CUSU president Tom Chigbo has been reprimanded for breaking key election rules relating to the NUS referendum which opened today.
Tom Chigbo’s position as CUSU president is under threat today as voting opens in the referendum on Cambridge’s membership of the NUS.
The Tab understands that Chigbo has been heavily reprimanded by the organisation’s Coordinator Clare Tyson after being accused of seriously abusing his power in the referendum campaign.
Contrary to reports in The Cambridge Student that Chigbo is merely under investigation, The Tab can reveal that CUSU’s disciplinary processes have already found the president to have broken rules.
The focus now turns to whether his alleged breaches of his contract as a sabbatical officer will result in further action.
Chigbo’s abuses include:
-campaigning for the ‘YES’ campaign in his capacity as president.
-using CUSU facilities to produce campaign materials for the ‘YES’ campaign.
-using time when he is paid to work for CUSU to organise the ‘YES’ campaign.
One specific abuse was the inclusion of the president’s CUSU email on the bottom of posters campaigning for the ‘YES’ vote.
Since his initial reprimand, the part of the poster which said “Contact email@example.com to find out more” has been cropped out of Chigbo’s facebook profile photo and the one on the campaign’s page.
The original poster, copied from Chigbo's facebook page, before he cropped out the offending line
The rule-breaking was flagged up by a complaint from Grayden Webb, one of the ‘NO’ campaign’s leaders, whose email to Coordinator Tyson accused Chigbo of breaching his contract and the rules of the referendum.
Webb’s email claimed that “the fairness of the referendum has been permanently dented”.
Speaking to The Tab, Webb, who had not intended for his complaint to become public, said that “Tom has on numerous occasions ignored the wishes of CUSU Council, preferring to use his personal judgement rather than following the democratic processes of the organisation he leads”.
When contacted by The Tab last night, Chigbo claimed not to know anything about the rule-breaking. This is despite the fact that he had already denied the charges to The Cambridge Student.
He said: “I have not broken the referendum rules or breached the terms of my contract”, and went on to claim that the claims were "a desperate attempt to smear the 'Yes' campaign through personal attacks".
Chigbo’s outright denial will heap the pressure on him to resign with immediate effect if he is found to have breached his contract on top of the election abuses he has already been reprimanded for.
This incident is the latest in a catalogue of errors and mid-judgements from Chigbo, whose competence since taking office as president last year is mocked privately by senior figures at CUSU.
In December an investigation by The Tab uncovered serious weaknesses in CUSU’s system for administering contraception after packs of condoms were found to have been pierced – something which Chigbo ludicrously claimed had been done by manufacturer Durex.
And just a fortnight ago the CUSU president faced questions over his aptitude for the job after a chaotic Council meeting exposed his inability to understand basic tenets of his organisation’s constitution.
An anonymous Council member told The Tab that “since taking office Chigbo has behaved with a flagrant disregard for the rules.” He added “I am glad that he may finally be held to account for this kind of behaviour.”
Despite Chigbo’s breaches, the referendum on Cambride’s membership of the NUS opened without delay this morning.
Students have until Tuesday at mid-night to cast their vote on whether CUSU should disaffiliate from the NUS.
The referendum has gone ahead because the ongoing investigation into Chigbo’s conduct is taking place at a higher level – relating to potential breaches of his contract.
The ‘NO’ campaign has claimed that the NUS is undemocratic and that Cambridge should send a message by disaffiliating this week.
One of it’s leaders Ben Towse told The Tab that his campaign is “calling for disaffiliation in order to work with campaigning students and unions on other campuses to build a more resolute, effective and principled student voice outside the undemocratic, weak and discredited structures of the NUS” .
With regard to discount cards, Towse said: “It’s not enough that the NUS make us pay £10 for discounts that students once got for free. Now they are actively trying to stop students saving money without their “help”, by asking for informants to report on shops that give student discounts without insisting on presentation of an expensive NUS Extra card.”
The ‘YES’ campaign, whose sole public representative has been Tom Chigbo, has refused to speak to The Tab about the referendum.
On its Facebook page it argues that voting for continued affiliation will prevent Cambridge from shrinking into isolation.
Students can vote by visiting the CUSU voting website, clicking on 'voting online' and entering their Raven password.