LIVEBLOG: CUSU Council NUS Reckoning

The NUS Referendum and the fate of TCS are about to be decided

antisemitism Cambridge Cambridge University CUSU CUSU Council disaffiliation Malia Bouattia mensah NUS politics Priscilla safe space Student Student Activism

We’re live (and shaking with anticipation/fear) at CUSU Council. Stay tuned for all the exciting updates. If you’re completely lost as to why so many people suddenly care about the normally irrelevant CUSU, it’s because NUS: Let Cambridge Decide has put forward a motion for a referendum to disaffiliate from the NUS. The future of TCS is also due to be decided, with calls for CUSU Council to vote down the budget which cuts funding to the print version of TCS.

01.50 That’s a somewhat belated wrap (the meeting ended after the passage of the NUS motion). We should just add that the TCS/budget vote has been delayed until 16th May due to lack of time and everyone in the room being exhausted.


Priscilla can’t resist one last dig at Jack May as she closes the meeting “Mental and emotional wellbeing of the officers … and our staff … Please take that seriously”.

23.31 We’ve been having technical difficulties. We’ll try and update you on what has been missed.

THEY’VE SPLIT THE MOTION INTO TWO VOTES The two parts of the motion are as follows: 1. CUSU Council sends the NUS a letter encouraging action on Anti-Semitism 2. Referendum

Adam Crafton “I am furious that they have separated the letter of condemnation from the motion for a referendum”

23.18 Definitely spoke too soon. No vote yet. There is more debate over the wording of the motion – questions raised about the timing of the referendum (at the beginning of the exam period).

23.18 A vote on whether or not to allow more discussion or have an immediate vote passes overwhelmingly.


23.15 There have been a number of questions about the term “Zionism” and whether it is anti-Semitic.

Anna says “Malia has defined Zionism in a political way”.

Xavier Bisits, in a question from the floor, “An antisemite would not admit to being an antisemite”

23.12 Conor Macdonald says “The NUS is a factional organisation. It was Malia’s faction who voted not to have a Jewish student on the ARAF committee”

ARAF is the Anti-Racism, Anti-Fascism committee at the NUS. The original post at 23.12 said the ‘Arab committee’. This was a mistake and was entirely down to tired journalists mishearing what was said. The Tab wholeheartedly apologises for the error.

23.11 Anna admits”I do agree this has some worrying overtones of anti-Semitism.” Laughs from the audience.

23.09 This was not our grand plan.

23.07 Em Travis clarifies.

23.05 Ex-PalSox President Anna Khalfaoui from Trinity College, is speaking to oppose the motion. She also spoke at the Trinity JCR Open Meeting to oppose the referendum. She believes that Malia has NOT made any anti-semitic remarks.

It would be “problematic” to pass a motion like this. “These are allegations and they need to remain allegations, until the referendum at least.” The entire motion is about the Malia – “from the beginning to the end”.

She disputes that the Zionist outpost remark was anti-semitic and suggests that Malia has been selectively quoted.

For those playing our CUSU Council drinking game, there are so many opportunities to drink here.

23.02 13115649_10154207068548836_735984893_n22.57 CLAPPING HAS BEEN BANNED “because it’s difficult for people to hear.”

#freedomisdead #millwouldbeashamed

22:55 Amendment is proposed “to mandate the CUSU Sabbatical Team to write a letter to NUS, encouraging action to be taken on the concerns of anti-Semitism within the organisation.”

There’s a lot of cavilling going on right now. We’re gradually losing patience. Are you losing patience? Please stay and justify our existence right now.



22:50 Various amendments have been mooted – including one to have a referendum on affiliation every three years.

22.47 Jack Lewy “CUSU Council this evening has been chaired very poorly – gives the feel of a chat between Sab officers with the occasional student interlude”

22.44 Tab commenters giving their thoughts on that tweet.

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 22.44.24

22.42 Crafton ‘The most important thing is to make it clear that re-affiliation is possible’

22.39 Please message in and let us know which sports you think should be in an ‘Oppression Olympics’.

22.38 The Amendment has passed. There will be no gag rule.

22.36 Your current live blogger is Joseph Spencer, and this is what I think about that tweet:

“***** ***** ****”

22.33 Womcam Committee member Em Travis has posted this tweet. This isn’t an oppression olympics apparently.

I’m going to try and get comment from Crafton.

