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  • Presidential candidates clashed over Prevent policy
  • The race for Access and Funding Officer erupted with Shadab Ahmed accusing Rhiannon Melliar-Smith of ‘defamation’
  • Candidates for Graduate Union president discussed tokenism and graduate community
  • Candidates for education, women’s, welfare and rights, and disabled students' officer also pitched their agendas


Noella Chye

Senior News Editor

Access gets personal

Hustings for the position of access and funding officer quickly spiralled into a deeply personal conflict, with both candidates drawing primarily on their experiences during the evening to challenge their opposition.

Melliar-Smith, who emphasised her upbringing in the North West, drew extensively on her personal experience applying to Cambridge from a state school. Ahmed, on the other hand, repeatedly cited his experience as an access officer at Christ’s and intimate experience with Cambridge’s access schemes. At three points during the proceedings, Ahmed pointed out existing access systems, one of which was an attempt to challenge Melliar-Smith’s points.

Tensions peaked when Melliar-Smith then addressed Ahmed directly for the first time in the event’s proceedings: “Are you saying that there isn’t a problem?”, then pressed for Ahmed to account for evidence of disparities between state and private school students.

A tangible uneasiness filled the air after Melliar-Smith concluded proceedings by describing herself as “the only candidate with personal experience of applying from a state school”.

Moving forward, the competition for this position is likely to be one of the most heated, second to that of CUSU president. Already, Ahmed has since accused Melliar-Smith of defamation – a claim she has vehemently denied.


Catherine Lally

Investigations Editor

Presidents find they have more in common than divides them

Tonight’s CUSU Elections Hustings saw broad agreement between presidential candidates on most policy questions, beyond a noticeable split surrounding Prevent policy.

Wei will probably emerge from the night as the happiest candidate. Their profile was undoubtedly strengthened by a knowledgeable performance – and an admittedly sympathetic audience – based off their deep involvement with Cambridge’s activist community.

Connor MacDonald was unable to read the room: as a Conservative trying to lead an overwhelmingly progressive student body, he has made appeals to the student left by stressing previous progressive policies. However, tonight he fell at the Prevent hurdle by saying he “fundamentally” believes it is “necessary” – a statement that fell flat with the audience. Conversely, Wei labelled it “incredibly dangerous,” with Evie Aspinall concurring.

Aspinall struggled to overcome her relative lack of previous CUSU engagement, confessing she is "not the most knowledgeable" person on Prevent. When asked for solid proposals to reform Council, which she only began attending this term, she made the perhaps superficial suggestion of making it more “interesting, and [...] enjoyable” as an experience.

8:44pm That’s all for tonight’s marathon CUSU hustings. Thank you for joining us, and don't forget to participate in our poll: tell us who you plan on making the next CUSU president! There will be constant CUSU Elections coverage on the Varsity website.

Students have until tomorrow to check that they are registered to the electoral roll via the CUSU voting portal.

8:39pm When asked by Varsity's own Louis Ashworth about improving CUSU Council in a concrete way, Connor said the question was "complex," but hopes that increased engagement with JCRs will increase Council engagement.

Wei said that many of the conversations that happen at CUSU Council must take place outside of Council in JCRs, so that will make people feel more engaged and consequently more likely to attend.

Aspinall concluded by saying Council is quite long and bureaucratic, adding "people get tired." She would like to see it be "more interesting, and a more enjoyable experience." On a "less superficial level," she believes in connecting the JCRs, as Council needs to reflect what JCRs need.

8:35pm When asked about how they would deal with issues not on their manifestos, Aspinall said they will always come back to what CUSU Council mandated, but it also depends on who turned up to CUSU Council. They think Council is currently not connected enough to students.

MacDonald said he would agree with Evie, with the example of strikes: he would first set up a series of consultations, and would use CUSU's resources to advertise opportunities to meet with the Sabbatical team, and from there construct a consensus.

Wei added that often CUSU Council often has to very quickly come to a decision, and they think it is very important to improve engagement and constantly talk about the issues that resulted in strikes. They added: "you elect a platform and someone with a vision ... that isn't always about the immediate things they said they were going to do.

8:30pm When asked about navigating disagreement with Sabbaticals, Aspinall said the CUSU President is designated with representing students - usually, she agrees with students, but when her views are not aligned with students, "we must present students with facts." MacDonald said he is not running on anything in his platform that he does not disagree with, and the fundamental thing is "managing a process of cross-negotiations." Wei says if elected, they would be elected on the basis of their manifesto. They stated that the CUSU presidency is about representation but also initiative - so they set the tone of the conversation in the University but need to consult with students to determine a position.

