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Highlights

  • Motion passed to defer budget voting. Council ends!
  • A referendum on NUS disaffiliation will be held
  • Motion has been passed to defer the election of CUSU Co-ordinator
  • The fight over the future of The Cambridge Student witnesses powerful speeches on both sides, outcome delayed

The end, for now.

CUSU Council is over for the day, thankfully before the day itself ends. Cambridge has voted to have a referendum, but big decisions about the CUSU budget loom large over next week.

It's been great, but my whole lower body has also been numbed. Thanks for reading, friends. Maybe we'll see you next time.

Siyang and Anna, out.

11:37pm Priscilla asks us all to consider the mental well-being of the sabbatical officers and staff, and thanks us all for coming.

11:36pm A vote currently being held on whether or not to defer the budget vote. Everyone wants to leave, including Priscilla. It passes.

11:34pm There's a question about whether we can suspend voting on the budget until a later date. 

The motions have passed!!!

It looks like we'll be having a referendum on disaffiliation from the NUS before the end of the academic year, with 17th May set as the likely beginning.

11:32pm Voting on parts one and two happening! Just to be clear, what actually goes is what is written on the papers, not how many papers are raised. This is not necessarily the final decision.

TO SUMMARISE:

  • Motion Part One: mandating the CUSU Sabbatical Team to write an open letter to NUS, encouraging action to be taken on the concerns of anti-Semitism within the organisation.
  • Motion Part Two: to have a referendum on disaffiliation before the end of the academic year, and have an affiliation referendum every three years

11:26pm I think we're just ignoring him. A great decision. Back to motion parts one and two.

11:25pm Cornelius tries to argue that the motion should only need 1/3 support to pass, as opposed to the usual 2/3. His reasoning is very obscure. Cornfusion reigns on the floor.

11:23pm The meta-motion has passed. We will be voting on the referendum motion in parts. Firstly, speeches for part one: the clause mandating CUSU to write a letter to NUS to address the concerns of anti-Semitism within the organisation.

11:21pm Meta-voting currently occurring: a vote on whether to vote on the motion in two parts.

11:19pm Chair is struggling to keep control of events. Attempt being made to take vote in parts – attendees from the floor are calling out that this should only occur if approved by attendees.

https://twitter.com/harryjcurtis/status/727261096080449538

11:18pm We’re moving immediately to a vote now.

11:17pm Procedural motion called to move immediately to a vote. Gabriel Gendler has supported it.

11:17pm Khalfaoui is saying that Western media has “pro-Israeli bias”. Mutterings from floor.

11:15pm Priscilla reminds us of something we are all feeling: "We have had eleven questions and rounds of speeches, and it is 11:15pm."

11:15pm Khalfaoui “many people who are not Jews hold Zionist views”.

11:11pm Things are starting to get heated here – somewhat of a shouting match developing between Khalfaoui and Oriyan Prizant of Wolfson College.

11:09pm Queens’ JCR co-president Joseph Levin is making a speech against Bouattia, quoting delegate saying “NUS has a problem with Jewish students”.

11:09pm Khalfaoui told to sit down after 5 minute speech.

11:09pm Khalfaoui: “I do agree with you that this has some worrying tones of anti-Semitism” – met with some laughter from floor.

https://twitter.com/jackhimself/status/727257249891115008

11:04pm Speech being made by Anna Khalfaoui against the motion. Says that Bouattia has been mis-represented. This is the first time that the issue of the conflation of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism has been raised. The debate might be about to take a more emotional turn.

11:01pm Gabriel Gendler: "I'm really heartened by the fact that many people here are supporting listening to Jewish students," and urges students to vote in favour of the active clauses of the motion.

Update: Still going through NUS amendments currently. TCS will be debated at the end of the night.

10:59pm Request made that we don’t clap – purely for purposes of audibility.