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 22.34.01

22.30 Mark Driver of the Robinson MCR “You’re proposing a democratic motion but are restricting the democratic voice of the students with the most experience engaging with the NUS.”

22.28 Sabbatical officers remained neutral on the Disabled Officer Referendum in February.

Charlotte Chorley, CUSU’s Women’s Officer, suggests that the gag rule is ‘somewhat sinister’.

22.27 Jack May clarifies “we’re talking not about NUS delegates, but CUSU sabbatical officers, and that is because of the financial interest”

The financial interest element is in reference to the fact that CUSU benefits financially from NUS membership.

22.24 Priscilla says she believes she should have the right to speak about what the NUS has meant for her.

“As officers we have the closest relationship with the NUS. We saw firsthand the election and a lot of the policy that was passed. I believe that I should have the right to speak on that. I also believe I should have the right to speak as the first black woman to be President and this would keep me from speaking about what the black sabs movement has done for us and I believe I should have the right to speak on this”

Big applause for her.

22.23 Adam Crafton: “The initial reason for that clause was that Priscilla was at the time running for election as NUS VP for Education and we anticipated a conflict of interest”

22.21 Angus Satow is speaking against the mandating that CUSU sabbs stay neutral. Says it is an attempt to ‘gag’ the people with the most direct experience of the NUS.

22.20 And the proposed timeline.Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 22.17.57

22.19 The wording of the motionScreen Shot 2016-05-02 at 22.18.39

22.17  “It shouldn’t be a case of just the Jewish community having concerns … We should all respond.” Adam Crafton gets loud applause.

22.16 If 85% support from JSOC isn’t taken seriously, Adam says “I think we have a major problem

22.14 Crafton points out he does not claim Bouattia is antisemitic, but that she has used antisemitic tropes.

He says he finds offensive the idea (suggested to him in recent days) that he is opposed to a black muslim woman having power.

‘The bar for antisemitism seems to be set far higher than [prejudice against] any other minority’

22.12 Former Presidential Candidate Angus Satow is introducing a motion.

‘I don’t think she or the NUS is fundamentally anti-Semitic’

‘I think Malia has fundamentally failed to recognise the context of her use of the word Zionist, but I think it is a more complicated issue than the media would suggest’

22.11 Huge applause as Crafton finishes speaking.

22.09 Crafton is explaining at length the NUS approved definition of antisemitism, and he emphasises in particular as antisemitic the notion that Jews and Zionists are engaged in a conspiracy to manipulate the globe and global opinion.

‘Anti-semitism is not a historical artefact of the 1940s. This is a problem of our everyday lives.’ He mentions the fact that Jewish schools and synagogues presently require security guards to protect them from a very real threat of attack.

22.07 NUS referendum on! Adam Crafton and Jack May go to the front.

Adam Crafton: “When they ask me where I was when Leicester City won the league…” Laughter all round.

“This a motion for a referendum, not for disaffiliation. This is about giving people a choice”

22.06 They’re busy recapping the rules on procedural motions.

Just to be clear, the filibustering conspiracy theory is mere idle speculation from distressed and tired hacks (as far as we know).

22.04 Coffee and diet coke have arrived! It’s like a scene from a disaster movie when the relief arrives.

The meeting is reconvening as we enter the fourth hour.

21.53 Charlotte Ivers has just gone to get me a coffee. Thank goodness! Very kind.

We’re on our second break of the evening.


21.50 This is an official request from Tab writers to readers.

We need beer! We’re stuck in the Graduate Union building. A metaphorical airlift appreciated.

Are most motions and amendments so one-sided (in voting terms) because people are bored and want to move on? Is that a healthy way to run a democratic body?

21.49 Cheers Morwenna!


21.48 We’re now talking about the sabbatical officer contracts.

Cornelius Roemer goes again to speak. “If you look through, there are clauses in there that ask elected representatives to stay for four weeks after they’ve resigned, be line managed … I think that’s the wrong image of student representatives … They should be like government officials.” Thanks.