8:28pm A question from the floor noted broad agreement between candidates, but expressed a wish to "sort them out" by asking what the top point of change they would look for. Wei said housing and rent, Aspinall said college inequality, and MacDonald said improving CUSU's ability to gather information, so it can make progress in other areas.

8:26pm All 3 presidential candidates are HSPS students: a subject which has seen a lot of "momentum" around decolonising the curriculum. All candidates admitted its importance. MacDonald admitted to lacking direct experience, but said it needs "quite a bit of organising." Wei said it is "fundamentally about a more critical engagement with our history, our content, and the way they view the world." They have been involved with decolonising politics, but also more broadly across HSPS, and hope to expand and coordinate decolonisation efforts across faculties. Aspinall said working groups appear to be doing well in specific faculties, with some making faster progress than others. They identified a need to use faculty reps to a greater extent.

8:23pm Graduate issues were discussed, Aspinall says the grad community "isn't really connected with CUSU," as their experiences are so different. MacDonald agreed, saying there is a need to use the graduate community more through coordinating GU meetings. Wei said working with the GU is a "huge opportunity," for example in addressing supervisions, which often see supervisors receiving inadequate pay. 

8:21pm Wei disagreed with MacDonald, calling Prevent "incredibly dangerous" – being "so incredibly vague and so incredibly invasive that it creates a culture of paranoia." However, they admit that "it's a legal duty, so we need to implement it in a way that bears in mind student welfare." They advocate for a rights-based approach to Prevent, as seen at Oxford, as it is "a danger to freedom of speech."

Aspinall confessed that she is "not the most knowledgeable" person on Prevent, but admitted that "it is having a very harmful effect," and she is "keen to work on it." She called it "obviously racist and obviously targeted." She thinks the best way to phrase it is at a human rights issue. 

Aspinall appears to take Wei's lead, and wants to "increase transparency" surrounding the policy. Aspinall says she has no experience with Prevent, besides a non-extensive look via Pembroke JPC. Wei says they have been in Preventing Prevent's working group with Cambridge Defend Education, as well as an investigation with Varsity.

8:16pm Prevent is shaping up to be the first real disagreement between presidential candidates, and the debate is heating up.

8:16pm The conversation once again turned to Prevent. MacDonald labelled it a "complex issue," having sat on Prevent Committees as JCR President. However, he said the duty is a "necessary one," and that he "happens to think it fundamentally," although we must look at how we can "more effectively and more adequately implement it."

8:13pm Simon Percelay asked about inequalities between CUSU liberation campaigns, with the Women's Campaign having sabbatical officers but the LGBT+ campaign lacking them. 

Aspinall said a lot of labour revolves around advertising, with CUSU being a "really good platform." She added that CUSU Class Act is very limited in its funding, which she would aim to address.

MacDonald agreed that advertising is important, but adds he would say that "the first thing the CUSU President needs to do" is sit down with leaders of liberation campaigns and grassroots campaigns to work out their needs. He says : "you guys should set the agenda and we will figure out how to implement these on a University-wide level."

Wei says the the campaigns are not as isolated as it may appear - referencing Lola Olufemi's role as both Women's Officer and a key figure in the decolonisation campaign. Wei says there are many opportunities for connection between campaigns, so we need to ensure coordination between them.

8:10pm Wei asked why MacDonald portrayed them as disagreeing, as they also "emphasise sharing information." MacDonald said this was because of a mention of competition, and Wei responded by saying this was referring to a culture of academic competition.

8:12pm Access race erupts as Ahmed accuses Melliar-Smith of defamation

8:09pm Eyre brought up the issue of inequalities between colleges. Wei acknowledged that it is a problem, like students facing disparities in rent, and that they believe inequality itself is less of a pressing issue, rather than the issue being that students are actively suffering as a result of this inequality. They also focus on educational inequality, saying we nee to think less in terms of academic competition – with more of a focus on solutions like collaborative learning. Aspinall said a lot of emphasis is on Cut the Rent, but "this isn't everything," with University issues as well as collegiate issues. MacDonald pointed out one disagreement with Wei, saying that the fragmentation with the collegiate system means that "every single layer is able to deny accountability": resulting in colleges and faculties not always addressing additional expenses for architects, for example.

