Connor MacDonald wants to find a long-term fix for CUSU’s financesMathias Gjesdal Hammer

Connor MacDonald may have been campaign manager for Jack Drury’s failed presidential bid last year, but MacDonald is keen to stress that there is much to separate him from Drury – despite both having been part of Cambridge University Conservative Association (CUCA). Speaking of Drury, he says “it’s very difficult to say you care about CUSU when you haven’t been involved with CUSU at any point in your three years as an undergraduate”. This was a problem Drury was never able to overcome. MacDonald, on the other hand, feels this is not an issue for him, having served as Emmanuel’s JCR President and as an active participant at CUSU Council.


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As was the case last year, it might seem odd for a right-leaning student to want to serve as president of an overwhelmingly left-of-centre student union. While he acknowledges that his political position may put him at odds with most Cambridge students “in pure numbers terms”, he believes that “whether or not I am a conservative should not be a factor in this race”. MacDonald stresses that his term as JCR president saw him pursue “some really progressive policies,” from “more adequately” celebrating LGBT+ History Month, to providing sanitary products to all undergraduates. MacDonald claims that “many of the issues CUSU faces are not partisan ones,” and he would like to make the student union “as effective as possible for as many people as possible.”

MacDonald went on to explain that he is “not intending to talk about national issues.” However, in his capacity as an NUS delegate, he acknowledged that the student union does need to engage with national responses to questions that directly affect students, and praised the contributions made by CUSU to campaigns to bring back maintenance grants.

CUCA has notably been featured in the student press this academic year for its vocal criticisms of CUSU: from attacking Daisy Eyre for her stance on Toby Young’s appointment, to lambasting CUSU’s unwillingness to release information on TCS’ funding problems. However, he argues that he personally “wasn’t always the driving force” behind these statements, and says “it doesn’t mean I can’t work with [CUSU] well,” adding that “being critical of CUSU is vitally important.” In fact, he believes his direct experiences with CUSU are what differentiates him from the other candidates.

MacDonald sits on the CUSU financial enquiry committee, and points to his nuanced understanding of the working of CUSU and its finances as what differentiates him from the other candidates. Financial sustainability is put forward as one of his main policy priorities – he maintains that CUSU needs “adequate funding from the University,” and should not be treated “as another part of the University going through an arduous, and in some ways contrived funding process.”


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Instead he would like to see CUSU finances increasingly resemble those of its equivalent at Oxford, as a separate organisation with funding set aside, “equal to what its responsibilities are.” He says he would accomplish this through a “sustainable funding agreement,” with the “significant deficit” having “degraded a lot of students’ trust in CUSU.”

Student welfare is a key issue for MacDonald, who wishes to work with CUSU’s welfare officer to create a “welfare Tompkins Table” – arguably likely to mean a more regularly-updated version of CUSU’s outdated welfare grid. Drawing on his JCR experiences, he claims the most effective means of bringing change about in colleges is demonstrating that other colleges “do it differently, and other colleges do it better.” In a similar vein, he would like rent information across colleges to be publicly and readily available to JCRs in rent negotiations, and would also like to hold a “referendum” on divestment, as “the student body should be expected to hold a clear position before it moves forward in the University.”

With talk about strikes having dominated student politics for the last week, MacDonald perhaps surprisingly claims to “support the strikes,” with the pension changes being “significant [...] especially for young academics.” However, while he states that academics “have every right to exercise the right to strike,” he claims to be concerned that CUSU “hasn’t always shown enough time and care for a lot of students’ anxieties,” ranging from missing supervisions to collecting supervision books.

Quickfire questions

Gardies, Van of Life, or Van of Death?

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Diligent, fun, and indecisive.

Are you a cat person or a dog person?
Dog person.

If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would it be?
I haven’t seen my mother in a really long time, so I’d like to have dinner with her.

If you could change anything about Cambridge, no matter how big or small, who would it be?
I would like to see a student movement that can work together more effectively and really hold colleges to account to make them compete with each other to provide the best services possible. (MacDonald later clarified not about market competition in the pure economic sense).

  • Update 10:18am March 1st: A earlier version of this article said that Jack Drury was formerly a CUCA chairman. This was not the case, and has been corrected.
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