Jake Simms, Lydia Phillips and Alice Gilderdale are all running to be ethical affairs officerSimms/Philipps/Gilderdale

With the divestment debate having mobilised many of Cambridge’s student activists, the three candidates in the CUSU ethical affairs election have all stressed the need for divestment, as well as greater collaboration between different student activist groups.

The candidates also all made separate pledges on various issues, including period poverty, housing and workers’ rights.

Ethical affairs officers campaign to improve the impact of students and the University on the environment and broader society. Two students are elected to the role, although it is unusual for the election to be contested. Ethical affairs officers carry out their role for one year, alongside their studies. As no one ran for the position of ethical affairs officer in the Lent elections, a by-election is being held now.

All three of this year’s candidates have experience of activism in Cambridge and on their respective JCRs. Christ’s student Jake Simms and Robinson student Alice Gilderdale are both green officers for their college, while Lydia Phillips is the woman’s officer at Emmanuel. Their manifestos all reference their involvement with either Zero Carbon Society or divestment efforts within their colleges.

Gilderdale pledges to promote the work of Cambridge Zero Carbon Society, alongside several other activist groups, including Cambridge Defend Education and the decolonisation campaigns. She emphasises environmental sustainability in her manifesto, aiming to create University-wide green events, such as ‘Green Weeks’, as well as to facilitate college green officers “coming together to connect and share ideas”.

She also intends to “offer a broad range of students a more accessible introduction to student campaigns”, for example by providing information on all the current activist campaigns. She wants to work with the Women’s Open Portfolio Campaign to combat “period poverty by providing sustainable menstrual products across the University and in wider Cambridge”.

Simms promises to campaign for the University to divest from fossil fuels. He also wants to support divestment campaigns within colleges, based on a campaign he ran at Christ’s, pushing for the college to divest, and to introduce ‘Green Mondays’.

He is looking to work with unions to combat casualisation of labour, a practice where workers are offered only unstable employment. The Cambridge branch of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) has previously criticised the trend in the University.


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Simms told Varsity that he feels that “this is a really exciting time for ethical campaigning in Cambridge”, with so many “opportunities to create change.” He wishes to “bring existing campaigns together, engage more students and hold the University to account for its failures”. and to engage new students in activism to help “maintain the upward momentum in ethical campaigning at the University”.

Phillips intends to campaign for the University to end investments not just in fossil fuel companies, but also arms companies. In addition, she wants to question the University on its involvement with arms companies through the Cambridge Service Alliance, a partnership between universities and companies including BAE Systems, which she claims is “deeply immoral”. She told Varsity that she wants to create a “network between colleges” to liaise their divestment campaigns, as well as living wage campaigns”

The University’s ongoing development at North West Cambridge was questioned by Phillips, who characterises the development as being an “exclusive and expensive community”, aggravating Cambridge’s existing housing crisis.  

Phillips would like to see greater transparency built into University structures, and wants to call for a “democracy review of University structures, something which has been demanded on some other campuses nationally”.

Voting for the incoming officers runs between Saturday and Tuesday. All members of CUSU and the GU are eligible to vote.

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