8:04pm Convinced by any of the candidate's arguments? Tell us who you think should be CUSU's next President in our interactive poll.

8:04pm Wei distanced themselves from Aspinall, saying that engagement is "more than how often you see my face." They think CUSU should be focussed on helping students through their policies, by providing resources, and thinking about how it can help students and help them work with other areas of the university. Aspinall responded by saying all of this is in her manifesto, but that she thinks there is a further point that people don't feel they know what CUSU is doing for them - adding, "you need to be in their face."

8:01pm Connor responded by saying he also cares about engagement, but is skeptical of some of Aspinall's ideas. He said they need to create working groups, and noted that as JCR President when he showed up for biweekly meetings, he did not find them "focused or detailed enough to get things done."

8:00pm Wei said that their policy solutions to various issues are different. They believe Connor misrepresented their campaign as being too accepting of CUSU's current state; they think CUSU has a "unique ability to collaborate between different JCRs, faculties, and departments to work together on various issues." Aspinall said she disagrees with MacDonald on two points: her key policy is CUSU's engagement with JCRs and having regular meetings, as well as focussing more than him on trying to get more students' voices heard.

7:58pm Daisy cites Varsity's policy matrix as showing how similar a stance they take on policy issues, and asks what makes their policies different. MacDonald said he is interested in "providing a lot more information," and thinks that "the other two candidates are a lot more focussed on accepting CUSU" as it is. He added that he feels CUSU has "forgotten it is a students' union."

7:56pm Siyang Wei said they want to be CUSU President because their experience showed them that "we can make a real difference when we come together." They want to ensure financial security for students, especially concerning hardship funding and rent. They said that they want "to tackle the big issues facing students," with "the most powerful campaigns having happened through collaboration."

7:55pm Connor MacDonald described himself as having "worked intimately with CUSU." His 3 main areas are: "community, accountability and sustainability." He wishes to engage students outside of CUSU Council, especially regarding the budget - although he points to CUSU's recent funding grant from the University, he argues that "many policies are not sustainable in the long run."

7:53pm Evie Aspinall introduced her platform as "not what the media is saying: it is not, not about being political." She considers herself a "political person," but her point is "about making sure CUSU represents what students think is important." Her four key policy areas are tackling college inequality, CUSU visibility and engagement, pastoral care, and supporting JCRs and societies.

7:51pm Siyang Wei, Connor MacDonald, and Evie Aspinall have made it to the front of the room with their respective campaign teams. The competition has become fiercer in recent days, with Cambridge's largest student political clubs all making official endorsements.

7:50pm The main draw of the evening is fast-approaching, with presidential hustings just around the corner. Stay tuned for more live updates or view our live-stream on Facebook.

7:48pm The GU President hustings are now coming to a close. There have been few clashes between the candidates, with no real disagreements over Prevent.

7:47pm Guha Mahumdar said Prevent should be of a central focus, while looking to various stakeholders and thinking about how we act on the findings from surveys sent out. Ropek Hewson said that it is a "really serious issue," and agreed with Joe that we need to listen to victim. She raised an example of a meeting with Pembroke's Senior Tutor, and wants to implement more 'subconscious bias training' within colleges.

7:45pm The government's counter-terrorism Prevent strategy came up in discussion. Cotton said that people have mentioned it without referring specifically to muslim students, "who are the only ones victimised by it." He said that those who are discriminated against are forced to take up the labour, and he wants to share the burden by facilitating and listening while letting Islamic Soc and Pal Soc "take the leadership."

7:35pm Ropek Hewson asked if he meant having a more general welfare officer. Guha Majumdar responded "not exactly," but that "every individual has multiple sides to themselves," emphasising intersectionality. Ropek Hewson said that we must "essentialise identities" sometimes to achieve political representation.

7:34pm Ropek Hewson added that it is "incredibly important" to be political and not treat "political as a dirty word." They wish to see more BME MCR officers and MCR liberation campaigns, as these concerns do not disappear for graduates but are different. Cotton added that we should swap welfare officers for BME officers, and should lobby for every MCR to have a BME officer, women's officer, and LGBTQ+ officer. Guha Majumdar said that we must be sure "that this is not just tokenism," as "there are cases of having representatives but the community not benefiting from it."

7:30pm A question from the floor says that refusing to take a political stance is a political stance in itself, and asks how they will create a GU "that does not shy away from making decisions on political issues." Cotton mentioned Lola Olufemi – she nods – and her work in pushing solidarity through students coming together. He says graduates have a particular role to play, and wants to reach out with students to make University environments work for everyine.

