JOHN SIME: “Boris Johnson’s a lad.”
We interviewed the Emma mathmo running for CUSU prez. He likes free speech.
The Tab has interviewed all five candidates for CUSU President.
If there’s one thing you could do during your presidency, what would it be?
Greater student participation by holding events regularly – other student unions do this far more regularly. As a step in that direction, I’d hold large music concerts which would be run like May Balls currently. It would be similar acts to what they have at May Balls. This would allow for inter-college mingling, which is something that is sorely lacking in Cambridge.
What do you think CUSU could have done better over the past year?
With respect to the “drug ring” scandal, if you can phrase that in a way that isn’t libellous, well that brought up quite a fundamental problem with the way that CUSU is organised with relation to the autonomous. Which is that because they’re both autonomous and affiliated, the autonomous bit means that they can do as they wish, which is fine. But because they’re affiliated and they hold the CUSU name, CUSU gets quite a lot of flack for it. And people can’t hold them responsible for the action they’ve done.
So the solution for that is quite simple. It’s that these campaigns either choose to be autonomous and have those benefits and have the CUSU name but not be autonomous. It can’t be both ways. This was raised at the CUSU meeting I went to. When this was raised by the President, it was immediately challenged and essentially nothing got done, which is quite disappointing. It needs to be done, and there is no logical alternative to that.
There is also a lack of accountability on the part of CUSU – not being able to get hold of them. It’s a serious problem.
Do you have enemies?
None that have announced themselves.
Thoughts on no platforming?
I am probably the person who is most against that you will ever meet. So with the things that have happened to Cambridge, you have speakers like Germaine Greer, Nigel Farage and Tim Hunt, they’ve had all these no platforming campaigns done against them. They’re always done by a small number of politically active students and they don’t represent the vast majority of students here. I personally believe everyone here should have the opportunity to be able to engage with these speakers – challenge them … I guess there is a line to be drawn with respect to someone who advocated illegal activity. No one wants Hitler holding a rally in Cambridge.
As for what I’d do about it. I’d go so far as to hold alternate venues for events that have a speaker cancelled with the same event description inviting all the other speakers that were invited to the original.
As a leader, would you associate more with Angela Merkel or Boris Johnson?
Boris Johnson’s a lad.
What was the last time you drowned your sorrows in alcohol?
Rhodes Must Fall. Yes or no?
The recent burning of art that was done, the thing that it reminded me of was the book burning in Germany in the 40s and 30s. Obviously, the racial aspect to the debate cannot be ignored, but the way it’s been conducted has been quite disappointing.
Now this is controversial. Q Club. It’s on the edge of town. It’s quite an alternate club, but they host really good 80s and 90s nights.
Would you try to influence the autonomous campaigns?
Only the ones that chose to become affiliated. And obviously that’s a decision that they have to make on their own terms. You don’t want to lead them to a decision and have them feel like they’ve been misled.
If you were a college, where would you be in the Tompkins Table?
I’d be the college that was removed from the Tompkins Table for questioning its methods.
Would you ban the Tompkins Table?
No. It has every right to exist.
What’s the worst thing about Cambridge?
The working atmosphere. It’s a very stressful environment to be in. When the work piles up, it does feel quite terrible. But it’s also the best because you do feel like you’re doing something. What you’re working for is worth it.
What’s the number one thing other people would say against you and what’s your reply?
Number one thing would be to go at the angle of attacking my lack of experience, because I haven’t held a position on the JCR. To which my response would be, over the last five years, CUSU has elected pretty much the same people. It feels as an outsider that’s nothing been done and nothing’s changed. And this is an opportunity for students to vote for someone who would deliver that change.
The real issue that CUSU has and it perhaps hasn’t been addressing in recent years is the low satisfaction rate. It hasn’t been addressing. My manifesto has been designed solely to address. That would involve CUSU holding events that are big enough and will draw interaction from students, allow for mingling between colleges, which currently isn’t that prominent.
What specific motions would you propose to CUSU Council as President?
So quite early on in the meeting it was raised how CUSU sabbatical officers were under a heavy burden with regard to work, during which the President was saying she’d been contacted at unfavorable hours. Later in the meeting, The Tab representative pointed out that the President had gotten in contact via email and over Facebook – which she had said was a legitimate way of contacting – and they had held on the story waiting for comment, and whether it was reasonable for her to mislead students in the way she did earlier in the meeting. At this point, the chair of the meeting invoked the safe space policy and offered the President the chance to decline to comment, an opportunity which she took.
At the time, this felt outrageous. The safe space policy serves a legitimate purpose which is, as far as I’m aware, to aid sufferers from PTSD with an opportunity to have their condition ameliorated. And seeing this quite important safe space policy being abused in such a fashion was, as I said, outrageous. So this highlighted to me the fact that the policies put in place by CUSU need to come into review to avoid opportunities for people in positions of power not to be held accountable for their actions.
That would be where I start. As I start, my main priority would be addressing the indifference that people feel to CUSU.