21.44 Abolishing CUSU Coordinator just passed overwhelmingly.

We’re going to have another break soon apparently.

21.44 Mark Driver – procedural hack (#drink, #seetherulesbelow) – says that he’s been involved with CUSU since before most of you matriculated. Yes, pops. “The roles need to change in terms of … what the role should constitute now in CUSU as it moves forward.”

21.42 Bit of a conspiracy theory here. Is the NUS issue being filibustered? Or perhaps the budget vote (which is coming last)?

It’s not clear at what point we’ll have to pack up and come back another day.

21.41 A loud scream of frustration from the street below interrupts and expresses precisely the mood of the press pack.

Unconfirmed reports it may have been famous man and Tab reporter Finn McRedmond.



21.38 In a DRAMATIC reversal of CUSU policy, Priscilla interrupts a speaker. #progress

The meeting is nearing the beginning of its fourth hour. The NUS hasn’t been mentioned at all.

21.37 Ex-Tab Editor: ‘”I am the only Coordinator in the entirety of the United Kingdom,” from Jemma Stewart. Class lists? Tick. Tompkins Table? Tick. IS THERE NO CAMBRIDGE TRADITION LEFT UNTOUCHED?’

21.35 Jemma ‘I want to use the two week handover so that all that is in my brain about what CUSU is and what it does can be disseminated’

 ‘I am the only Coordinator in the entire United Kingdom’. The room laughs. We’re all desperate for some comic relief.
The Tab team are increasingly certain that the pubs will all be shut by the time the NUS issue comes to be voted on. It took 3 hours to debate at Oxford.

21.34 Priscilla explains that the proposed budget has already allocated money to contract out some of the administrative work currently carried out by the Coordinator.

21.33 Angus Satow – another failed CUSU presidential candidate – speaks. He earlier withdrew a self-described “wrecking amendment” to the motion about CUSU coordinator. Asks how the work will get done without hiring a new person to do the job.

21.30  Cornelius is speaking against the scrapping of the Coordinator role (and against the officer who has held the role for two years running).

21.30 Cornelius Roemer opens his opposition to the administrative motion with: “Finally I’m allowed to speak.” Murmurs as he moves to the front of the room. Cornelius is widely known for losing in a bid to be CUSU President and being Priscilla’s arch-rival.

21.29 Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 21.19.36Thanks for the comments guys, keep ’em coming

21.28  Jemma Stewart argues for delaying the election of a new coordinator. Argues its duties should be moved onto the other staff and sabbaticals. Last year, a referendum on getting rid of the role and streamlining CUSU was rejected.

21.27 Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 21.19.19Good questions

21.25 We’ve moved on to the issue of whether or not the role of CUSU Co-ordinator should be abolished.

Currently held by Jemma Stewart, no-one ran for the role this year:

‘It is not in your interests to elect a representative for administrative duties, because they require little representative action. I sit on only 3 committees.’

21:21 Jack Lewy, currently featuring on Tab TV “This is like a really shit MUN conference.”

Priscilla said earlier “There is a difference between financial incompetence, financial crisis and financial difficulty.” VOTE NOW as to which you think describes CUSU best.

21.18 The ISoc Motion just passed despite a brief interruption from Cornelius Roemer: ‘The money does not evaporate once it is not spent. Why don’t we just spend it on TCS?’.

Jemma Stewart, CUSU Coordinator, says she doesn’t want to make this into an argument over whether we should fund TCS or the Islamic Society. A few claps.

21.17 Another Esteemed Ex-Editor speaks. 

21.15 While TCS and the budget were debate, we’ve not had a vote yet.

21.10 Tab Editor “The heat from my laptop is currently destroying all chance I have of having children”

WFH (Current Union Vice President): “Why democracy? Just why?”

21.08 Our Leader has spoken.


21.04 Burhan Ashraf, Treasurer of the Islamic Society, just spoke strongly in favour of a motion for aiding the Islamic Society with a venue for Friday prayers.

One representative is now questioning whether the motion to fund a prayer location for the Islamic Society should really be extended for three years.