Guha Majumdar said he has been "fairly active in student politics with CULC and CULA," and says he would like a union that is "political in some ways and stands up for issues that prevail." However, he added that he would like to take a "slightly pragmatic stand and be willing to discuss with other state-holders."

7:26pm Guha Majumdar challenged Ropek Hewson's point about graduates needing to find a community anywhere in Cambridge, saying many graduates are already very department-centred, and not really engaged with College MCRs. He also says he wants to bring greater attention to environmental causes.

7:22pm Daisy asks about their major campaign points. Guha Majumdar, having been endorsed by both CULA and CULC, says he would focus on academic affairs, but thinks as well that there is not enough of a feedback system to determine times for intervention. Ropek Hewson, from Pembroke, emphasises that the job market is "not great" for graduate students, and wants to run training sessions so students think about "alternative careers" from the beginning of their graduate studies. Cotton, from Wolfson, says the system of faculty reps must be used more, to reach out to the graduate community more. 

7:17pm Guha Majumdar stresses his previous experiences with the GU, having been around Cambridge for 4 years. He centres his campaign around diversity, fraternity, and welfare. He wants more welfare support around faculties and more investment in support. Ropek Hewson says her top priority would be to make sure grads find a community, whether in college or faculties. She'd like to work with the Women's Campaign to make sure Breaking the Silence works for grads, and to engage with BME grads. Cotton says he thinks the GU should be more active, engaged, and political. He would visit each of the MCRs and speak to representatives to work out their needs and priorities. He points to only 6% of graduates voting in their last election as a reason for increased engagement. He says "the playing field at Cambridge is not active," and we must work at addressing this and decolonising the curriculum.

7:14pm The GU hustings have begun! We have Joe Cotton, Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar, and Sofia Ropek Hewson all competing to become Graduate Union President.

7:03pm There is now a five minute break. When we come back, Graduate Union presidential hustings will commence.

7:01pm Florence Oulds, current disabled student's officer, says disabled people may have less time and energy, and asks Travis for ideas on how to mobilise non-disabled allies. Travis says faculties are a big issue, and will do more to contact faculty representatives with information on how to improve provisions.

6:59pm  Daisy asks about student access, especially waiting times. Another question from the floor emphasises that Disability Resources Centre waiting times are due to "vast underfunding," and asks how much they consider it a responsibility of the disabled student's officer. Travis says it is "definitely" one of their responsibilities, although they are "hesitant" about how much they can do and how much the University is likely to listen.

Travis says they want more publicity surrounding disabilities, letting students know they can get help. They also want to increase solidarity so students who might assume they do not need help feel more comfortable recognising their disabilities and asking for support.

6:56pm Emrys Travis is up next for disabled student's officer, spotted wearing a Divest Cambridge t-shirt. They cite their experience in disabled students' issues, including being part of the original group that campaigned for the original creation of the sabbatical role in 2016. They want to look at the next funding round of the CUSU budget, to see "evidence" of a lack of funding to increase disabled students' positions. They also want to promote physical accessibility, step-by-step guidance in improving provisions, and "redefining success" with different means of assessment, including putting forth an option to resit exams.

6:52pm As we near the presidential hustings, familiarise yourself with the candidates' key positions through Varsity's policy grid, and respond to our presidential poll.

6:51pm Varsity's Louis Ashworth asks Kite where he stands on the student refund petition for missed contact time. He thinks it is "wrong" that the University could be enriched by not paying staff wages, but supports the plan to put missed wages into a student hardship fund.,

6:49pm He says CUSU has done a "really good job" during the strikes in making it clear that this is the "University's fault," and that the "long-term" interests of students lie on the side of the faculty. He thinks it's difficult to support students individually through the strike but will be working over the next few weeks through Cambridge Defend Education with CUSU to do this.

6:46pm Daisy asks about how he plans on engaging with national political issues. Kite responds that Cambridge has an "outsized difference" and "does make a difference nationally" – although there is work to be done between building connections between the student union and student body here and nationally. He also draws on his experiences with organising strike solidarity, and says the pressures that drive up rents are the pressures that drive down staff wages.

6:45pm Attendance of the hustings ebbs and flows as we move from contested to uncontested roles: the most competitive elections have seen candidates backed by fairly large contingents of their own supporters.

