We spent nearly an hour before the interview wondering. We were wondering why anyone, whether or not in their right mind, would run to be the next CUSU President. CUSU, seen by many as an ailing institution, struggles to preserve its reputation. The serious lack of engagement is made worse by a trend towards colleges disaffiliating from CUSU.
Why would anyone run for CUSU President?
Milo, labeled CUSU’s ‘joke’ candidate, reaffirms that his candidacy was only meant as a joke emphasizing the failures of CUSU. He plans to take it seriously now and has been seen campaigning at Downing Site with flyers, stickers and his trademark jam sandwiches. The hungry are forever indebted to him. Leo’s candidacy, on the other hand, has a very different background to it. He tells us how, “I was working at a university campus and went to the union for lunch, I was there and it kind of brightened my day a bit […] and I thought this thing was amazing – there is a proper student union full of activities, there’s a bar and people are having lunch and working. I thought this is something we could have at Cambridge.” Priscilla told us that she wished to run because she had some, “good experiences and also had some not so great ones which I’ve said before.” She tells us about the networks she’s involved here in Cambridge and her involvement with people across the University. She feels she’d be good at representing students at Cambridge and listening to their issues.
Priscilla feels “many of the candidates are preoccupied with this idea of engagement.” She didn’t feel engagement was the central issue CUSU faced but that it had to do things and be seen doing them to appear more engaging specifically mentioning “replying to emails” and “impacting students lives positively.” Leo disagreed and told us he felt engagement was the central issue mentioning the difficulties in getting 10% of students to vote to pass a constitutional change drawing attention to his plans for having a central CUSU building. Milo felt his plans to free students on Wednesday afternoons for sports would “make more students’ lives easier” and enhance CUSU’s engagement with the student body. All three candidates dismissed the idea that CUSU should organize club nights or ‘bops.’
When asked about the autonomous campaigns, Priscilla emphasized the autonomy of the campaigns and that CUSU’s role was one of “supporting, providing, enhancing where need be.” Priscilla told us how she felt that “CUSU’s support for the BME campaign could have been better.” Leo returned to his point about a central CUSU building telling us “if there was a place where all the societies could meet and spaces within that space that would really help the autonomous campaigns” and make them current, relevant and interesting. Milo was more interested in “bridging” the gap between the autonomous campaigns and the wider student body to get involved quoting the examples of the BME and the CUSU Women’s Campaign. Candidates were generally supportive of having the CUSU LGBT+ President be a sabbatical role but referred to financial limitations imposed by the University with Milo adding that he “does not see any reason why the BME Campaign should be any less important than the Women’s Campaign or the LGBT+ Campaign any less important than the Women’s.”
Priscilla and Leo struggled with the issue of platforming potentially triggering speakers even when asked for their personal opinions. Leo, however, said he would be very “weary of no platform just because sometime in the future you may be a victim of no platform” and referred to the Charlie Hebdo controversy. Milo was convinced that, “as CUSU President if one of the campaigns wanted to no platform someone it was not for [him] to dictate whether they should” but personally he told us he was for free speech and that people with “abhorrent views are the people who are going to be found out in reasonable debates.”
All manifestos may be found on CUSU’s website
Katie Akers the fourth candidate for CUSU President was unable to attend the interview due to short notice.
Hesham Mashhour & Em Travis (Chief Editor & Comment Editor)