CUSU says that The Cambridge Student has been losing money for yearsLouis Ashworth

Monday’s CUSU council was packed with action, but one thing was not resolved: next year’s CUSU budget, and with it the fate of The Cambridge Student’s print edition. This will instead be resolved next council later this month, as students voted overwhelmingly to delay budget ratification discussion after the NUS referendum motion was passed at almost midnight.

The budget proposal discussion earlier in the evening became quite heated at times, with multiple contributors from the floor. In the opening presentation, after outlining CUSU’s current major sources of income, it was made clear that “remov[ing] income streams that infer risk” was of high priority. Further allusions to “toxic elements of income generation” and the claim that TCS has for many years made a loss did not bode well for those fighting against the proposed cutting of all of TCS’s weekly physical copies. The debate at council followed a week in which arguments between TCS and CUSU had become acrimonious.

Jack May, former TCS editor and recently one of its most vocal advocates, reiterated his key points: that the paper attempted to raise concerns about its revenues on multiple occasions, and that the board of TCS was told by CUSU that “there will be no negotiations in this room” in the same meeting in which they were informed about its move online. However, a number of the sabbatical officers stated that they had in fact previously raised the financial concerns to the board members of TCS.

Elsa Maishman, another former editor, and Homerton student Adam Crafton both queried the sudden and total nature of the cut. Maishman commented that Varsity has previously altered its print to suit the financial environment, whereas TCS has been presented with “no room to manoeuvre”. Crafton also suggested that the short notice was “hugely unfair” and that the paper should have been allowed “a more gradual cost-saving plan”.

However, the sabbatical officers were clear that they themselves were not happy about the measures proposed, but viewed them as necessary for the long-term ability of CUSU to fulfil its aim of serving students. CUSU Co-ordinator Jemma Stewart said that “if CUSU could give TCS money, it would”, and referred to her own previous involvement with the paper. CUSU President Priscilla Mensah maintained that CUSU is constitutionally obligated to present a budget yearly that breaks even, and that the move online “is not about TCS having to be a profit-making endeavour…what we need is for TCS to be making enough such that it CUSU could break even”.

The core of Mensah’s argument was that CUSU “finds itself in financial difficulty every year” because it is “chronically underfunded”, referring to the comparatively small block grant it receives from the University in comparison to other Students’ Unions. Her statement that “CUSU is an organisation that serves 22,000 students” and that she must make “difficult” financial decisions to meet the “core objectives of the students’ union” was met with evening’s first round of applause.

This was highlighted by Stewart’s explanation that last year TCS was given more “discretionary money” than the autonomous campaigns were, and that reducing the campaigns’ funds “does not sit right with CUSU”.

By the end of the discussion, which led into the first break of the night, alternating rounds rounds of applause from the floor indicated that opinions were still very much divided on the issue. CUSU council on Monday 16th may be another unusually thrilling affair.

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