Hyde (left) and Chae (right) are running for the position of CUSU Education OfficerROSIE BRADBURY/COMPOSITE: STEPHI STACEY

Both of this year’s candidates for CUSU Education Officer bring to the table extensive CVs, having assumed a variety of roles across the university in their three years at Cambridge.

Ali Hyde, a third year sociology student has spent the past year as both Vice President of Downing’s JCR and President of the CUSU LGBT+ campaign, after serving as the trans rep in his first year. Alongside these roles he has been an active member of Cambridge Universities Labour Club (CULC), having been Co-Chair, LGBT+ Officer and Campaigns and Constituency Liaison Officer on CULC.He will also be one of six delegates at this April’s NUS conference.

Howard Chae, Hyde’s opponent, has a similarly lengthy and impressive list of positions held. A third year historian at Magdalene, Chae has spent two years on the committee of the CUSU BME campaign, first as LGBT+ officer, then as campaigns officer, and a year on CUSU’s part-time executive committee as an Education Team Campaigns Officer. He also served as a Faculty of History rep. “I’m running for education officer”, he says, “because I think I have the principles and experiences to make sure that the position of student representative can be turned into a channel for collective empowerment and action.”

Both emphasize the importance of what these roles have taught them in explaining their decisions to run. Chae’s time on the BME campaign focused on “making sure that there were safe spaces available for queer and trans students of colour at this university”, which culminated in the relaunching of FUSE, and on building a “cohesive relationship” between BME officers across colleges.

Hyde cites the value of the time he’s invested in understanding the university’s structures and working with an array of groups within Cambridge. He describes the education role as “the place where you can make a lot of impact”, and points to the importance of the education officer’s job of setting university-wide policy, saying “I think education is the thing that CUSU can affect change on most, that’s why I want to do it.”

Both Hyde and Chae put forward policy proposals which focus heavily on student welfare provision and would feature significant spaces for student advocacy and activism.

Chae outlines a number of specific measures he would take as education officer, including creating a “comprehensive uni-wide policy on harassment”, and seeking to “standardize sexual misconduct guidelines across faculties”, broadening a conversation which has, thus far, focused on inter-college inequalities, to one which tackles the disparities between procedures across different faculties and departments. In a similar way, he advocates action on the problem of what students perceive to be variations in the quality of teaching between colleges, especially with regard to the provision of support for disabled students.

In his role on the BME campaign, Chae has been working to introduce “anti-bias training” for freshers and says that, as education officer, he would push for this to occur for all of the university’s “student-facing staff.” He also mentions Prevent, slating its implementation and arguing that it has “created as silencing effect that disproportionately affects BME students and Muslim students and excludes them from the public life of the university.”

The Cambridge work-life balance is another topic he raises. The mental health crisis, he argues, can’t be solved through “ameliorative solutions”, such as puppy therapy sessions, alone. Instead, he says, those looking to confront it must address its structural causes.

Hyde’s manifesto is divided into three key areas of focus which he loosely describes as “student support”, “education without barriers” and “promoting advocacy.”

The focus of the first is largely on stopping “the sink or swim approach that the university seems to have to freshers”, he says, noting the need for greater provision of information for incoming students and the standardization of the support given by colleges to both undergraduates and postgraduates. Central to all of this, he emphasises, is a concentration on the intersection of mental health and academics, where he would seek to take a “preventative rather than reactionary” approach.

In the second area of focus Hyde outlines aims to take the Period Poverty Campaign and the campaign for gender-neutral facilities university wide, to ensure their enactment in all faculties and colleges. He also outlines plans for the formulation of a “lecture accessibility policy” which would aim to remove barriers for disabled students, whether in the negotiation of certain buildings or in terms of timetabling considerations.

Hyde also supports addressing the “racialized aspects of Prevent” and “standing up against the marketization of higher education”, areas in which he sees the representation of student voices as particularly important, given the fact that these issues “[hit] the marginalized the hardest and those who are most in need of access.”

Finally, his “promoting advocacy” policy rests on the idea that, as education officer, he would support students engaged in advocacy work throughout Cambridge, for instance those involved in “queering or decolonising the curriculum in their faculties.” CUSU’ new academic forum would play a role here, and he says he would, as education officer, aim to make it in the mould of PresCon, which brings JCR presidents and the CUSU executive team together.

Both candidates praise much of the work that has been done by the current CUSU administration, perhaps unsurprisingly for two people so historically involved in its operation, but they are not without their respective concerns and strategies for improvement.


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Increasing engagement with CUSU is, for both Hyde and Chae, a central concern, with each commenting on the difficulty of making sure students are aware of all the behind-the-scenes work being done. Improvements are needed, Chae says, “to ensure that the work of the union is quite visible, that it is transparent, that students know what’s going on and that students feel like they have a clear say in the work that goes on.” Hyde points out that most students’ unions, unlike Cambridge’s, have staff members who are paid to do publicity work, so CUSU need to utilise its existing channels of communication better in order to reach the student population.

It is hard to fault the considerable experience or representative capacities of either candidate in this year’s education race and it is perhaps this comparable grounding which leads them to confront similar issue areas with what are not always wholly conflicting starting points for solutions. Distinctions, therefore, may have to instead be drawn through much more detailed attention to the specifics of the policies proposed by each.

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