6:44pm Kite lists his priorities as tackling the "Islamophobic Prevent strategy," supporting decolinising the curriculum efforts, and looking for standardised sexual misconduct guidelines.

6:43pm Confused about the roles and policy stances of the many candidates up for non-presidential roles? Read Varsity's explainer for a comprehensive guide to the other roles.

6:41pm Next up is Matt Kite, the only candidate for education officer. 

6:40pm The two candidates disagree on virtually nothing, but there was criticism from Graduate Union representatives who forced the candidates to consider questions about graduates and mature students that seemed not previously to have crossed their minds.

6:39pm When asked how the candidates plan to address graduates' issues, Chinula says she has thought "a lot" about this, noticing disjointed welfare provisions of JCRs and MCRs. She says it's "not just about sending out a bulletin," but making sure we have an "even balance" and are "conscious" of grads being overlooked. Pungong agrees that grads have been overlooked, and stresses the need to understand the different demands on them – like different financial situations to undergraduates. She says that many grads feel uncomfortable reaching out, or cannot receive the "more immediate care" they need. She would communicate with the GU President, and would have a welfare guide catering to MCRs.

6:35pm Access and funding officer candidate Shadab Ahmed has just taken to Facebook to accuse his opponent Rhiannon Melliar Smith of attempting to "defame him" during hustings, with her interjections supposedly "implying that [he] is not someone from a state school background" and "invalidating [his] experience as a marginalised, working class BME candidate."

6.34pm You can also follow proceedings on Twitter

6:33pm A student in the audience brought up the Queens' DoS email in a question, asking the candidates how they can stop the university from pushing students to their "literal limits."

6:29pm A question from the floor accuses neither candidate of having been involved with welfare causes like Student Minds, and asks what they think the biggest welfare issue facing students, and where they have gained this issue from. Pungong cites her experience as BME officer, and says the biggest problem is an environment that causes stress and pressure. Chinula says the biggest welfare issue is mental health.

6:25pm Daisy asked the candidates their thoughts on the relationship between their roles and intersectionality.

Chinula said that she has thought about this issue a lot and would like to learn about and collaborate with people who have experiences that she doesn't.

Pungong stressed the importance of working closely with the Women's Officer, the Disabled Students' Officer, and liberation campaigns. 

6:22pm When Daisy asked how the candidates plan to address the college system, with college welfare officers, Pungong says she would create a forum for college welfare officers to relay their problems, to both train them and get feedback back. Chinula says Pungong has a good point, and that there are good systems in place, which she wants to build on – specifically the welfare handbook created by Micha's predecessor Sophie Buck.

6:21pm Pungong responded that she would focus on training college counselors and welfare officers. She also suggested having a welfare forum for college officers to relay their problems. 

When asked what one thing they would like to achieve during their year in office, Chinula responded that she would like to focus on accessibility and helping students know what support is out there. 

6:17pm Chinula talks about her experience leaving Africa for the first time, and says she has a lot of experience with making policies to achieve the ideals of increasing visibility, and providing therapeutic forms of access for welfare. Pungong shared similar sentiments, drawing on her personal experiences.

6:16pm The two candidates for welfare and rights officer are Walinase Chinula and Christine Pungong.

6:15pm When asked to summarise her campaign in one sentence, Sosienski Smith said, "my campaign is one that is inclusive, supportive, and unapologetic." 

6:14pm Olufemi says that recently, (college) women's officers have not worked closely with WomCam, with some being "too busy." Sosienski Smith says that to make sure women's officers get resources from University Council, for example, she will "get out of the CUSU lounge had have a women's officer forum at least once each term." 

6:10pm Varsity's Louis Ashworth asks if she is disappointed to not run against another candidate. She says that "would have made these things more exciting," but it "makes me more excited for the role next year."

6:09pm In response to a question from Lola Olufemi, who says that some people feel WomCam is for a "specific kind of person," Sosienski Smith says she will make it an accessible space through her public events, wanting speakers including "black women, non-binary people," and "trans women." 

She wants to be a resource to make clear that students who don't have the time to do everything they want to so that she can offer connections and time within the University. She wants to use her "privilege as a white person" to fight for change.

6:06pm Daisy says the Officer has a different status from the other sabbs, and asks how she would balance her work.

Sosienski Smith says is "not here to help women and non-binary people to fit into the flawed system." Instead she's "here to support the spaces where women and non-binary people can come together to call out and recognise these flaws." She says her "hat is being leader of a liberation campaign."

