CUSU Presidential candidate DAISY EYRE discusses what CUSU could look like under her leadership.
What will CUSU look like under my leadership? That is the most simple question that students want to know the answer to.
The fundamental aim and requirement of any students’ union is to provide proper representation by standing up for student voices and fighting for what really matters to them. If you vote for me as your President, I will reinvigorate a CUSU that puts real effort into engaging students – it will be our CUSU.
Let’s start with CUSU Council, one of the only current modes of outreach. I’ve attended CUSU Council for over a year, I know how it has functioned under both Amatey and Priscilla and I know how it will function with me as President: effectively, efficiently, and engagingly.
As long as I’ve attended, CUSU Council has been a bureaucratic space where formulaic papers are voted through by members. Under Priscilla, it was all too often a chaotic and hostile environment. Extreme lack of communication led to the crisis around the TCS budget, a crisis that could have been prevented by giving TCS the respect it is due, communicating clearly and allowing them the space to present creative solutions to their funding problems. Having spoken to the then TCS Editor-in-Chief, Amelia Oakley, I am in no doubt as to the toxic consequences of an ineffective CUSU, as she denounced council as ‘dense, inaccessible, and at times aggressive and intimidating’. I will not allow this to happen.
This year, the chaos has dissipated from Council, but the lack of engagement and communication persists. Not enough papers are being presented and there is only discussion if people disagree proposals. My vision for CUSU Council is a vibrant policy-making forum. By borrowing from the model of Presidents and Externals – a meeting which occurs before CUSU council – we can make Council a more proactive and collaborative form which can enact real change.
At Presidents and Externals, policy ideas are discussed collectively, and actively debated; listening this range of ideas allows us to draw upon the combined wisdom of students (including non-JCR members), and effect change which works for all. I want to hear from students, and I believe a well-chaired but democratically active CUSU Council is one way of doing this.
Part of re-engaging students is taking guidance from the broad spectrum of Cantabs about what matters to us and what we want to do about it. I want to create university-wide campaigns that tap into student potential in creative ways. Workload, for instance, is an issue that we all constantly complain about – the strength of feeling is clearly there.
In order to incite the university to act on this, we need not only solid solutions (such as supervisor training, as I propose in my manifesto) but leverage provided by students being on board, and part of the efforts of CUSU. The key here is focussing on issues that we really care about, and with my priorities of access, mental health and student workload, I tap into the areas of deep problems in Cambridge that truly worry students.
In my mind, student engagement does not start or finish in the CUSU Office. There is certainly a role for the internet, for posting frequent updates and sending solid and engaging weekly emails, but the real thing starts in college bars and brunches. Over the last 4 days I have been to Queens, Downing, Pembroke, St Edmunds, Kings, Trinity, Clare, Fitz and Medwards. It’s been a whirlwind and it has been really fun. My work day will not end at 5pm, and I will ensure I remain an approachable and active presence in Colleges and societies if you elect me.
My priorities will be attending JCR/MCR open meetings and Autonomous Campaign events, and I will also make an effort to get to those parts of student life that fall outside of my usual sphere (yes, if you thought you spied me in a first year engineering lecture on Monday you were right!) I will live in student accommodation (thank you Jesus (the college not the messiah)) and I will continue to actively engage in student life, remaining up-to-date with current student affairs. This accessibility is something CUSU has consistently failed on since I have been at Cambridge, but with me, this will change.
The Tab is an unusual place to present a detailed vision for CUSU engagement, but thank you those of you who have read this! I would like to finish with a word about what the role of CUSU President means. The CUSU President represents you at the University Level. This means two things – firstly, it means someone who is not afraid to stand up for students and fight against the status quo, and secondly, it means speaking with the voice of the students.
A President must listen and tap into student opinion – be approachable and really care about the concerns of each Cantab. Campaign promises are important, but the president must react to situations as they come. CUSU President is a leadership role, and as Jesus College SU President I proved I have these leadership skills, dealing with unexpected issues such as the Benin Bronze repatriation campaign and controversial (with Jesus staff) Caff Prices Video (shout out to Ron Mulvey – it’s a hilarious vid).
So, I implore you to vote for me for a president who listens to students and who places student happiness and welfare at the heart of every decision.