21.02 Early days yet, but it seems we’ve found something on which we can all agree:


20:59 #Platformforcorn



20:55 The voting system involves raising cards. It’s a bit like an auction. An auction for the soul of TCS.

20:54: Anonymous JCR President as he raises his form to vote: “I feel like this is REAL power”.

20.50 AND WE’RE BACK. To celebrate the resumption of this ‘debate’, here’s The Tab’s scientifically constructed drinking game:

  • Drink whenever anyone says the words knee jerk reaction or otherwise undermines the intelligence of the electorate
  • Drink whenever anyone mentions free speech (twice if they say #freezepeach)
  • Drink whenever someone defines what makes a remark ‘anti-semitic’
  • Drink whenever two delegates from a college vote for different sides
  • Drink whenever your college delegates speak
  • Drink whenever someone mentions Jack May or no-platforms Jack May
  • Drink at all references to safe spaces (twice if a safe space is breached)
  • Drink whenever someone blames this all on the white middle-class men
  • Drink every time the word ‘problematic’ is used
  • Drink every time we’re told off for drinking
  • Drink when people roll their eyes at Cornelius
  • Drink when Mark Driver or Priscilla raise a procedural issue
  • Drink when someone breaches a CUSU orthodoxy and you can hear the shocked intake of breaths
  • Drink every time the Tab and TCS are brought up – Double shots for every mention of the staff-student protocol
  • Drink when people make snarky remarks about the tabloid media literally killing people
  • Drink every time a TCS person points ostentatiously at their stash
  • Drink every time someone points out that anti-zionism and anti-semitism aren’t the same thing
  • Drink every time Olly Hudson makes that face. You know the one.
  • Drink every time the word ‘institutionalised’ is said
  • Drink every time Jemma Stewart looks like she’d honestly rather be ANYWHERE else and yet for some reason she ran for a second year in the job
  • Drink every time Priscilla desperately tries to mask bullying behind a politically justified stance
  • Drink every time someone walks out to make a statement
  • Drink when Hitler or the Holocaust is inevitable brought into it – Down the glass if Leicester win the league during CUSU Council
  • Drink every time that people awkwardly go ‘urm’ and look down at their notes before saying a politically ‘problematic’ word or short phrase
  • Drink a bottle of communion wine if the catholic hegemony is mentioned
  • Drink if someone says “I’m not an anti-Semite, but …”
  • Drink if someone from CUSU points out that this campaign is largely spearheaded by people who work for The Tab
  • Drink if NUSxit is compared to Brexit
  • Down three drinks simultaneously when someone brings up Marx
  • Drink when Jack May jumps out of the CUSU window in despair
  • Drink every time a CUSU sabb reiterates that they are not in a state of financial crisis
  • Drink every time they tell us to stop drinking in an important meeting
  • Drink every time someone calls CUSU Council important
  • Drink for everyone who says “no i can’t on principle”
  • Drink every time democratically elected JCR representatives say they don’t have a mandate to vote on important issues

20:36 Okay, so we’re taking advantage of the break to summarise the highly undemocratic discussion that just took place. Highlights we missed:

  • Priscilla “That’s for Council to decide” about TCS. This is starting to sound a lot more like Star Wars by the second.
  • Half the room applauding Priscilla (we’re still working on the reason why). BIG MISTAKE as now the journalist corner at the back of the room knows they can clap.
  • Jack May interrupted twice by CUSU officers after Supreme Leader Priscilla made a point of aggressively asking Adam Crafton not to interrupt her earlier.
  • Jack May saying “Thanks for the mockery, that’s nice” in response to GM Mark discussing whether or not the Board had considered investing in TCS.
  • “really important arguments” – Priscilla addresses us like schoolchildren
  • Discussion of the need for autonomous campaign funding. We have no views on autonomous campaign funding. 

Here are some comments on the proceedings thus far:

  • Esteemed Editor “It’s fun to be in the same room as all the people about whom we write articles.”
  • Leyla Gumusdis, Incoming Union VP “In the 80s CUSU tried to merge with the Cambridge Union. This meeting is beginning to show me why – they really need better management.” The Union refused.
  • Esteemed Ex-Editor (James Wells) “Priscilla is ruling the room with an iron fist.”

