RefuTales — Giving Refugees in Europe a Voice

After meeting the incredibly inspiring Syrian refugee Sajida Altaya at a conference in Berlin, I decided to found a new blog with her and another friend, Dorien Dierckx, to give refugees in Europe a voice.

We publish a mixture of in-depth interviews, opinion pieces and policy advice, all informed through the view of refugees themselves. With the help of volunteers from all around Europe, we’re already available in 5 languages, with more on the go.

RefuTales: Giving Refugees in Europe a Voice

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Launch of my new blog “Tales of a student rep”

If you enjoyed reading this website check out my new blog covering lessons I’ve learnt representing students during my four years at Cambridge and more.

You can access the blog here.

To give you a sense of what it’s all about here’s a reprint of the first post.


The Lean Beginning – Why this blog and where it’s going

So, this is it. The start of my first general purpose blog. I’ve decided to put my Entrepreneurship lectures to good use and opt for a lean startup. That means, go to market with a minimally viable product. In my case, just a couple of links and this first post outlining what the heck this is all about.

Continue reading

Campaign video is out, vote till 7pm tonight!

My campaign video has been released yesterday at 6pm. YouTube controversially being classified as social media, I received a full campaign ban until 2.33pm today which is why you haven’t heard from me in a while.

I’m the candidate for sportspeople, graduates and international students in particular and everyone else in general.

Voting is open until 7pm tonight, please vote for me and tell your friends to do the same.
You might not care about CUSU and I fully understand that. But keep in mind that things can change. I offer a real alternative to the usual “CUSU politicians” who care most about not offending anyone. I will shift CUSU’s focus to effect real change in areas that you care about, such as sports. If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe the number of people who’ve endorsed me.

You can vote here: https://www.vote.cusu.cam.ac.uk/cusuandgu/15-16/cusugu/

Here are highlights of the televised debate:

Why grads should vote for CUSU’s President and vote for me in particular

There’s a general conception that CUSU is irrelevant to graduate students. Many believe wrongly that they’re not eligible to vote, and even if they think they are they don’t see the point as CUSU is so pre-occupied with undergrads. While it is true that CUSU has been focused mostly on undergrads in the past, it doesn’t mean that who’s CUSU President doesn’t matter to grads.

CUSU has the strategic aim to take over the Graduate Union (GU). In the past year there’s been a lot of friction between CUSU and the GU and this has been incredibly harmful to the GU not the least because it meant it had to spend most of its time on defending itself.

In short, while CUSU’s focus is on undergrads and will stay so, CUSU’s attitude towards graduates matters for graduates.

I am the only candidate with a clear policy for graduates. As an associate member of my College’s MCR I know a lot of grad students and know what they care about. I will listen to MCRs as much as JCRs when making policy for CUSU. I don’t forget that MCRs and graduates are members of CUSU.

Even if you don’t think you’ll need CUSU in the future, bear in mind that CUSU has the potential to harm graduate representation. A grad-friendly CUSU President will make a definite difference to graduates. It is for this reason that I ask graduate students to vote for me.

 

 

Presidential endorsement paradox

At hustings, Varsity political reporter Louis Ashworth asked the wonderful question: “Who of the other presidential candidates would you most and least likely vote for?”. The results bothered me, because they clearly showed that endorsements are everything but transitive (transitivity means that if A implies B, and B implies C, then A implies C). Have a look at the figure to see what I mean.

Unfortunately, due to CUSU’s awkward election rules,  I’m not allowed to mention who candidates A and B are. The Tab, Varsity or TCS will be able to fill you in on that if they pick up on it.

Paradox

Blue Specs Endorsement

Edit 2/3/16, 3pm: Since it is against Election rules to be endorsed by media, I have contacted the Editor to ask for it to be removed.

I’ve been endorsed by Blue Specs in an editorial written by Hesham.

Think of it what you may, his words are heard. I’m in no way right-wing. If I had to put myself behind a British party, it’d be LibDems. But I think, CUSU should stay away from partisan politics as much as possible. In this respect, I very much differ from all the other candidates.

I’m a centrist candidate who listens to everyone and doesn’t just advance the ideas of special interest groups (that’s a big reason why posts don’t get 100+ likes).

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Full article here

Trinity JCR and students speak out in my defence

Both the current TCSU committee and 20  independent Trinity students have spoken out against the recent smear campaign against me, headed by members of the former TCSU committee who prefer to stay anonymous. I am incredibly grateful for the support I have received within College and beyond since the allegations have surfaced.

It is most certainly unfair to call the 17 students (+3 post publication) “my fan club” as the Tab have done, I have countless supporters at Trinity, many of which haven’t signed the letter not because they don’t support it but for many good other reasons. Varsity has yet to react to the letter.

In addition to the letter, the current TCSU committee has passed a motion that condemns the “ad hominem media campaign against” me and thanks me for my “advice and work on vacation storage and issues within College”.

It is important to remember that none of the former committee members have spoken out publicly under their own names in support of the allegations. The three members quoted by Varsity preferred to have only their roles referenced. Of course, information about who filled which role is in the public domain, just not readily accessible which is why I have posted it on my blog here.

If you’d like to support the letter after it has been published, please get in touch with me via email and I’ll add you to it.

Dear Varsity & Tab Editors,

We write regarding the news pieces published in your papers on the 26th of February concerning Cornelius Roemer’s tenure as TCSU President. The news pieces were published without any formal investigation. Should the matter have been investigated, your publications would have realised that the documents leaked to Varsity do not reflect the attitudes of Trinity’s undergraduate population as a whole.

