I believe that CUSU has the potential to really change students’ lives if it works on the right issues, connects well and strategically with students and is competent in its operations. As I’ve shown at my JCR, it is possible to break up encrusted situations and change the way this amazing university with a lot of scope for improvement serves students and society.
CUSU needs to represent the interests of all students while preserving the independence of the autonomous campaigns. A common theme I sensed when speaking to students was that CUSU had little relevance to their lives as it didn’t work on issues that mattered to them: sports, accommodation, teaching quality, food.
I want to make CUSU mainstream, have it work on issues that affect and have the support of the broad majority of students. Focus on bread and butter issues. During my time as JCR President, there was a real sense of excitement resulting from our work to get students wider beds, be allowed to keep belongings in their rooms over vacations and improve the food.
It is paramount that CUSU reaches out to students to learn what the issues are and what the mood is. The vast number of students CUSU represents compared to J/MCRs makes it essential to have good relationships with student leaders across campus to be exposed to different views. Through my involvement in sport, CUSU, and student representation in general, I have a broad network of student leaders I will build on, to make sure all voices are heard.
There is a strong sense that no one really knows what CUSU is doing at the moment. I will resolve this in three ways:
- Actually use CUSU’s facebook page, when it’s not elections season, there are almost no posts telling students what sabbs have been up to and what’s generally going on. Nothing engaging. I will change this. Have a look at Trinity JCR’s facebook page which I turned into the most engaging JCR page in Cambridge. I understand how facebook works and what people like to see. With me, CUSU will finally have more reach than TCSU.
- Openly engage with the student press (including the Tab) and listen to their often reasonable and sometimes constructive criticism. Hold weekly press conferences to make it easier for the press to stay up to date with what CUSU is working on.
- Make J/MCRs aware of what CUSU does and give them a say by passing major policy options through CUSU Council thereby giving students the right to choose CUSU’s priorities. Candidates are elected because they’re seen as more suitable than all the others standing, not because every single item on their manifesto should be implemented.
CUSU can only effect change in collaboration with the University, it is thus absolutely essential that CUSU has good working relationships with the University administration and leadership. Through my experience on University Council I have already established these.
In Cambridge, J/MCRs pick a lot of the low hanging fruits that make students’ unions at other more centralised universities hubs of student life. The focus of CUSU needs to be to support J/MCRs in their work effectively as well as represent students on issues that are not covered by other elements of representation yet. For example, lobbying with local councillors to keep the streetlights on or make the University revise its outdated intermissions policy.
As a former JCR President who has engaged extensively with CUSU I know what J/MCRs need, an area where there’s major room for improvement. CUSU should be on the ground supporting campaigns of College common rooms and use its support staff to assist when possible.