20.32 A break has been announced. Thank goodness.

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 20.31.11

20.29 After Jack May finished speaking people began to applaud loudly to express their appreciation. Priscilla looked outraged.

The pro-CUSU side have made a mistake by clapping for Priscilla for another earlier comment, letting the hacks know that they can clap for the other side

20.28 There has just been clapping so that answers that question (whether clapping is allowed).

Jack May has just quoted at length from the Constitution. Does this Constitution mean we could ask for £20,000 from CUSU Council in order to continue the print edition for one year to make cost savings and turn things around…or am I barking up the wrong tree?

Earlier there was another question from Elsa Maisham:

How is not “financial crisis” if you’re cutting the print edition of a newspaper? Priscilla isn’t answering the question. Says she represents 22,000 students and the job is really hard.

20.25 Priscilla “It’s important to go back to the idea that we have proposed a budget. If you guys can provide room for manoeuvre” “You guys have made some really important arguments, and they were heard”

When a large group of students laughed she muttered “this is so not worth it” allegedly

20.24 Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 20.23.01We’re trying!

20.23 Elsa Maisham, last term’s TCS editor, says that TCS could survive by cutting down to a fortnightly edition, like Varsity did for a period. Claims that CUSU can’t say it’s not in financial crisis and at the same time claim that it is FORCED to do this. Priscilla claims that under-funding doesn’t necessarily imply “financial incompetence”.

20.20 I’m beginning to be worried that in complaining about all this we’re becoming a little one-sided. M’esteemed colleague says:

“We’re one-sided because the side of reason is one sided”

Another says “Before attending this meeting I thought that CUSU was fairly reasonable”.

I should just specify that a surprisingly large number of Tab hacks volunteered to come to this meeting. Perhaps illustrating how strongly people feel about TCS and the NUS.

20.19 Unattributed Tab BNOC says: “This is incredible. I’ve never seen something so undemocratic. Points are made and not responded too. CUSU is allowed to talk forever and doesn’t keep the discussion balanced.”

No comment.

20.18 “I did approach a member of CUSU staff who will *obviously* remain nameless” – Jack May speaks and the saccharine irony is palpable

20.17 There are loads of hands in the air. Goodness knows when we might move on to the NUS referendum issue.

20.13 In the interests of balance I should probably say that CUSU claim they don’t shut down opposing views.

20.12 Cambridge Union President and Tab BNOC #1 says that she is sceptical of the idea that TCS can’t make a profit, speaking from her experience with Union Termcards.

They’ve just cut her off because they think she was speaking for too long. Outrageous given the amount of waffle that’s gone on so far.

20.11 None of the Tab journalists here seem to know if we’re allowed to clap. So we probably just won’t.

20.10 “Our role is not to go out and get sponsorship to fund ourselves” That’s a CUSU figure talking, not TCS.

20.09 The Tab comments are fairly one-sided at the moment. Do let us know your thoughts.

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 20.08.56

20.08 Former Union Society President:  ‘I can’t imagine a CUS meeting where one side of the argument would be allowed to literally just keep talking, only allowing one comment from the opposition’.

20.07 This is tense. Carlsberg don’t live-blog student union council meetings, but if they did..

20.05 They have changed the topic to GetReal, the LGBT+ magazine.

Meanwhile the maker of CUSU Council Bingo is concerned that we appreciate his spelling errors are down to dyslexia.

20.03 Jemma Stewart, CUSU’s Coordinator, is arguing that CUSU had told TCS previously that it was loss-making. Lots of hands raised – tense moment when Jack May waved to Jemma.

20.02 Here’s CUSU Council Bingo as we’re already an hour in. It’s going well.


19.58 Jack May, former TCS editor and major agitator for the newspaper’s resurrection, is disputing Priscilla’s narrative. Claims they had raised problems with CUSU previously.

Priscilla responds “This is not about TCS having to be a profit making endeavour” Priscilla is not running a capitalist machine here, guys.

This council meeting is in itself TCS: Total Cambridge Shitstorm.

