What is the point of CUSU?
CHARLIE DOWELL: Week 7
A difficult question.
Under the heading “What we do!” on their pastel shaded webpage (cusu.co.uk not .org) it states “We represent you to the University as well as offering a whole host of services”. In more simple terms this can be shortened to admin and campaigns: they provide you with a voice and condoms. However for most of us, me included, CUSU has an auxiliary function, one that has in recent years come to be its primary role. It is not, as some of those inhabitants under the Large Examination Hall may suggest, being revolutionary, or keeping Cambridge STD free since 03. No, CUSU’s main function now is to have the piss taken out of it.
This raison d’etre is no bad thing; think of UKIP, without it Radio Four comedy would be a more barren place. However, is being the butt of jokes a good enough reason for CUSU to continue?
The best place to start this analysis is with their statement “We represent you to the University”. This may be administratively correct, however given the poor selection of candidates there normally are (last year only one for president) it is hardly surprising I feel myself, like others, are not adequately represented by someone we can relate to. The normal pitiful pool of candidates that often transcribes to the sincere, poor sense of humour, new age puritan righteousness of student politics is hilarious, with most of the manifestos looking like poorly constructed profiles on dating websites rather than attempts to persuade me to vote, let alone for them. I can imagine dropping an off hand right wing joke in conversation with one of them and standing back as a Vesuvius of built up socialism erupts in my face.
Taking the piss out of these people has in many a conversation sent ripples of laughter around my friends; a nice contribution from the sabbatical officers to me indeed. But as fun as it is to make jokes at the expense of this student political elite, their alienation does have consequences: you need look no further than the reputation of intimidation and in-fighting at the CUSU Women’s Campaign. Perhaps this aspect of CUSU should be changed rather than mocked, given we want to have a voice that has the confidence to talk to people who will listen.
The other aspect of CUSU that is openly lampooned is their supposed irrelevance. In my time here I could not name a single thing that CUSU has done to benefit me. There they are sitting in their centrally heated offices with their very generous sabbatical pay, seemingly doing little to fight my cause, whatever my cause may be. They appear to be bureaucratic viruses simply making more and more admin, organising campaigns that fall as flat as a suggestion to go to Fez on a Wednesday.
It is fun to have a poke at the protests that no one goes to, or their poorly attended events. For anyone, their incompetence can provide a few light laughs in an otherwise uneventful week. This function is useful and I commend previous CUSU committees for providing so much material over the years, but at the same time it grows stale.
Making CUSU uncool and criticising it at every turn may be hilarious, especially given their responses – but it is foolish not to engage in an important issue just because it is CUSU who organises the event or campaign. Perhaps giving them a chance may be what they need to gain more competence and respect.
At this CUSU election it comes down to a choice: do you want the fun to continue and revel in satire and rib jabbing, or do you want to give CUSU a change.
For me this is a difficult decision to make, but in truth it shouldn’t be.