Divestment, puns and bullshit detectors: CUSU Hustings 2019

We went so you didn’t have to

alessandro ceccarelli ali hyde alice gilderdale ashely woodwine cambridge university student union cusu elections 2019 devarchan banerjee divestment edward parker humphries howard chae jack chadwick jake simms jess o'brien kate litman lily-rose sharry poppy cockburn shadab ahmed stella swain student democracy tamzin byrne

To give all the candidates an equal platform, every JCR, committee and society in Cambridge will have a hustings – and CUSU of course was no different. Last night was the Lent 2019 hustings and there quite a few recurring themes. Nearly everyone talked about intersectionality, divestment and how CUSU can be more involved in everyday student life. In fact, a lot of the policies were similar so it's likely that the race will come down to personalities (read: profile picture shares). But you know, in the interest of democracy and fair elections, the Tab are happy to give you a run down of the important points addressed in each of the grillings.

Women's Officer

The first hustings of the night, Finley Kidd and Kate Litman both came forward with lots of experience; Finley mentioned her work as Women's Officer and Kate mentioned her close work with Breaking the Silence. Talking about WomCam Finley noted that it could be 'intimidating' and Kate reflected that it is no wonder transwomen don't often feel comfortable coming when they themselves are not included in activism, despite herself finding 'joy and solidarity.' If they could do one thing, Finley said that she wanted to make sure campaigns were as broad as possible so that they appealed to all women and non-binary people in Cambridge. Kate on the other hand stressed that she wanted to create a good platform and basis for which future women's officers could work off.

Remember you can only vote for women'a officer if you identify as a woman or non-binary

Welfare and Rights (GU-CUSU)

I have to admit that I myself only learnt at these hustings that this role was one that sat on both CUSU and GU. The two candidates, Cici Carey-Stuart and Stella Swain, both spoke well but Swain seemed to be a bit more confident in terms of immediately answering the questions. However, they both came forward with good ideas. Cici stressed the importance of training student representatives so they could be equipped in the fight for their rights, said they would do schemes specifically for graduates who may well have families and finally stressed that they believed this role facilitated everyone else's work. Stella particularly wanted to bring back 'survivor forums' for those who have experienced sexual assault as well as stress the political origins of a Union.

Ethical Affairs Officer(s)

Of all of the hustings of the night this was perhaps the least, dramatic. Both of those running, Jake Simms and Alice Gilderdale , already had the position and were campaigning on pretty much the same card for the same two places. In fact this was actually a question asked from the floor, that as they were uncontested and so similar could there really be any proof of a real democratic mandate? They stressed they were bound by CUSU so couldn't just peruse their own ideas and that they wanted the university to be 'critically understood' by it's students as soon as freshers week starts.

Access and Funding Officer

This was an interesting part of the night as both candidates came forward with personal, relevant experience that would make them the best for the role – Lily-Rose Sharry particularly bringing in her experiences of someone who has been estranged from her family and how access therefore helped her. Her and Ashley Woodvine both had quite specific ideas that they wanted to achieve, although this sometimes came out in the question answers more so than the opening speech. Ashely says she'll continue Shadab's work on access for those with Arab backgrounds and believes increasing collaboration would be the most important part of her role. Whereas, Lily-Rose stressed how useful she believed class-act 'buddy' schemes could be and said her main aim was to reduce alienation.

Disabled Student's Officer

Jess O'Brien and Beth Walters both had campaign slogans: 'vote for experience' and 'identity, intersectionality and inclusivity' respectively. Both seemed passionate about their prospective role and seemed pretty confident they could do it: Jess particularly on multiple occasions stressed that her 'experience talked for itself.' If they could do one thing, Beth said that she would ensure there was a DSO on every JCR and MCR throughout Cambridge and Jess said that she'd push for a league table which showed which college was the most accommodating for disabled students. Also Beth finished her speech with the refreshing pun that she'd be a 'Beth of fresh air', which was the first laugh I heard in the room all night.

Remember you can only vote for this role if you identify as disabled

Education Officer

This was always going to be an interesting hustings as the two candidates, Howard Chae and Ali Hyde, come from a similar part of the university (see CULC, JCRs, CUSU liberation campaigns). The education role is perhaps one of the least clear in terms of what is involved in their actual job but there were good policies on both sides to show what this role could do. And despite the similarities between the candidates there was actually a lot of difference between what they had to say. Howard frequently reminded the audience of his experience as Faculty Rep, pushed for 'divestment, disarmament and decolonisation' and stressed he wanted to tackle the 'prevent' policy as a priority. Ali on the other had said that he hoped this was the 'biggest turnout ever', would look at the effects of Brexit and try to fight imposter syndrome.

University Councillor

This is the position where the two candidates offer fairly different things to the electorate as the passionate first year Robinson student, Poppy Cockburn ran against the experienced and composed graduate student Tamzin Byrne. Poppy was completely frank about the fact that she was running almost purely on a divestment ticket and had been involved in Zero Carbon heavily since she'd arrived in Cambridge. Especially when she replied to a question specifically about Divestment she obviously cared greatly as what she said would not have been out of place if said through a megaphone in front of Senate House. Tamzin on the other hard said that she would present to the university the financial and legal realities that can help make divestment work for the university as she would play on her knowledge as a business student and as working as Charity Trustee at her college, Medwards. Another one of her causes being that she wanted to make sure the £500 million Student Support Initiative was actually spent on areas that were helpful to students.

Graduate Union President

The only role of the night where there were three people contesting for one spot – so is also the role where 2nd preferences may be very important. Devarchan Banerjee, Jack Chadwick and Alessandro Ceccarelli all stood for their speeches and had a similar ticket. Devarchan said that he was the vote for humility and patience and wanted more democracy throughout the university – and that student didn't just here of the GU twice a year. Jack Chadwick started his speech with an anecdote about extended deadlines which showed the inefficiencies and bureaucracies of the Univeristy's system. He said access was of prime importance as well as having a 'bullshit detector' and recognising that graduate students can be seen as 'cash cows.' Finally, Alessandro said that he wanted to create a sense of community within the university and the passion for this came from his time of being homeless after he had to leave home for being LGBT. He also wants safe spaces for minorities and said that his greater experience of academia as a PhD student could be greatly useful.

CUSU President

Oooh the big one. This was probably the hustings where there was expected to be the most interogation and well, drama. The two candidates Shadab Ahmed and Edward Parker Humphreys came forward with two different approached. Edward had a long list of individual policies such as Welfare Wednesdays, standardised approaches to intermission and keeping students updated through vlogs. Whereas, Shadab wanting skill sharing between students and felt that his experience in CUSU was clear evidence as to why he would be so well suited for the role.

The questions however were where the most controversial point was raised. Shadab got quizzed by a member of the audience why women would want to vote for him after hearing that he's written an article for Varsity that claimed there were intrinsic biological reasons as to why women don't participate as much in STEM subjects. As the room collectively took an intake of breath, Shadab apologised profusely for the article saying that he had written that as a fresher and now thought very differently as he grown in his time at university.

In later questions Edward stressed that despite having not been a CUSU sab he had worked within council settings, specifically Jesus' college council when he was president, and added that 'I am not a stranger to CUSU.' He felt that this meant he would not be as intimidated going into a University Council setting.

When asked what one thing they would do if elected Edward said that he would work on college disparity and Shadab said that he wanted to make CUSU be seen as a go-to place and to promote solidarity between different members of the University.

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So there you have it folks, a run down of what happened at the CUSU lent hustings 2019. A reminder that voting opens on Tuesdays and to keep your eye on the Tab for any relevant updates!