CUSU doesn’t need to be irrelevant

CUSU Presidential candidate JACK DRURY is here to tell you why.

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The real scandal is not that CUSU’s irrelevant because it has to be, but because it has so much potential that’s been squandered for too long.  Cambridge students deserve better, and this year you can vote for it.

If you’re one of the 85% of Cambridge students who don’t vote in CUSU elections, this article is for you. I want to persuade you that it’s worth spending a minute voting so I can spend a year sorting out CUSU.  There’s still hope!

To the 15% who do vote and are engaged, I just ask that you look at my manifesto and judge me on my policies. They’re Cambridge-focussed and achievable. Through the campaign, I’ll be publishing more details about my promises, and expanding on areas of my platform on my website and event page.

But back to the 85%. You don’t normally vote for very good reasons. CUSU has embarrassing satisfaction rates, and it’s impossible to see what difference it makes to our experiences of Cambridge. It’s very easy to believe that CUSU couldn’t ever achieve anything.  That, though, is a mistake; it’s a mistake to look at the ineffectiveness of recent years and say that CUSU itself is pointless.  CUSU has a wealth of resources that it could bring to bear on the University; senior University staff listen to CUSU, and the President has the time (and should have the expertise) to get stuff done.

The problem is that CUSU uses its influence in the wrong ways or just doesn’t use it at all.  This term, instead of being in your College being an expert presence for lower rent increases, CUSU has wailed and gnashed its teeth about the NSS.  Instead of assisting societies in securing external funding, it’s underestimated the cost of NUS affiliation by over 2000% – incompetence or alternative facts, that needs to stop.  And that needs to stop precisely because CUSU could make a difference if it tried.

CUSU needs to get behind Colleges.  As CUSU President, I’ll be in your College rent meetings, working to save you money: I’ve done it at Caius, and will do it again.  I’ll fight with JCRs and MCRs to get Colleges to implement mental health training for Porters, and in your Colleges helping JCRs develop sexual assault and harassment policies.  CUSU was never meant to be dictatorship from above; the work that matters is unglamorous admin and hours spent in front of Excel.

You could skim through the three manifestos and think this year brings more of the same.  For two of those candidates, I think you’d be bang on the money.  But that’s not true of me: I’m standing on real policies to make CUSU work.  Behind all of them is a personal commitment to work myself: as President, I’ll keep a transparent online diary detailing a 45 hour working week.  Perhaps this is most attractive as an exam-term procrastination resource, but I’m committed to making CUSU transparent and accountable.

Action on mental health is a necessity: I want to see a shift from awareness to action.  I’ll meet College Masters and Senior Tutors to guarantee mental health training for all Tutors and Porters.  It’s Porters who see lights on at 3am every day for weeks; they’re very often the first port of call, and it’s vital they know what they’re doing.  They need to know how to identify who needs help, and where that help can be had.  Many of us don’t get to choose whether or not mental health is a priority: I want to make action on it a priority for the University.

It’s ambitious, but I’m going to fight for Wednesday afternoons to be non-teaching times, so you can spend time outside of classes on yourself and things you enjoy: Sports, societies or self-care; it’s up to you.

CUSU should do much more for University Societies.  Oxford has a University-wide kit deal with Nike, which was the fruit of some clever central co-ordination.  I’ll develop a Uni-wide sports sponsorship bid by January 2018, and will support every University society with securing external funding and managing their accounts.

Third-years will know the struggle of ‘institution blind’ recruitment, where companies say they won’t take where your degree is from into account.  Our Cambridge degrees should count: I’ll put every pressure on the Careers Service to deal with recruiters who will value our Cambridge degrees.

It’s vital that CUSU’s influence is put behind those who most need it.  I’ve been speaking with people engaged in the Autonomous Campaigns who are disappointed with how CUSU supports and advocates for them.  I’ll set up an Advocacy Group to develop policy that I can take forward in University structures.

CUSU and the University have both been lethargic about a Class Lists Opt-Out.  Some of the best minds in the world are based here, and they can’t work out how to get a tick-box on CamSIS.  I want an Opt-Out, and if I have to spend May Week 2018 in Senate House with a Sharpie crossing off names, I will.

I believe that CUSU can be much more effective than it is and am prepared to work to make it so.  As Cambridge Students, we deserve better from our Union.