Access and funding officer candidate Rhiannon Melliar-Smith campaigns on the Sidgwick Site on ThursdayLouis Ashworth

While this year’s hotly-contested CUSU presidential election will inevitably draw the most attention, Catherine Lally takes a look at other wannabe Sabbs.

Graduate Union president

The Graduate Union president is the other top-level role up for grabs. The president heads the GU as its chief spokesperson, representing graduate students, and is manages the GU’s “long-term, strategic development.” Currently there are three candidates in the running: Joe Cotton, Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar, and Sofia Ropek Hewson. Cotton stresses his wish “to see a GU that is in touch with the postgrad and mature undergrad community and strives to improve education for everyone.” Guha Majumdar points to his experiences as 3-time CUSU-GU executive officer, and notes his plans to put “our graduate students back at the heart of our University” as “a president who knows that #GradsMatter.” As president and women’s officer at Pembroke’s MCR, Ropek Hewson describes herself as “an intersectional feminist with a huge amount of energy for campaigning on issues that affect all of us,” citing her interest in “developing strong communities and advocating for graduate students.”

Access and funding officer

The access and funding officer is tasked with “promoting equal opportunity for access to Cambridge,” with a focus on students from underrepresented backgrounds at Cambridge, and addressing financial hardship. The role is currently contested by Rhiannon Melliar-Smith, and Shadab Ahmed. Melliar-Smith is currently CULC co-chair, and in her manifesto promises “tough conversations about economic privilege in Cambridge,” as well as “reaching out to offer holders from underperforming schools.” Speaking to Varsity, she added that, with her campaigning experience, she aims to “work for a fairer and more accessible Cambridge.” Ahmed has served as Christ’s access officer, and in his manifesto expresses his wish to create a “college level mentor system between current students and offer holders,” including an offer-holder shadowing scheme, and to provide “funds for academic support to those at high risk of missing offers.” In a comment to Varsity, he said: “Having been deeply involved in access for my three years here, I have seen the difference it can make to peoples’ lives.”

Disabled students’ officer

The disabled students’ officer role, created in 2016, is one of three uncontested positions this election season. They are primarily responsible for running the autonomous CUSU Disabled Students’ Campaign, and advocating on behalf of self-defining disabled students at Cambridge. The candidate, Emrys Travis, told Varsity that they are “well acquainted with the barriers that disabled students face at this university,” and wants to add to the “incredible legacy of improvements to their university experience made by our current and previous DSOs, as well as implementing some new policies, such as a central fund for medical evidence notes and diagnostic assessments.”

Education officer

The education officer represents students in “matters pertaining to academic provision and experience.” Seeking to fill the uncontested role, candidate Matt Kite said he wants to build a “less marketised and more liberated university” by “supporting the power of students.” Policy priorities would include “campaigning for standardised sexual misconduct guidelines,” tackling the “Islamophobic Prevent strategy” and “supporting efforts to decolonise the curriculum.”

Welfare and rights officer

The role of welfare and rights officer is split between CUSU and GU, and centres around advocating for “students’ mental, physical and social wellbeing,” and “the rights and protections afforded to students.” Walinase Chinula and Christine Pungong are competing for the role. In Chinula’s manifesto, she prioritises welfare continuity, accessibility – addressing college disparities and increased visibility – and inclusivity. She cites experience with the Law Society and Cambridge RAG, and told Varsity that “making welfare available everyday, everywhere and for everyone” is an “important ultimate goal of all welfare initiatives.” Pungong, former Women’s Campaign disabilities officer, is pushing for improved mental health provision, an improved intermission process, and mandatory welfare and pastoral training. She said that as “someone with extensive experience of the welfare support that the University provides,” she “understands the ways in which the current system often fails the most vulnerable students.”

Women’s officer

Current Women’s Officer Lola Olufemi has perhaps been CUSU’s most high-profile sabbatical officer this year. This year the candidate standing is Claire Sosienski Smith, a former Selwyn LGBT+ Officer who aims to raise awareness for women’s campaign issues, to create networks between college women’s officers, and to run “meaningful campaigns.” She told Varsity she believes she has “said a lot” throughout her degree, “but most of it outside the classroom.” She says that she has “learnt how to listen as an activist tool and how to collectively organise to ensure that women and non-binary people have a voice.” Her end vision is of Cambridge as “a space where women and non-binary people feel heard and prioritised.”

University councillor

The university councillor is elected to serve both as a trustee of the university and as the student member on the University Council, Cambridge’s highest policy-making body. The election is currently split between three candidates: George Breckenridge, Hugo Larose, and Marcel Llavero Pasquina. Breckenridge has previously served as student representative in the Physical Sciences faculty, and says that having “been given insight into the current agenda at University-level boards,” he can “contribute to the conversation very constructively,” and “can be the campaigner to push a number of current proposals over the line – to the vast benefit of students.” Larose told Varsity that he intends to prioritise “mental health,” student “outreach” – by attracting more students from “minority groups and disadvantaged backgrounds” – greater “gender equality” among students as well as staff, and “the rights of research students.” Pasquina, who was unsuccessful in his bid for the role last year, said: “The democratic nature of Cambridge has been co-opted by a Council that blindfully obviates students and staff overwhelming demands to divest from fossil fuels” and vowed to “stop the neoliberal attack on higher education and decolonise the University.” He is looking to take “grassroots campaigns’ voices to Council,” and escalate demands until it “faces up to the facts.”

Ethical affairs officer

There were no candidates for this role, which involves increasing “the awareness of social and environmental issues around campus, and helping student campaigns.” Ellen Pearce-Davies and Dylan Amin, the current officers, will remain in their roles until a by-election can be held.

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