What the documents reveal is that there were significant issues of miscommunication and misunderstandings within the former TCSU committee. Indeed, it seems to rather indicate a lack of professionalism by the former committee members who leaked them. We feel that it is unfair and arbitrary to blame one individual for the entire committee’s internal problems.

We acknowledge that Cornelius Roemer is a controversial character within the College. That is because he is both vocal and determined in his beliefs. We think that while members of the committee may disagree with Cornelius’ opinions and dislike him for his character, it is unproductive and irresponsible to publicly shame him with serious accusations such as misogyny, bullying and idiocy without further evidence.

As TCSU President, Cornelius was judged by his committee as being too confrontational with senior college officials. This is, however, precisely how Cornelius managed to achieve so much for Trinity’s undergraduate students during his term as President. His priority has always been the student interest, rather than befriending and pleasing his committee or senior college officials. The year before he became President, Cornelius served as Junior Steward and worked in close collaboration with the catering department in Trinity and the former TCSU committee, achieving  a huge improvement in the quality of hall food.

Indeed he worked tirelessly to represent the interests of students through several campaigns (i) petitioning College for wider and longer beds (ii) petitioning the City Council to keep the streetlights on (iii) for vacation storage at a lower cost. The campaign to keep streetlights on was hugely successful and directly benefited women. On the 7th of January Cornelius posted on Facebook congratulating the Trinity Women’s Officer “Proud of Beth for her great work and splendid statement on streetlights! TCSU effects real change, doesn’t just talk about it.”

Allegations of misogyny stem from Cornelius’ opinion that sexual consent workshops should inform students of the legal definitions of rape, sexual assault and consent. While this is a controversial opinion, it is not a misogynistic one to emphasise how to legally prove rape or sexual assault. Indeed, it may put victims of rape or sexual assault in a much better and informed position.

Although we sincerely regret that several [former] TCSU committee members felt antagonised by Cornelius, Trinity’s students are generally thankful for Cornelius’ dedication and achievements as TCSU President. In fact, the Varsity piece points out that even the dissatisfied members of his committee recognised his hard work.

Regarding Cornelius’ campaign to become CUSU President, we believe students should be free to make their own opinions with an objective review of Cornelius’ experience, rather than gossip and unsubstantiated accusations. Those opinions are not only the opinions of those whose names are below but also a much wider body of students in the College.

Regards,

Lara Booth, Ian Cheung, Seb Cook, Hani El-Bay, Adam P. Goucher, Niklas Knecht, Mikko Mantyla, Hesham Mashhour, FilipMurar, Ania Olech, Glen Pearce, James Robbs, Bianca Schor, Elisa Shephard, James Taylor, Sayana Turpin-Aviram, Ryan Wilson

Additions post publication:
Jamie Roberts (not the Rugby player), Alexander Gebhardt, Michela Gramola

Motion passed by the current TCSU committee at its meeting on the 28th of February 2016:

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The new TCSU committee (containing two members of the old one) feel there is an ad hominem media campaign against me. Full document here.

Also, whoever claimed that the Tab’s comment section was dead is clearly wrong:

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Website stats for geeks and The Tab

I’ve been surprised by the number of visitors and interaction with my website. This makes me very confident that students are positively engaging with my campaign, looking forward to the voting period opening tonight.

I’m sure that a big part of the popularity of the website is down to the Tab’s tremendous live blog.

A few interesting stats:

  • At least 300 individuals have returned to the website on two different days.
  • On average, visitors look at 3 different posts on the website
  • The most popular posts are “Yes I’m German. Does it matter?”, “Oh no, I’ve breached Election rules” followed by “Experience
  • The website has become more and more popular over the days, growing from 200 visitors per day from the start of campaigning to 700 visitors a day by now.

 

insights

Website stats

Am I CUSU’s Trump? It depends.

The Tab has apparently noticed some parallels between Donald Trump’s and my campaign (live blog here). Since I’ve promised that I will take the student press seriously and engage with it, here’s my take on that suggestion.

tabtrump

How my campaign is like Trump’s:

  • We’re both of German ancestry, maybe that explains why we’re both so hard working
  • We’re both getting a lot of media attention (check out my post here for more detail)
  • Trump says what he thinks, so do I frequently
  • The establishment was very critical of whether Trump could ever win, same for me (e.g. The Tab’s editor Xavier Bisits)
  • We both boast of our extensive experience in getting things done (though I’m not so sure that’s actually true in Donald’s case)
  • Trump gets a lot of hate, so do I (though the hate against me is often completely unjustified)
  • We both don’t really give a shit about election rules
  • We both feel the need to trump-et our achievements (Courtesy of Nick R.)

How my campaign is not like Trump’s:

  • I’m reasonable, Trump is crazy, a racist and many more things I’m definitely not
  • The American people are clearly very different from Cambridge students
  • He’s never had political office, I’ve had plenty of experience
  • Trump holds a number of very weird political positions, I don’t. I’m right in the middle of the spectrum.
  • He’s ruthless towards other candidates, I’m not.

Ways in which the parallels are yet to be decided

  • People were not convinced Trump could win, can I?

If you have any further ideas of parallels or differences, feel free to contact me via cr492@cam.ac.uk or my anonymous contact form.

If you’d like to get regular updates about my campaign, join my Facebook event.