Andrea Borbely, standing for Easter term President of the Cambridge UnionAndrea Borbely

Andrea Borbely is one of two candidates running to be the President of the Cambridge Union in Easter term. Her manifesto lists a long series of Union committee positions she's previously held. In her own words, “since my first Michaelmas basically. With that I’ve had the privilege of seeing seven different presidents and being on standing committee under four different presidents and I’ve seen different types of leadership: I have seen what works and what doesn’t when it comes to putting on a great term”.

I ask her if that makes her the ‘insider’ candidate in this election.“If insider candidate means someone who is qualified, has experience, cares about the Union has seen what works and what doesn’t – yes, I am the insider candidate.

“If insider means status quo, doesn’t want to change things – then no, I’m not.”

To Andrea, “the Union is a space for defending free speech and debate. That is its stated purpose and that is one of the main things I would like to continue promoting. I don’t think that comes down to just hosting controversial speakers, I think that comes down to genuinely widening debate, making sure that voices you cannot really hear somewhere else are platformed.”

“I don’t think you can reconcile the current definition of safe space with what the Union does.”

This means debates and speakers which are diverse. “Whether that’s gender, race or sexuality but also in terms of just diversity of opinion. Recently we had a debate on faith which was quite interesting: we had a Christian woman, we had an LGBT Muslim person, we had Buddhists, that was one of my favourite debates, and to me that kind of represents true diversity of opinion as well as representation. And that is what I think we should be striving forward with, with our speaker events and also with our debates.”

I ask Andrea what her thoughts are on where the Union should place itself in terms of the current discussion around safe spaces, “I don’t think you can reconcile the current definition of safe space with what the Union does. What we do is host debates which are confrontational, that is something that cannot happen in a safe space. Unless you see the Union as a safe space for free speech, which is something for which I’ve heard an argument for before, but I don’t really believe that is representative of what people think of safe spaces as”.

Ultimately the issue is one that touches on the purpose of the Union: “You cannot guarantee that someone will not be called out in a debate, you cannot guarantee that someone be made to feel uncomfortable. That is something that we as a society cannot guarantee and that is not what we are about.”

Andrea acknowledges the issues that have come up with members balloting for popular events. It’s “definitely not” a perfect system, but she justifies it on the grounds that it allows busy students without time to queue to still attend events. She thinks small, meaningful improvements could be made by “ensuring certain things like that the website does not crash when people have to sign up for balloting.

In terms of accessibility to the Union, Andrea notes that “in the past few terms this has been improved greatly.” She says she would support the work of the access officers, “this is a role which in the past was kind of nebulous and no one knew what it was about but it has grown quite a lot lately.” In general, she sees access efforts “as kind of twofold” with work towards members “but also the wider ranging things that we do with debating.”

Further to this, she says she would continue with the Union Plus scheme, which opens events up to non-members, saying this terms committee has done “amazing things” by opening up such events.  At the same time, “I would also look into prioritising members. Ultimately because this is a society for its members. I do believe that those two things can co-exist.”


Mountain View

A new dawn for the Cambridge Union?

Andrea’s manifesto mentions the importance of the Union as a place which should be “having conversations no one else is having.” I ask for an example and she points out the debate the Union is having this week, “This House Would Kill One to Save The Many”.

“That is a suggestion that came straight from the membership and it's quite different from the type of debates we usually host. It’s a philosophy debate that has not been done in recent memory.”

Finally, I ask what Andrea likes about her opponent, Maria. “Maria’s sense of style, she’s always very well dressed.”

You can read Varsity's interview with Maria, the other candidate for Union President, here

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