffiliating from CUSU would be a step in the right direction. After spending a year as External Officer for my college JCR, I failed to see CUSU doing anything of worth that has had a positive impact on the student body. CUSU coucil is just a forum for sad people with too much time on their hands to bicker over pointless, petty student politics. They are undermined at JCR level, and truly are a waste of space.

  • Pingback: Confusion Reigns At CUSU « THE TAB – – All the latest Cambridge University news online()

  • ett

    does anyone care?

  • Fitz girl

    To be fair to CUSU, they had no choice as to when the town takeover was going to be. NUS organised the date without realising it was Thursday of Week 8, and CUSU couldn't do anything about it. Of course there was going to be a low turnout.
    NUS provide some really important services to Cambridge, including training to CUSU members such as the Access Officer and his team, to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds get the confidence and knowledge to apply to Cambridge.
    I think to no longer be part of the only true national student union would be a big mistake for Cambridge.

  • Ben Towse

    On the town takeover – well exactly. CUSU didn't mess up, NUS did. Actually I think the CUSU officers involved served us well – it's just another example of poor NUS campaigning. We'd be better off without.

    NUS do indeed supply some services to Cambridge. But none are worth the pricetag when you consider how else a cash-strapped union like ours could spend £9000. And in particular much of the sabb training actually costs extra on top and is (according to Tom Chigbo's report) too expensive for CUSU.

    It's misleading to refer to NUS as "the only true national student union" – *unions* fight to defend their members.

Heard something newsworthy?

By and on

The mafia is opening its ranks

The Tab is giving out free CV points.

By on

Review: Spilt Milk

Ridiculous, witty and funny, Sayana enjoyed her evening in Spilt Milk (although not literally, because that would be gross…).

By on

State of the Union: Charlotte Ivers wins presidential election

And by a landslide: 517, to Sachin Parathalingam’s 304 votes.

By , Chief Reporter on

Your gluten free diet is killing the wheat industry

Bread just makes me bloat

By , Contributing Editor on

All things considered, doing DofE Gold is quite weird

So many blisters

By on

London’s plubs are the best thing about UK nightlife right now

(It’s a pub and a club mixed together)

By , Contributing Editor on

We asked guys whether they prefer thongs or french knickers

The finer things in life

By , Chief Reporter on

How to get into a Boiler Room DJ set

There are a few options

By , Head of Marketing on

There’s just something about girls who DJ

They exude coolness