Confusion Reigns At CUSU

A key meeting of the CUSU Council broke up in confusion on Tuesday night.

A key meeting of the CUSU Council broke up in confusion on Tuesday night.

Disagreements among CUSU staff meant that a vote that was supposed to decide whether Cambridge should end links with the National Union of Students (NUS) didn’t even happen.

Instead the Council, made up of college representatives, voted for a campus-wide referendum on the issue, the legitimacy of which is now mired in legal controversy.

On Monday The Tab exclusively reported the divisions inside CUSU over the issue of its membership of the NUS.

Now these divisions will play out in public as opponents of NUS affiliation, led by Ben Towse of Churchill JCR, try to persuade the student body of their case.

President Tom Chigbo spoke in suport of staying affiliated with the NUS but the organisation's secretary Josh Marks, who was supposed to be speaking in favour of the motion, floundered into a condemnation of CUSU's own procedures.

Marks said: "We've heard all about the lack of democracy in the NUS but there is a remarkable lack of democracy in CUSU".

He continued: "I was elected unopposed, as were the vast majority of my colleagues. We should be careful about making these criticisms of the NUS and think about how those claims reflect on us."

Towse, who has led the opposition to re-affiliation and spoke exclusively to The Tab on Monday, told the meeting that "NUS is not an alliance of student unions working together. It's alliance of student unions lending their legitimacy to an elitist group of new-labourites who really don't care what their constituents think."

Chigbo failed to persuade the Council to vote immediately in favour of renewing CUSU's affilication with the NUS.

Instead the meeting descended into chaos as councillors struggled to agree on the details of the CUSU constitution.

The panicking Chigbo, known affectionately among friends as Chigbo Selecta', rushed around the meeting’s venue at King’s seeking advice from different sources as confusion reigned over what should happen next.

In the past students have voted annually on NUS affiliation, despite the votes never actually counting due to too few votes being cast.

Tonight’s meeting was intended to overcome this stalemate, allowing the Council to decide the issue.

But the council’s indecision now means that the student body’s patience will again be tested and their money again spent on organising a ballot which one insider estimates will cost hundreds of pounds.

The CUSU constitution requires that the ballot take place by 9 February. It is not yet known what will happen if the referendum, as has always been the case in the past, does not achieve the necessary quorum of 2000 votes.

After the meeting Chigbo refused to give his reaction to The Tab, preferring to post his reaction on Twitter where he has 267 followers.

  • Ben Towse

    Should be noted that, while I'm flattered, I'm not the "leader" of this campaign. I'm one of a number of people trying to coordinate our efforts to get the word out and facilitate the full debate that Cambridge deserves on the matter. This campaign is not about any one individual or their particular take on student politics and a diverse bunch of students will be voting NO to the NUS, from diehard tories to the far left – we simply agree that the NUS is failing us, and we have little hope of changing it from within.

    For more info on the failures of NUS and why we need to cut it loose now, see… and invite all your friends. If you want to lend a hand to the campaign, please contact one of that fb group's admins!

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