6:03pm The two contingents supporting Melliar-Smith and Ahmed have just left. Next up is Claire Sosienski Smith, running for Women's Officer with no opponents.

6:02pm Ahmed mentions that there are already six flags that highlight applicants' disadvantages, and he says that tutors spend a lot of time looking into these. Melliar-Smith retorted, asking if he thinks this means there isn't a problem if there's already a system in place. Ahmed said that the example she raised was one anecdote, adding that we need to consider the statistics as a whole, and he acknowledged that there is always more work to be done.

5:57pm Simon Percelay asks what can be done to prevent colleges from "clearly discriminating against state school students" with Trinity and St. John's having low state school acceptance rates. Melliar-Smith wishes more tutors to bear in mind the schools people come from, with her DOS not having been aware that he only taught one student from a state school when she raised the issue.

5:55pm Both candidates support the provision of Skype interviews for candidates unable to travel, with Melliar-Smith mentioning the "symbolic value of seeing Cambridge come to you rather than you having to go to Cambridge." However, Ahmed says that there are already regionally-targeted schemes, and travel reimbursement schemes. However, he wants to see "pairs of colleges doing this" so students don't feel pressured to apply to one college. Melliar-Smith says it is not just about money, but time as well. She mentions that she could often not get away from home because she was needed for childcare.

5:52pm Only Evie Aspinall is here of the presidential candidates.

5:51pm Melliar-Smith says she wants to alleviate the disparities between state and privately-educated students once at Cambridge. She also wants to break down differences between state schools - with some being much stronger than others. Ahmed references "a massive variation" between proportions of privately-educated students and different colleges - with privately-educated students being more likely to picked up from the pool, being "gunning for the tripos system." Melliar-Smith addressed this, saying that from her state school, she was also "gunning for her tripos." Ahmed responded "okay."

5:46pm Melliar-Smith says she "wants to change the narrative of state school admissions," and offensive, "emotionally-taxing" stereotypes - citing her experiences with people asking her to repeat things - academics "who can understand Nietzsche but not a North West accent."

5:45pm Ahmed says networks that help disadvantaged students need to be advertised more to help students "feel included when they're here." Melliar-Smith points to her manifesto, wanting to better publicise bursaries. She doesn't want students to feel "like they're asking for help all the time," something she struggled with.

5:42pm Daisy asks about increasing awareness of post-admissions access, and for examples of what post-admissions access means to the candidates.

5:41pm Ahmed says we cannot let the Bursary system change, with decentralisation likely to disadvantage students at poorer colleges.

5:40pm Melliar-Smith labels Ahmed's good ideas as "short-term solutions," and says that lots of people applying to wealthier colleges being pooled to poorer colleges where they cannot afford the rent. She says that "poor kids" have to pick colleges for financial reasons, and lose agency - whereas "rich kids can focus on aesthetics." She therefore wants to bring general living costs down.

5:38pm Melliar-Smith cites CULC involvement and experience as HSPS faculty rep, wanting to take abstract social visions and transforming them into things like the living wage. Ahmed says he wants to focus on post-offer support, diversity, and transparency. He also builds on the popularity of the Cut the Rent campaign, having been involved in the campaign at Christ's.

5:36pm Daisy asks how the candidates will ensure that they put their ideas about access into practice, asking them about their own experiences.

5:35pm Melliar-Smith cites her personal experience as a woman from the North West, and says she has personal experience with applying from state schools, having faced regionalism and classism. She wants more visibility for groups like FLY, working with Project Access.

5:34pm Ahmed says he brings a different voice forward, given the number of humanities students President. He is a JCR Access Officer, with experience with students, parents, and teachers. He says that “I know that it is difficult for certain groups of students to get into Cambridge,” and you need to look at various causes of that - as well as recognising the intersectionality of BME issues.

5:33pm Next up are the candidates for Funding Officer, Rhiannon Melliar-Smith (CULC Co-Chair) and Shadab Ahmed (endorsed by CULA).

5:33pm Llavero Pasquina says he will work to make students, staff and academics voices heard, in "social and political issues" including "gender inequalities, racial hatred, the fight against Prevent, and the neoliberal tax."

Larose says he is "all about welfare, and getting back to a [state] where the University actually cares what students are thinking."

5:31pm The candidates put their platforms through in one sentence. Breckenridge calls himself "the only candidate with enough experience of internal governance at high levels in this university to make a one-year term successful."