10:58pm Crafton “we have to consider that Oxford and Cambridge have a large influence”. Says that joint letter from CUSU and OUSU would have large influence.

10:57pm Jemma Stewart has encouraged students to mandate sabbs to send a letter to NUS. "As your union you should be mandating us as sabbatical officers to send a strong statement to NUS."

10:56pm Conclusion of Driver’s speech calls for sabbs to “write a letter” condemning Bouattia. Crafton rejects amendment as unfriendly. Vote could be held.

10:53pm Emrys Travis speaking, asking for an amendment to suggest CUSU condemn anti-Semitism. Receiving support from Robinson MCR’s representative, Mark Driver.

10:52pm Amendments have been made to shift focus from the election of Bouattia to consider that the NUS may have "structural" problems with anti-Semitism.

10:52pm Council structure has somewhat broken down at present, as administrators struggle to keep track of amendments.

10:49pm We’re approaching the fifth hour of Council now. NUS motion is caught up in several technical points over wording.

10:46pm Sidney Sussex president (and NUS delegate) Olly Hudson speaks again: says NUS decision to remove the automatic right for a Jewish student to sit on the Anti-Racism Anti-Fascism Committee “reeks of anti-Semitism”.

https://twitter.com/feedthedrummer/status/727252683430748162

10:45pm Chair: “Just to clarify, we are still in the amendments stage”.

10:44pm Concerns raised that a decision to criticise Bouattia directly could seem like a threat – resignation or disaffiliation.

10:42pm A representative of Jesus College brings a suggestion from their Union: CUSU should agree to condemn this element of the NUS, as well as or instead of holding this referendum. It is then decided that this would be a separate motion.

10:41pm Friendly amendment accepted by May and Crafton. If a referendum takes place, there will be another one after two years on whether or not to re-affiliate.

10:40pm May says motion is designed to “make re-affiliation possible”.

10:39pm CUSU Women’s Officer Charlie Chorley wishes to remove emphasis on role of Malia Bouattia: “It’s naive to think it would just concern people’s views about the president”

To summarise: The motion proposing an NUS disaffiliation referendum included a clause not allowing sabbatical officers to express their opinions on the issue. This has now been removed.

10:38pm Vote passes strongly, and gagging clause is struck from motion.

10:37pm Adam Crafton says he wants assurance that CUSU will not “dismiss the concerns of Jewish students”. More applause.

10:36pm Angus Satow says that we “should strike it and move on” with reference to gagging clause. Loud applause.

10:35pm Crafton estimates that financial loss to CUSU if it left NUS would be around £3,000 a year.

10:34pm Incoming Education sabb Roberta Huldisch raises concerns over financial side of disaffiliation.

10:33pm Sidney Sussex president Olly Hudson argues against gagging clause.

10:33pm Jack May: "We're not trying to gag anyone, we're not trying to silence anyone." Met with some laughs.

Reminder that if council vote fails, those in favour of a referendum will need 350 student signatures to mandate a referendum.

https://twitter.com/jackhimself/status/727248707297677313

10:29pm Connor MacDonald from the floor: "The NUS is so much more than a conference...there are very few people here who are qualified to speak on those parts, and I think many of those are the sabbatical officers."

10:28pm Varsity’s own Connor MacDonald is speaking up, calling for focus on other benefits of NUS membership.

10:28pm Crafton - it could 'totally overshadow' the debate if sabbs can present a united front

10:27pm Crafton and May speaking now, saying that CUSU sabbs could swing vote on NUS.

10:25pm "If we are gagged, the expertise that we do get from the NUS I will not be to share information about." Priscilla Mensah speaking on the support and guidance she has received as part of the NUS, and particularly as part of the Black Sabbs' Network. "The economic side of the argument will be raised anyway." She is met with applause from the floor.

10:23pm Mensah says she believes she “should have the right” to speak about NUS referendum. However, she argues that the NUS have been supportive.

10:23pm Priscilla Mensah calls for a second round of speeches for and against. 

