CUS-WHO?: Our Union Has A Problem. Nobody Cares

SIMRAN SINGH: “Tuesday’s hustings at Jesus were not meant to be a metaphor for this year’s elections but they might as well have been”.

council CUSU election executive

Voting for the new CUSU Executive has passed by this week in a wave of obscurity.

Tuesday’s hustings at Jesus were not meant to be a metaphor for this year’s elections but they might as well have been – a very small crowd of CUSU mandarins was waiting outside in the snow because someone had managed to set off the fire alarm, and couldn’t stop it.

The problem is that nobody in Cambridge seems to actually care about our student union. Not only is the voting crowd practically guaranteed to be a record low, but there aren’t even any people willing to be voted for!

Two posts in the election have no candidates at all, only three are contested, and that leaves a vast majority where there is just one person to vote for – hardly a ringing endorsement of student politics.

Even the presidential candidates, Rahul Mansigani and Becca Talmy, admitted that the level of interest is “disappointing” and leaves students with “no real choice” when quizzed by The Tab.

Overall we are picking from a pool of only 16 people (some of which are the same person, having stood for NUS delegate as well as another role). This compares to 31, 44, and 33 candidates standing for the same committee, give or take a few posts, in the last 3 years.

At Jesus’ hustings, once they finally got started, the officer in charge didn’t know who was running, so couldn’t actually announce the candidates to us.  Later on, some sportsmen started thumping workout music from the next room – to no real loss, because by then there were less than 20 people present and, excluding The Tab’s contingent, everyone was either a CUSU candidate, a CUSU official or was required to be there by the Jesus JCR.

The CUSU presidential candidates speak to an emptying room on Tuesday night

To the candidates’ credit, those that actually turned up (CUSU rules say they only have to bother for just one quarter of all hustings) made passionate and clearly heartfelt speeches – although the degree to which some actually reflect student views is perhaps questionable.

Luke Hawksbee, running for education officer, thinks it is in the realms of possibility for hundreds of students to “boycott supervisions and lectures”, and both options for the Women’s Officer are convinced Cambridge is “institutionally sexist”, and all tutors need to be forced to go to training to fix it.

It is of course important for us to be well represented, all the more so here where the inherent power of the student and the student union is far lower than at most Universities in the country. So hard fought elections between with decent candidates are a must, and we should all be willing to cast our vote.

Why then is our concern for who becomes our joint voice in the university so low? I certainly think, along with others, that we have it pretty good. Most of us are here because we want to be, it will almost all the time have been our first choice, and we know we are lucky to be here. To varying extents, we would also quite like to graduate with a good degree.

We are pretty well looked after – rents and other costs are very competitive, even compared to universities where you don’t get to be put up in a 16th-century listed building, and what’s more for the few welfare issues that some of us have from time to time, the colleges provide the majority of the support.

In Emma this year, there were more candidates in the JCR election than there is in the CUSU election across the 31 colleges.The average Cambridge student is a lot more bothered by the price of the bar, quality of formal and the regularity of bops than the University-wide functions and hardcore campaigning that CUSU these days stands for.

Today we all have our final chance to vote for next year's CUSU Executive. But you probably won't do so because you probably don't really care.