CUSU — Who Are You?

Cärlchen Jupp warns against voting for yet another “van Rompuy” candidate in this week’s CUSU elections.

CUSU CUSU Elections democracy nigel farage student politics Van Rompuy

CUSU is not an interesting subject.

Most people don’t care; in fact, most people don’t even know we have a Students’
Union. Which we don’t, of course; but the problem is, the university thinks that
we do.

What we have is, unfortunately, the university equivalent of the EU’s worst
facets – faceless, pointless, process-obsessed, in many cases ridiculous (how
often must we hear that things are exciting – appraisal, meetings, the chance
to reform a council that NOBODY knows about), bureaucratic silliness, with
an inordinate amount of power and influence, run by a self-serving elite of
nonsense-mongers, consistently and impressively misrepresenting the view
of real students, through self-interest and, frankly, a massive dollop of sheer
incompetence.

But you’ve heard this all before, doubtless from me. And at this point many will
switch off, because at heart the organisation is irrelevant and if you ignore it,
then it will leave you alone, and you’ll not be affected by its rubbish. Except that
you’re mistaken – because they have a lot more influence than they let on.

The university shows an inordinate amount of respect to CUSU – they see it as
the single mouthpiece of the student body, and because of that, it has seats on
almost all the major decision making bodies of the university. Frankly, the JCRs
are ignored, which is utterly ridiculous to any normal member of the university
– as one of our first years said the other day, “we have a students union? Isn’t
that the JCR?” JCRs aren’t perfect – but they are at least in touch with students,
and their Presidents don’t swan off for a year’s paid leave to ‘represent students’
(apart from at Homerton, apparently, but I don’t know where that is or whether
it really exists – I’m 90% sure it’s entirely in the imagination of the Education
Faculty).

And CUSU (and the GU, though their unbelievable incompetence has led to their
complete irrelevance) aren’t happy to stop at having representation – they
have successfully removed it from ordinary students. No more are seats to the
University Council open to the whole student body – CUSU and the GU have
successfully taken two of them automatically for themselves (and candidates this
year show they want the third as well). Which would be ok if they were really
representing us – but we all know they just don’t.

Which was brilliantly shown in their submission of the ‘student experience’
report to the quality assessor of universities – a report that was submitted
late, having had absolutely no scrutiny by JCRs or indeed the student body as a
whole. It reads as a personal manifesto of the CUSU officers, and has absolutely
nothing in common with the standard student experience. It was hushed up, of
course, so I doubt you’ve heard of it; but it is the definitive view of students to
the university, and to outside assessors. The government of China wouldn’t get
away with this shit.

But us moaning about the crap-artistry of it all isn’t enough. And this is the time
of year to actually do something about it. This year there are actually some good,
non-CUSUoid candidates who might turn this pointless tanker around. I’d rather
watch paint dry for the rest of time than be a sabb, but there seems to be a will to slim it down, cut the crap, listen to people, and be a bit more reactive to JCR opinion – and perhaps we should finally give modernisers a chance, rather than the normal van Rompuy candidates.

Nigel Farage might not be the best political hero, but his words on the EU
President could easily sum up the standard CUSU officer – “Who are you? Nobody
knows who you are. You have all the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low grade bank clerk.” Not to mention the pay packet – more than most PhD
students. It’s not good enough, and it needs to change.

So let’s get some balls and elect the most sensible candidates who might rock the
foundations of this ludicrous organisation, and just maybe, this is the year that
we can elect a Student Union sabbatical team that is made up of students, and
not a bunch of faceless Belgian-oids.