Varsity face backlash over CUSU election results coverage

Public condemnation over Varsity’s alleged bias

Varsity's coverage of the CUSU elections has been met by condemnation from students. In particular, concern has been raised over the response of members of the Varsity team to Evie Aspinall's CUSU presidential victory on Friday.

One Aspinall supporter has publicly condemned Varsity on Facebook, writing "I am upset by this not on the part of Evie, but because I know that Varsity – being independently run and therefore basically answering to nobody – will not receive any repercussions for this. They can dismiss complaints and spew insults on their own Facebook pages because they think themselves above common decency."

Another commented that they have "serious concerns" about Varsity's coverage "when the Editor at Large saying CUSU is 'fucked', and the Associate Editor posting 'Wowee yay Evie Aspinall' and 'Hands up who could do a better job of CUSU pres than Evie Aspinall' is in conjunction with some very spurious 'analysis' here and elsewhere, it's hard to say they don't have questions to answer, especially when the candidate they seemed to favour had been their Deputy News Editor."

This references how Siyang Wei, one of the other candidates for the CUSU Presidency is a Deputy News Editor at Varsity, although for the period of the election campaign, Wei was suspended in this role.

The said footage where a voice can be heard saying the student union is 'fucked' is on the Varsity livestream of the results. The Tab Cambridge reporters who were there on the night believe it was made by a senior Editor at Varsity.

Even Memebridge has commented about Varsity's livestream of the election, writing 'Alright own up, who is it that 6 minutes from the end, says "Well this Union is fucked!" ??'

Image may contain: Poster, Paper, Flyer, Brochure, Text

Varsity Editorial's follow up analysis of the Evie's Aspinall's electoral victory suggests they do not believe her to be the ideal person to take charge of CUSU.

"Aspinall's campaign and supporters have made an attempt to paint her lack of experience for the role, and disengagement with CUSU until this year, as advantageous, and have attempted to dismiss any coverage that highlights these weaknesses as a product of either media bias, or proof of 'insider' politics at work. These assertions may work to buoy campaigners, but they will not pass in the real world."

Despite Aspinall's claim to be left-wing, Varsity have painted her as a "centrist", or at least not a supporter of the "activist student left".

The newspaper appears to have positioned itself as the defender of the "activist student left", for whom "the results are a tough lesson. Cambridge students have elected centrists who have spoken of a wish to improve the student union's image for three years now."

"The timing is especially difficult because this has been an incredibly successful year" for this group, according to Varsity. Namely, "'disillusioned' students may claim to feel alienated, but they still benefit from rent freezes, and with no apparent appetite to alter CUSU's stances on the strikes and divestment, must admit that it is the student left who are leading progress on these fronts, almost by default."

Before the elections results reporting, Aspinall had already taken to Facebook to point out her dissatisfaction over their coverage of her campaign.

Image may contain: Text, Letter, Poster, Paper, Flyer, Brochure

Aspinall is not the only CUSU candidate to feel that the Varsity reporting of the elections have been biased, newly elected Access and Funding Officer Shadab Ahmed has also criticised Varsity.

Shadab told The Tab:

"The election coverage by Varsity during this election campaign was heavily biased towards certain candidates. Before hustings occurred I was excluded from visual representation in their articles, with my opponent being on the banners of all the relevant articles. As a BME candidate I felt excluded, and all my concerns raised were dismissed and not dealt with. I was also asked for comments by their editors, yet these were not used, and instead quotes from my personal FB page were lifted. I imagine this was because my comment did not suit their agenda. The bias was blatant, and they made no attempts to hide this, and this culminated in the comments after the election results. I am deeply disappointed in the coverage from what is supposed to be a high quality, and reputable student newspaper. I am also frankly embarrassed at their article about Evie Aspinall – published under 'Varsity Editorial'. The decision seemed designed to give anonymity to members of the senior team, likely as it had deeply sexist and classist undertones. Their behaviour during this election has truly been shocking."

The CUSU Elections are ostensibly one of the biggest events on the Varsity agenda. Each year, the website launches a special CUSU Election section on its website and publishes more than a dozen articles on the subject, including two live blogs, even more than they have written about the UCU strikes or VC pay, for instance.

It now remains to be seen as to whether Varsity will respond to the criticism, and what their response would be.

VIDEO CREDIT: Varsity Facebook page

University of Cambridge