LIVE BLOG: CUSU/GU Election Coverage
Another year, another twelve months of student representation…
Friday 9th March – ELECTION TIME
In a nail-biting live announcement the CUSU victors were announced this evening in the CUSU lounge.
7:35 Evie and Siyang hug it out as the election results are announced.
7:35 EVIE ASPINALL is announced as CUSu President-Elect for 2018.
7:34 Connor MacDonald is eliminated in the second round of voting .
7:33 It’s PRESIDENTIAL TIME.
7:32 Emrys Travis is announced as Disabled Students’ Officer-Elect.
7:31 Matt Kite is announced as Education Officer-Elect.
7:30 Claire Smith is announced as Women’s Officer-Elect.
7:28 Christine Pungong is announced as Welfare and Rights Officer-Elect.
7:25 Shadab Ahmed is announced as Access Officer-Elect.
7:23 Marcel Llavaro Pasquino is announced as University Councillor-Elect.
7:22 The powerpoint is BACK ONLINE.
7:20 GU Election result cannot be announced due to disciplinary proceedings against one of the candidates. CUSU can offer no further comment.
7:12 CABLE CRISIS: The whole CUSU machine is being brought to a halt by the absence of one crucial cable. UPDATE: The crisis has been resolved by the power of Sam Longton (whose birthday is today).
7:05 The atmosphere in the room is hotting up as the candidates mingle with spectators and hacks – hugs abound.
Friday 9th of March – Lunchtime
It’s that time of the year again. Some of you out there will have been eagerly anticipating this moment, planning your termly schedule around when you get the privileged chance to participate in some student democracy. Most of you though, no doubt, had no idea that this momentous occasion was going to happen so soon. So here’s the The Tab to give you the names you need to know, particularly the presidential candidates, and keep you updated with news on the campaign trail.
“By this point everyone will be dead. It’s been over a week since campaigning started and over that time the stress of the election and the constant scrutiny is exhausting. Spare a thought for the elections committee as well, they try and make everything fair and run the election as smoothly as possible. Someone will be ill, I had tonsillitis at this stage! No matter the outcome, every candidate was willing to give up a year of their lives to try and help cam students.” This analysis from Keir Murison, Presidential candidate from last year’s election.
Wednesday 8th of March – Evening
Last year’s CUSU presidential candidate, Keir Murison, gives his take on the electoral campaigning so far –
“This year seems to have evoked much more personal attack than previous years. Despite a lot of disagreement between Daisy, Jack and I, there was always a level of respect between us. I feel that this has been lacking, not only in the presidential race, but across some of the other positions up for grabs. Personal experience and background has been brought up quite a lot, and while they might be valuable, I feel that it has often detracted from policies and what actually matters. Endorsements also seem to be much more prevalent. Only [Jack] Drury really got societies involved but almost every candidate has got at least one society to back them. Tonight is the biggest canvasing opportunity of the night; Wednesday Cindies!”
Wednesday 7th of March – Lunchtime
Voting has been open for over 24 hours now and today is the second day. The vote closes on Friday 9th, and if you’re still unsure about who to assign a year of bureaucratic hell to, check out our round table of the presidential candidates to see where the battle lines have been drawn here.
The elections have had no shortage of drama, with the distinction between public and personal criticism being blurred. Candidates both have made complaints to the CUSU elections committee, and have had rulings made against them.
In particular, the ruling made against Oliver Black about his blog post, which Siyang Wei complained to the Committee about, have gained a lot of attention. Black has refused to take down the post, asserting his right of freedom of speech. Given that Black is not a currently running for a CUSU position, it seems there is little in terms of sanctions that the Elections Committee can enforce.
Monday 5th of March – Evening
The CUSU Presidential Campaign has certainly been provoking engagement and reaction across the student body in Cambridge.
Earlier today, Oliver Black, a second year CompSci and current Secretary of ABACUS (Association of British And Chinese University Students) has urged students not to vote for Siyang Wei. He talks about the ‘discriminatory attitude’ Wei showed at their annual AGM, where Wei (although not a life member) accused Black of ‘invading Asian safe spaces’.
Despite urging students to not vote for Siyang Wei, Oliver Black has told The Tab that he does not believe has been especially vocal, ‘it is no more vocal than the endorsement of the Liberal Association, for instance (who have endorsed the other two candidates), and no more vocal than many who have changed their profile picture in support of their preferred candidate.’
One thing’s for sure – this election is certainly getting more Cantabs involved in student politics.
Sunday 4th of March – Late Evening
20.30: Siyang, Connor and Evie all want to try to listen to students and consult students (SHOCKER!) – but how would they avoid representing just their own opinions on unpredictable issues like the strikes? Connor and Evie point to a “democratic deficit” in the CUSU council, which just represents those who show up. Connor affirms that if something like the strikes were to come up, he would hold a referendum to figure out the students opinion. Siyang replies that the strike wasn’t isolated: if you vote in a candidate that is broadly against the marketisation of education, that candidate can confidently act in line with this. Our sharp analysts here at the hustings have confirmed that the underlying question in this election is: should CUSU be there to mediate between students and the Uni or should it have its own political identity?