10:22pm Adam Crafton explaining reasoning behind clause “to mandate CUSU sabbatical officers stay officially neutral”.

https://twitter.com/darcyelizbet/status/727246882662133762

10:21pm Angus Satow is speaking up again, attempting to oppose the elements of the motion which gag sabb officers. He is applauded as he sits down.

As a reminder, these vote needs 2/3rds in support to pass.

10:19pm Angus Satow “I may have made a mistake” over proposed amendments

10:19pm Crafton and May accepting an amendment to strike several elements of the motion.

10:18pm Confusion over amendments currently.

10:16pm Adam Crafton: "85% of students present at the last Jewish Society meeting voted in favour of a referendum. If you can't take those concerns seriously, then I think we have a real problem."

10:16pm Crafton quotes an article by Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian: "the bar for anti-Semitism seems to be set far higher" than for other minority groups. 

10:11pm Angus Satow says that he is not denying the "furore" that has occurred as a result of Bouattia's election, but argues that she has put "liberation politics at the forefront of her campaign".

10:10pm Adam Crafton highlights why Malia Bouattia's anti-Semitic rhetoric is a problem: "because Jewish schools need security guards just to get through the day, because anti-Semitic violence and attacks are on the rise, and because the NUS is supposed to represent students across the UK."

10:08pm Adam Crafton and Jack May speaking in support of a motion they have proposed: "Enact a referendum on disaffiliation from the National Union of Students"

!!! NUS TIME !!!

10:04pm We're now entering the fourth hour of CUSU-based fun. Your noble live bloggers are beginning to flag a little, and are regretting not bringing food. 

https://twitter.com/jonathandh95/status/727239844653588483

9:51pm And the motion to approve the new sabbatical officer contracts passes too!

9:45pm And the motion passes!

9:44pm Cornelius Roemer, opposing the motion, claims that students are often "more effective" than staff.

9:43pm Jemma Stewart, speaking on her role as Co-ordinator: "We should not be electing people to run the organisation; we should be electing representatives." Met with some applause.

9:43pm And we finally reach the vote on whether or not to defer the election of a CUSU Co-ordinator!

9:41pm A loud scream from outside the building interrupts the proceedings. We can all identify.

https://twitter.com/harryjcurtis/status/727235088233156612

9:34pm Jemma Stewart: "I am the only Co-ordinator in the whole of the United Kingdom."

9:31pm Question from the floor: "What happens to the budget if there's not co-ordinator?" Response from McCormack: "The proposed budget does not include a co-ordinator. It accounts for six sabbatical officers."

9:31pm Angus Satow says that he withdrew his own "wrecking amendments" earlier, after talking to the sabbatical officers.

9:27pm Cornelius Roemer, taking the floor: "Finally I am allowed to speak." Met with laughter.

9:23pm And the motion to open nominations passes, with only one vote against. 

9:20pm Now we're on to the motion to open nominations for the newly-created sabbatical position of Disabled Students' Officer. 

9:20pm And the motion passes!

9:18pm The motion as it currently stands: CUSU will reimburse ISoc for the costs incurred this year for its provision of a prayer space (£660), and will set aside £1320 from this year's Council Free Budget (£7000 total) to reimburse them for future costs incurred in booking a prayer room.

9:17pm Cornelius Roemer's suggestion that the left over money could be spent instead on TCS is met with a mixture of derision and applause. Jemma Stewart clarifies that these issues are completely separate anyway, as the ISoc motion is for this year's budget whereas the end of TCS's print is in next year's budget proposal.

9:14pm Jemma Stewart's suggestion that CUSU might make a financial donation to the Islamic Society instead of setting aside the money in a budget is met with groans, and is quickly dismissed. 

9:13pm Serious confusion for a second between CUSU officials and Gabriel Gendler of Trinity as to how much money should be set aside for the Islamic Society for future academic years. 