5:29pm Llavero Pasquina references the election of Jennifer Hirst over Jeff Miley, and thinks it demonstrates that diplomacy is not working.

Breckenridge adds he is very willing to work alongside Llavero Pasquina and Zero Carbon, saying that he has the internal experience in the University's corporate bodies "to put [the issue] through in a fresh way."

5:28pm Breckenridge says we need a policy that has a "very serious evidence case," and with three years of getting nowhere, we need a fresh approach to how we conduct the issue.

5:27pm  A student from the floor points out that diplomacy has not worked, and asks what new channels we should pursue towards environmentalism.

5:25pm Llavero Pasquina challenges Breckenridge's claim to more experience, and says the highest decision-making body regarding climate change is the UN - citing his experience at the UN Climate Conference to add a human rights focus to the Paris Accord. His point is that he has experience in negotiating and lobbying, reading draft reports, and noticing student and staff views not being acted upon. He says this is why we need to pursue "straight action," emphasising it must be grassroots.

5:24pm Breckenridge says the topic is important to him, and was at the Cambridge Climate and Sustainability Forum. He worries that voices of students being heard at the levels of University Council are not being translated into action. He says says that the way Zero Carbon are trying to carry out divestment is not working, and does not want to see more "aggressive activism" - instead, more engagement with Regent House. 

5:21pm Larose disagrees that environmentalism is not just a political issue, and thinks it is a human rights issue. He thinks it can have too much of a burden on students as opposed to the University -e.g. Student Switch-Off - and would like the University to make a public statement and show responsibility.

5:20pm Llavero Pasquina, who worked with the Zero Carbon campaign says it transcends recycling, with environmentalism being a very political issue. He says the University's behaviour is "worrying," and wants to see students have their voices responded to more by the University.

5:18pm Questions were opened up to the floor. One asks what they think the University's role is with regards to environmentalism.

5:18pm Larose draws on his experience with Caius JCR President, labelling it the time when "College actually listens." He thinks he wants to make sure students speak with a single voice.

5:17pm Llavero Pasquina says the UC role should maintain independence, but thinks that it should be united and act in coordination with CUSU, GU and grassroots campaigns.

5:16pm Breckenridge says the University Councillor does not belong to CUSU but is elected by it. He says it would be constructive to increase communication on certain issues between the Councillor and CUSU.

5:15pm Eyre asks how they view the relationship of the University Councillor as an independent student representative in relation to CUSU and the GU.

Llavero Pasquina says he would "build relationships and work on a personal basis," continuing to work with grassroot movements like the divestment campaign.

Breckenridge says that most students do not understand the role of a University Councillor, and more direct channels of communication are required.

When asked about policy ideas to connect students and the University, Larose says the GU and CUSU Council are good places to start, wanting to attend Council meetings to understand the wishes of students.

5:11pm Daisy Eyre asks the candidates how they would balance the complex elements of sitting on University Council. Pasquina promises to fight against the commodification of education. In the long-term, Larose says "the University has to remain a place where students want to come to study." Breckenridge says with alignment between the interests of students and faculty, he wants to listen to a broad base of opinion.

5:08pm First up are those in the running for University Councillor: Marcel Llavero Pasquina, George Breckenridge, and Hugo Larose.

Breckenridge said he thinks he has "the most appropriate experience" of every candidate, and welcomed CULC's endorsement. He added his wish to "involve grassroot campaigns, JCRs, and MCRs more heavily."

Llavero Pasquina, a PhD student at Girton, told the room that "We have to work towards a vision for a democratic, transparent, and accountable University," prioritising issues like divestment, "excellent public education," climate change, and "racial hatred devastating Western culture."

Larose, a current GU Trustee, says his main drive is student welfare and mental health, wanting to direct more funds to the University Counselling Service, "destigmatise" the issue of mental health, and address the gender pay gap, and lack of women on University Council.

5:01pm Today candidates for CUSU Sabbatical roles will be going head-to-head in hustings from 5pm at the University Centre's Cormack Room. The debate between the presidential candidates - Connor MacDonald, Siyang Wei, and Evie Aspinall - will likely draw the most attention, and will be taking place last. Several other roles are contested, including Graduate Union President, Access and Funding Officer, Welfare and Rights Officer, and University Councillor.

Keep up with Varsity's live-streaming of the event via Facebook, and make sure to take part in our poll, telling us who you think should be our next CUSU President.

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