20.15: The “prevent” question. Prevent is an initiative implemented by the current government attempting to tackle the grass roots of terrorism and this involves a degree of surveillance by the colleges of the student. The candidates have differing opinions on prevent, indicative of their differences in political opinion. Whereas Connor ultimately agrees with the idea of prevent, Siyang passionately states that “prevent is an obstacle to freedom of expression” and that we should find out exactly how different colleges are implementing it. Evie wants to facilitate the various societies that might be affected (such as religious societies) in their ability to lead and define CUSU’s stance on prevent.
20.00: Daisy Eyre cuts straight to the point: how do you differ as candidates? It does seem that Connor, Siyang and Evie are less disagreeing than trying to be first to say a point common to all three. All three use the same technical CUSU language that has been criticised by lots of students. Meanwhile, the student press are on the edge of our seats engaged in a tense collective game of “spot the difference”.
19.50: Three hours in and we are getting to the main event!
Sunday 4th of March – Evening
19.40: Rhiannon responds to Shadab – unsurprisingly she doesn’t consent to having run a smear campaign AT ALL and even endorses potential investigations by the election committee. Think of it as the FBI investigating Hillary’s text messages?! We are here to keep you updated on developments.
19.30: A few key clashes come up, one concerning the role of politics in GU representation. “Politics shouldn’t be a dirty word” says Sofie, whilst Joe adds that the strikes have affected grads especially and praises students who have come forth and taken a political stance, whereas Mrittunjoy says a more pragmatic stance is necessary. On the issue of whether more MCR representatives in each college such as BME, LGBTQ+ should be devised, Mrittunjoy warns of tokenism if these roles don’t actually have a formal say.
19:15: Running for Graduate Union president are Joe Cotton, Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar and Sofia Ropek Hewson. For the first time in living memory, there are as many hopefuls for GU pres as CUSU pres: a big change considering there were none last year!
Sunday 4th of March – Afternoon
The Tab are live from CUSU hustings! Watch this space for ongoing updates as to the performance of the candidates.
18.55: Emrys Travis, who helped devise the role a few years ago, is also uncontested as disabilities officer. They propose many initiatives, for example ring fencing money in the CUSU budget which should go towards funding sick notes to make it easier for disabled students to acquire extended exam time and the like.
18.45: Matt Kite takes to the stage as unopposed education officer. He says that faculty reps should be more aware of it being a “political position” and the need for them to be taking the temperature of their faculty and communicating with CUSU. More controversially, he states that CUSU has been very good at explaining to students why supporting the strikes is in the long-term interest of the students themselves. If you think it’s a shame that he’s uncontested in this regard you can read some contrasting views right here on the Tab.
18.18: Whoah! It turns out we were not misguided in sensing some tension between the two access officers! This scathing post just in on Shadab Ahmad’s campaign page condemns Melliar-Smith’s misrepresentation of him.
18.14: The two candidates for welfare officer are Christine Pungong and Walinase Chinula. Welfare is quite an uncontentious issue (we may have counted a few #buzzwords), but they do leave us with some food for thought. Wali argues that welfare should be provided at an individual level but that it is also important to make it part of a university-wide ethos, whilst Christine focuses on helping tutors and other college staff (with whom students interact with daily) have better tools to understand and provide welfare and to move against the normalisation of “misery” here at Cam. Neither have direct experience as welfare officer but they both contend that their respective roles as BME and disabilities officer overlap with welfare concerns and will help them in the role.
18.00: Claire Sosienski Smith stands uncontested as women’s officer. This doesn’t prevent her from speaking passionately about her plans: she’s prepared to tackle the “unbearable whiteness of our curriculum” and other key issues. Amen! She jokes that if she could achieve only one thing this year it would be “a complete radical overhall of this university” – but adds on a more serious note that she is keen to change the balance of probability and recognition of trans women.
17.40: The running access officers are both highly competent with lots of experience. They differ in opinion over key topics. Transparency is one of Shadab’s key policies, as he argues it will better students ability to choose their college on the basis of their financial disposal – won’t this mean that state school kids will have even less agency over which college they choose Rhiannon asks? Shadab rebuts that transparency around rents will help the “cut the rent” campaign in the long run.
17.35: Next up, Rhiannon and Shadab take on one of the most important issues at the University: Access. Rhiannon speaks passionately of her personal experience with access, Shadab of taking a nuanced intersectional approach to access.
17.30: Marcel and George clash over their qualifications to engage with divestment negotiations. George says his business experience will allow him to go beyond the bottom-down activist approach so far taken: “it is obvious that the student body is in favour of divestment”, to this Marcel dryly replies: “I was at the climate conference at the U.N. I have plenty of political experience” **MIC-DROP**.