9:10pm To clarify, CUSU did not forget about the budget. The debate earlier was on proposal, ratification will be discussed later.

9:08pm Concerns about CUSU incurring an unlimited liability in funding the Islamic Society, who are seeking a venue for Friday prayers. General impression is that there is widespread support for the assistance. However, clarification from the Chair that this Council can only pass funding for one year.

9:00pm A motion being presented by Burhan Ashraf about provision of a venue for Friday prayers; the only mosque in Cambridge is on Mill Road, so at the moment students must choose between praying and being on time to lectures - "the values they've been raised with and their academic commitments".

9:00pm And the motion on rent passes (as far as I can see) unanimously. 

8:55pm Mensah is speaking about her work on rent negotiation, having worked with King's recently on this. There will be a vote soon on the motion entitled: "Ensuring Fair, Equitable Rent Negotiations and Prices within Collegiate Cambridge". 

8:54pm We've had the first vote of the night, on the appointment of trustees. The motion passed clearly.

8:51pm And we're off again!

Over the break:

  • A number of CUSU sabbatical officers retreated to a corridor with Mark McCormack
  • TCS supporters gathered in a back corner
  • We all enjoyed a nice rest in anticipation of things getting intense
  • (It was pretty uneventful)

8:48pm Oxford Student Publications Ltd has waded into the debate. Not sure how much information they actually have about the situation however. Thanks for the input!

8:32pm There's now going to be a 15 minute break. We will be back!

8:28pm Jack May says that, according to his estimations, TCS represents 4% of CUSU's expenditure. He asks whether CUSU might be able to dedicate up to 10% of this year's budget to the paper, to applause from the audience. 

https://twitter.com/jackhimself/status/727217160246976512

8:25pm Strong applause for Priscilla Mensah as she delivers a rousing rebuttal. "CUSU is an organisation that serves 22,000 students", and she must make "difficult" financial decisions to benefit all of them.

8:25pm According to Elsa Maishman, TCS has been printing 9,000 copies every week, yet Varsity has cut down on its print in recent years to suit the financial environment. Now CUSU is suggesting cutting all print copies at once - why is there "no room for manoeuvre"?

8:24pm Mensah: "I do believe that the core objectives of the students' union are being met here." 

8:22pm Mensah: "CUSU finds itself in financial difficulty ever single year", which she distinguishes from "financial crisis" and "financial incompetence". She describes it as "chronically underfunded".

8:21pm Debates now raging on over the free budget, which Angus Satow claims is a "large pot of money" that most students don't know about.

 8:16pm Mensah says that CUSU has received multiple complaints about "too many" TCS print editions. Jack May claims that he has "repeatedly" proposed this to CUSU, who then rejected it.

8:12pm Charlotte Ivers, President of the Cambridge Union, has challenged the notion that CUSU could not find enough advertising to fund TCS, and asks if CUSU would consider giving the paper enough money for it to start up independent of CUSU. 

8:11pm Em Travis speaks to clarify some confusion. Not sure exactly what's going on, but the issues seem to have been somewhat resolved. Hand up again! Maybe not.

https://twitter.com/lowlamichelle/status/727213665175347201

8:08pm Representatives from the autonomous campaigns are querying the details of the budget. Sarah Gibson from the LGBT+ Campaign is taking issue with several changes to budget, with the suggestion that they have been dealt with unfavourably compared to the Women’s Campaign.

https://twitter.com/mariamwrites/status/727204332685418496

8:02pm Co-ordinator Jemma Stewart says that CUSU would like to support TCS as much as it can, but clarifies that TCS last year was given more "discretionary money" than the autonomous campaigns were. Reducing autonomous campaigns' funds "does not sit right" with CUSU.

8:01pm Jemma Stewart, CUSU Co-ordinatior: "If CUSU could give TCS money, it would."