19.56 In a (very reasonable) question, Adam Crafton suggests a graduated period of transfer over to online rather than a drastic cut in the print run. When Priscilla attempts to argue that TCS had adequate notice of the cutting of the print run (from all reports, they didn’t), Crafton attempts a follow-up question.

Priscilla tells him off. “I won’t have you interrupt me when I’m speaking. I won’t have that.”

19.53 Our glorious Leader Priscilla Mensah is currently emphasising that constitutionally, “We have to produce a budget that breaks even. A break-even budget has to level out”. WOW. Stating the obvious once more.

Someone asks whether fresher publications are being printed on gold leaf. Another suggests we go back to the gold standard. A third notes the surprising resemblance to the Tea Party, with the emphasis on breaking even.

19.51 TCS has been called a “toxic area of income generation”. Cue gasps from the crowd. Usually, we’re the ones called toxic…

19.49 Mark is trying to explain why the print edition of TCS need to go – it is “sucking on its reserves”. He says: “That isn’t to say the value isn’t there.” The line of TCS journalists in front of us are groaning and moaning. We secretly sympathise.

Jack May Get Angry

19.46 GM currently complaining about the “public narrative of CUSU’s incompetence” which prevents CUSU getting investment. Everyone laughs and looks at The Tab . We can’t imagine why. We would never call CUSU incompetent. Never.


If you need an entire bullet point on how much you do, you’re trying too hard.


19.45 Tab #3 BNOC Oliver Mosley: “Disgusted to see CUSU referring to itself as ‘The Union’. There’s only one Union in this town buddy.”

19.43 We’ve already heard CUSU officials compared to both Lib Dems and Hufflepuffs. Several people have already gone to cigarette breaks.As far as I can tell this man is trying to bore us into not questioning him further (#conspiracytheory)

19.41 “You can’t negotiate on insurance costs.” They’re evidently using mistakenly.

19.40 We aren’t going to give a full blow-by-blow account of this fascinating talk. If you’re something of a masochist please feel free to read the minutes afterwards.

The only statement that’s got an audible reaction is “‘Anything involved in print is really tough.” Several people look very sceptical at this. The back of the room is a veritable who’s who of the Cambridge journalism scene.

19.38 “A budget has to cover for things going up and down”. In other news, the grass is still green.

They’re busy moaning about the fact they get less money than other university student unions. This might be because this is a collegiate university…

19.36 “Interest on our investments is near zero,” says General Manager Mark. Very impressive ability to buck the market.

19.35 We’re skeptical about the budget explanations.General Manager Mark McCormack is trying to talk a very tight line between seriously-we’re-not-in-crisis and seriously-we-don’t-have-enough-money.

19.34 It’s possibly a violation of the staff-student policy to mention that a staff member is summarising CUSU’s income with a series of graphs. Shit graphs.

In other (more exciting) news, our Esteemed Editor has managed to open his sushi box.


Will her fate be decided tonight?

19.30 The budget has been introduced and TCS’s future hangs in the balance. 

19.28 They’re announcing the start of their nationwide campaign for Giulio, which will include movements around the country and a petition to the UK Government. They encourage everyone to send letters to their MPs in support.

19.26 We’ve all been struggling to pay attention up to now but that has changed we’re now hearing  impassioned speeches from two of the Justice for Giulio Regeni campaign.

19.24 Spence here. We’re still working out way through the introductory formalities. I’m wondering when I might get a chance to gobble down the Sushi pot I’ve got in my bag.


NUS: Let Cambridge Decide leader Adam Crafton is in the room

NUS: Let Cambridge Decide leader Adam Crafton is in the room

19.19 Priscilla is telling us about her attempts to persuade College Bursars to eradicate affiliation fees. CUSU’s income stream is ‘precarious’, presumably because of the number of close disaffiliation votes in various colleges. Caius and Corpus have already disaffiliated.

19.16 We’ve begun with a discussion of the Safe-Space policy in CUSU Council (there’s about 150 people here), the Staff-Student protocol (students aren’t allowed to criticise CUSU staff, only Sabbatical Officers).

Now the order of items on the agenda is being discussed.