Cambridge should look after its students, not contribute to their problems
CUSU Presidential candidate KEIR MURISON talks about how we can make Cambridge better for everyone
The central theme of my policies is the desire to make Cambridge better for everyone – especially those who are most vulnerable.
I’ve seen first-hand how Cambridge can make life harder for students, and so much more could be done across the University to improve the student experience.
Supporting students who are struggling is obviously vital, but trying to prevent those problems from occurring in the first place is better. In many cases, student treatment varies greatly between colleges, just take the example of the Corpus guest policy. As both Student Minds President and a JCR Welfare officer, I came into contact with the amount of disparity between and within colleges themselves. Most students’ experiences are directly shaped by their interactions with DOSes, Tutors and Supervisors, and without guidelines for these roles, the experience of students living even 5 minutes away from each other can vastly differ.
Under my first area of policy – Equalise – I have three main areas in which I’d like to see a minimum standard of treatment assured across all colleges. Intermission is slowly changing thanks to the work of previous Sabbs but there is still far to go. Feeling dehumanised and unsupported is a common complaint of students throughout the process. Lobbying for a standard intermission policy across all colleges through the senior tutors committee, and not just relying on best practise sharing, is the next step in making intermission less of a struggle.
Student performance is always under scrutiny from teaching staff, perhaps understandably, but this can become problematic when the University attempts to deal with underperforming students in the wrong way. Stories of students being called into meetings with senior members of staff for getting below a 2.i and feeling shamed are commonplace. These kinds of meetings need to be reviewed and given a standard format to prevent this practise from becoming damaging to the students it is meant to support
Students feeling like they have to work no matter the consequences to make supervision deadlines, often at the expense of their own health or happiness, is an unacceptable norm. Training teaching staff to look out for signs of overwork and communicating with their students can be one of the first steps to tackling this problem. I pledge to work with the university and colleges so that they treat all students with respect and trust, no matter which college you go to.
Secondly, I want to pursue engagement. This won’t be an easy policy to implement and will need your help. My Engage policy isn’t just about making sure CUSU is representative of the student opinion, it’s about giving CUSU the evidence and negotiating power with the University based on the evidence we gather. This approach has already been shown to work with the latest intermission negotiations, but needs to be rolled out more comprehensively. Ultimately, when it comes to working with the University, in my experience what needs to be done is convincing them why a certain policy will help students to achieve their potential.
There are several parts of college life where I would like to see CUSU making improvements. Accommodation and rent systems vary greatly, each with pros and cons, assisting JCRs and finding a consensus about which system is most preferred, will again give some semblance of consistency. The short term length and huge work load are two major causes of stress and mental health issues for students, but there are consequences to changing these. Again consensus is important to find before deciding on the route to go down.
Ultimately, a CUSU under my leadership would be focused on finding out the issues which matter to students and continue my work on improving the student experience.
I believe I am the right candidate to improve the image of CUSU and change some of the archaic and damaging policies this University still holds onto.