AMATEY DOKU: “I want to associate myself with the cool kids.”
We spoke to JCSU bigwig Amatey Doku, who is running for CUSU President.
What do you think CUSU could have done better over the past year?
Communicated what it’s about a bit more confidently and not being afraid to say – as I am saying going into this election – that actually for most students, on most issues, your JCR and your Faculty Reps are the most important. And then the question is where does CUSU fit within that and my campaign is about trying to say well CUSU’s role first and foremost should be about supporting JCRs in their colleges.
Do you have enemies?
I might do by the end of this election. None that I’m aware of which is probably quite worrying, actually. No, I don’t think I have any.
Thoughts on no-platforming?
It’s a really difficult issue. You have to look at these things on a case-by-case basis. However, I am someone who believes that at this university we should be thinking about the wider world and unfortunately you can’t no-platform people in the wider world and if you’re not equipped with the arguments to take people on then we’ve failed you at this institution.
I do take the view that in some contexts it’s wildly inappropriate to have some people coming to certain events – especially if that event is a celebration of the individual. But the example I always give is when Nick Griffin went on Question Time and it was completely brilliant because he was completely destroyed. And you saw people coming up against him and you saw his arguments fail. And that’s when you’ve won.
As a leader, would you associate more with Angela Merkel or Boris Johnson?
I’m going to say Angela Merkel, not because I associate myself with Angela Merkel but because I don’t associate myself at all with Boris Johnson.
What was the last time you drowned your sorrows in alcohol?
I’ve never actually drowned my sorrows in alcohol. I do drink alcohol from time to time – I didn’t actually before I came to Cambridge but the corrupting influences of this place have got to me. I’ve never got to the point where I’ve had to drown my sorrows but maybe at the end of this election campaign I might do.
Rhodes Must Fall. Yes or no?
It’s not a yes or no answer. And I think to present it as a yes or no answer is probably quite dangerous. It has to be a dialogue between the students of the college and them working together to find a solution.
If I was a voting member (Fellow) I would say that if we look at the reality – whether we think or not that it is the right thing to do – is that no BME students would want to apply to our college. As as a BME student I would definitely not apply to Oriel College, Oxford if I had to choose. But I’m wary of the fact that if they just simply got rid of it, in 30 years time nobody would have known that the college had colonialist origins.
I would like to see it perhaps taken down and contextualised and put in a room somewhere where they have a very detailed plaque explaining who he was, why he was problematic but definitely not removing him from the history books.
Fez, I think you’ve got to be quite cool to go to Fez and I want to associate myself with the cool kids. Definitely not Lola’s.
Would you try to influence the autonomous campaigns?
Not at all. I think influence is definitely the wrong word. We need to understand that the people who are in charge of those campaigns are the experts on the issues they are dealing with.
I do think it’s important they are talking to each other, I do think it’s important that they have a robust debate. I do think it’s important that both sides are seeing where they can help each other out.
If you were a college, where would you be in the Tompkins Table?
The Tompkins Table is on its way out but let’s say the Tompkins Table has no methodological deficiencies whatsoever and was absolutely an excellent marker of student intelligence. You’d want to be in the middle, definitely not the top. At the top it looks like you’re trying too hard and the bottom, well, there may be questions to be asked there. Certainly bang in the middle.
Would you ban the Tompkins Table?
Yes, definitely. It needs to go and it needs to be replaced with lots and lots of very complicated tables so we can’t come up with simplistic rankings of colleges in ways that are hugely damaging.
What’s the worst thing about Cambridge?
Saturdays in summer. Walking through town on a Saturday in Cambridge is the most horrendous thing. You can’t move. And I’m from London.
What’s the number one thing other people would say against you and what’s your reply?
People would say while I have been JCSU President, I have no experience working officially for CUSU. I don’t think that’s a problem. I think that everyone who’s involved in some level at student politics knows, if not exactly how CUSU runs, how it affects them.
I also think it’s quite a good thing to have a fresh pair of eyes when it comes to these things. Whilst I may not have experience working at CUSU, I certainly have experience working with CUSU over the last year and that, I think, gives me enough insight into really finding ways in which we can make real, positive, lasting changes.
What specific motions would you propose to CUSU Council as President?
The main idea I have is for a new Vice Presidents’ Council. At the moment, we have CUSU Council which meets every other week. It’s very much a case of CUSU saying “For the last two weeks this is what I’ve been working on, take it or leave it”.
So what I’m proposing is every term CUSU elects three JCR presidents to form CUSU Vice Presidents’ council and those are people who’ve been elected to be an immediate first port of call for those kinds of issues. For a term, your JCR president is right at the heart of decision-making and knows everything about CUSU.
If that goes through, this idea that CUSU and JCRs are completely separate things on two completely separate wavelengths will just disappear. Those people on Council will be responsible for the student view at that level. There aren’t really that many opportunities for JCR Presidents to influence CUSU in a structural way.