First off, George Breckenridge, Hugo Larose and Marcel Llavero Pasquina answer questions about the role of University Councillor. They all agree that the role of University Councillor should involve more direct contact with students: Marcel wishes to engage more with grassroots movements, Hugo discusses his ideas to hold “open meetings”.
Sunday 4th of March – Midday
CULC endorses Siyang Wei as president.
Saturday 3rd of March – Afternoon
The battle-lines in the campaign for access officer are drawn. The state/private school divide central to the access debate is also present amongst the two candidates: Rhiannon distinguishes herself as state-schooled Cambridge applicant whereas Shabab is of a private school background. Rhiannon’s belief that successfully fulfilling the job of an access officer is premised on having gone to state school is apparent in her facebook posts, one of which reads: “**PERSONAL EXPERIENCE** of applying to Cambridge from a state school is vital in order to truly understand access before and after Matriculation!”.
Saturday 3rd of March – Morning
CULA (the Cambridge University Liberal Association) informs The Tab that they will be endorsing Connor and Evie due their view that CUSU have a cultural change and this can only be achieved by a non-insider. Shiyang has long been involved with CUSU, currently as events officer of the CUSU BME campaign.
3rd March – Afternoon
The election campaign for CUSU access is really hotting up – in a strange turn of events Crushbridge is now an electoral platform.
3rd March – Morning
The third day of campaigning commences. Cambridge University Liberal Association have spoken to the Tab and told us:
“We voted to endorse Evie and Connor both – and that people should second-preference the other. In our view it’s important that CUSU has a cultural change, and that can’t be caused by voting for an insider.”
2nd March Update
It’s been a quiet day in terms of campaigning – Connor and Evie have been out in the snow around Sidgewick flyering, whilst Siyang and Evie have both posted testimonials on their Facebook events. In other news, the CU Flat Earth Society are unofficially running f0r CUSU Pres, pledging to ‘use JCB’s to make Cambridge 100% flat’. Certainly tempting policies.
1st March – 8pm
We’re nearing the end of the first day of official campaigns and the CUSU presidential candidates have been getting endorsements left, right and centre. All three candidates have released their own Facebook profile picture filter, which enables you to edit your pp and show your allegiance. For those you who can’t quite decide just yet, you could follow the lead of our CUSU correspondent, and one of last year’s presidential candidates, Keir Murison who has elected (pardon the pun) to use all three filters.
1st March – Midday:
It’s now been 5 hours that the candidates have been officially campaigning, and Evie is off to a flying start with 158 likes on her profile picture announcing her running, compared to 102 fo Siyang and 82 for Connor.
Siyang does seem to be getting a lot of traction through a FB frame for their supporter’s, adding Siyang’s face to the picture instead of replacing it wholesale. The events have a slightly different order in terms of numbers, Siyang ahead with 257, compared to 195 for Evie and 171 for Connor. With snow and strikes likely to disrupt some of the leafleting over the next few days, will social media be the telling difference in these early stages?
1st March – 9am:
Who are the candidates?
Let me put you out of your misery – here are the names you’ve been waiting so long for.
Connor MacDonald (Emmanuel)
CUSU would not be Connor’s first foray into student politics, as he is the current CUCA president. Not a surprising candidate, since last year’s election also featured a CUCA president, and as a third year HSPS student, he would be following in Daisy Eyre’s footsteps.
His main policies are about community, accountability, and sustainability, running with the slogan ‘CUSU closer to you’.
Evie Aspinall (Pembroke)
Also a HSPS student, Evie is no stranger to student political movements either, as the founder of the Jo Cox Feminist Society and Vice-President of Cambridge for Consent.
Evie pledges to make CUSU more visible in students’ lives, to reduce inequality between colleges, and campaign for greater pastoral care.
She promises to ‘be a President who listens to and engages the wider student community’ and ‘a President who fights for student welfare, rights and opportunities’.
Siyang Wei (Newnham)
Siyang studies Sociology and is currently is a third year student. Again, another candidate well versed in student politics, having previously been the CULC Co-Chair and a Deputy News Editor as Varsity.
Siyang’s manifesto promises to target educational equality, decolonising Cambridge, and better financial support.
Even a punny slogan is offered – ‘The Wei forward for CUSU’.
GU (Graduate Union) President
Joe Cotton (Wolfson)
Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar (Christ’s)
Sofia Ropek Hewson (Pembroke)
Access and Funding Officer
Rhiannon Melliar-Smith (Trinity Hall)
Shadab Ahmed (Christs)
Disabled Students’ Officer
Emrys Travis (St John’s)
Matt Kite (Robinson)
Welfare and Rights Officer (CUSU/GU)
Christine Pungong (Newnham)
Walinase Chinula (Gonville and Caius)
Claire Sosienski Smith (Selwyn)
George Breckenridge (Fitzwilliam)
Hugo Larose (Gonville & Caius)
Marcel Llavero Pasquina (Girton)
Ethical Affairs Officer
Currently there are no candidates running for this position.
And of course, RON will be running for all above positions, never fear.