8:00pm Priscilla Mensah in response: "This is not about TCS having to be a profit-making endeavour.... What we need is for TCS to make enough such that CUSU could break even."

7:58pm  Former TCS Editor Jack May claims that the paper attempted to raise their worries about revenues with CUSU on many occasions, and says that the TCS board was told in the meeting in which CUSU informed them of the plans to move it online: "there will be no negotiations in this room". 

https://twitter.com/jackhimself/status/727210022049058816

7:57pm Things getting a little heated as Mensah responds to being interrupted: "I will not have it."

7:56pm Mensah says that TCS has been "made aware on more than one occasion that TCS makes a loss". 

7:56pm "It seems hugely unfair that the paper should be given such short notice." Adam Crafton from the floor, asking why TCS was not presented with a more gradual cost-saving plan.

7:53pm "Constitutionally, we cannot present a budget which does not break even" - Priscilla Mensah, CUSU President. 

7:51pm Need to "remove the more toxic elements of income generation" - McCormack on TCS's financial performance, which is a steep downward incline on the graph. 

7:51pm Grim words from former TCS editor Elsa Maishman.

7:46pm Shoutout to Varsity! "Suddenly people think we're financially incompetent when we're not." - Mark McCormack, on the impact of student press.

7:45pm Ominous words from 'budget aims' slide: CUSU wants to "remove income streams that incur risk". Not looking good for a certain paper.

7:44pm McCormack: "The University are forcing us to make some difficult decisions". 

7:42pm Proposed budget includes apparent increase in number of staff from 11 to 11.3. It has been a long time since I've needed to read graphs however.

7:40pm Mark McCormark on CUSU staff: "they get paid".

https://twitter.com/jackhimself/status/727206061292290049

https://twitter.com/coopzada/status/727205306325979136

https://twitter.com/jackhimself/status/727204966461521920

7:36pm Mark McCormack currently talking about the volatility of income from advertising as opposed to a block grant from the University.

7:34pm Update: there are now graphs. Shockingly, bank interest is revealed not to be a major contributor to CUSU's budget.

https://twitter.com/jackhimself/status/727201024222580736

7:31pm Just to clarify, all tweets except those from @VarsityUK are individual views and not those of Varsity!

7:25pm We're hearing now from the friends and colleagues of Giulio Regeni, the Girton PhD student who was murdered in Egypt earlier this year. They're inviting people to participate in a week of action starting on the 16th May called "Truth for Giulio", with Cambridge and other universities taking part. 

7:22pm Reports from autonomous campaigns! Apparently they're planning lots of end-of-term events. Keep your diaries empty!

7:21pm The sabbatical officers are currently running through their announcements for the meeting.

https://twitter.com/jackhimself/status/727199402037792768

7:17pm CUSU President Priscilla Mensah congratulates us all on being the biggest turnout CUSU Council has ever seen. Thanks!

7:15pm We're starting with the first item on the agenda: objections to the order of items on the agenda. How meta. 

7:13pm CUSU Co-ordinator Jemma Stewart reminding everybody of CUSU's accountability measures: "If you want to hold the staff to account you have to do that by holding sabbatical officers to account." Members of CUSU are not allowed to criticise paid staff.

7:12pm And we're off! There are over a hundred people in here.

7:01pm Many familiar faces showing up as people fill the CUSU common room. Looks like there won't be enough seats, and we don't know how long Council will last. Rest assured we'll be here throughout to guide you through the action, although we might take some snack breaks.

6:56pm Evening all! Welcome to Varsity's live blog of what is shaping up to be the most exciting CUSU Council in living memory. We're Anna Menin and Siyang Wei, and we'll be tag-teaming tonight's coverage. Settle in!

6:41pm We will be heading over to CUSU shortly. Read our guide to Council to find out what’s going on.

Welcome to Varsity’s coverage of CUSU Council. Our live team tonight is Louis Ashworth, Daniel Gayne, Anna Menin and Siyang Wei.

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