CUSU Presidential candidates Shadab Ahmed and Edward Parker HumphreysBella Peng

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  • The CUSU/GU 2019 hustings saw candidates speak on issues from the Prevent duty, to divestment, to postgraduate support
  • The CUSU Access & Funding, CUSU/GU Welfare & Finance, Disabled Student’s, and Ethical Affairs face-offs saw more overlaps than disagreements, with several candidates echoing the other
  • CUSU Presidential candidates Shadab Ahmed and Edward Parker Humphreys differed on how their experiences as Access & Funding Officer and Jesus JCR President, respectively, could inform their approaches

9:35pm 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.

9:13pm Ahmed says that he wants CUSU to be seen as the "go-to for skill sharing and facilitating". He wants an accessible students' union for everyone to join, and that can provide support to students who want to campaign.

9:13pm Finally, the candidates are asked what the one thing they want to achieve over the next year is.

Parker Humphreys says that the major thing he wants to achieve over the next year is getting all colleges up to similar standards, adding that many of the issues he has addressed in his manifesto differ hugely from college to college.

He cites examples such as intermission policies and welfare provisions, as well as more high-profile issues like rent and costs of living. He wants to work closely with JCRs and MCRs to get this done, and thinks the experience and ideas he has will be crucial in getting this done.

9:11pm Parker Humphreys says that College Council at Jesus, which he has sat on, has a similar power imbalance. He cites his achievement on overturning regulations on flying the LGBT+ rainbow flag as evidence that he is able to push for change in "intimidating" rooms. He adds that he would bring better transparency and better student representation to the University Council.

9:10pm Another question from the floor mentions how undemocratic University Council can be, and asks the candidates how they would make it more democratic.

Ahmed says that its about being very vocal, to ultimately push to change the structure of university council.

In the short-term, he sees the major way to do this as solidarity between students, but in the long-term its about changing the entire structure.

9:08pm Ahmed says that he agrees with Parker Humphreys, but adds that he will work with other universities which have been successful in lobbying for divestment to bring their strengths to work toward divestment at Cambridge.

9:08pm Another question from the floor. "Divestment from fossil fuels has been given a lot of attention, but what about divestment from arms companies?"

Parker Humphreys says that he would "wholeheartedly support" the university withdrawing its investments from "unethical" causes, including arms companies.

He said he would lobby for these changes as President, having expressed support for divestment in his campaigning.

9:07pm Varsity's Maia Wyn Davies then questions Parker Humphreys' policy of a 'Welfare Wednesday', as students already have timetabled contact hours outside of the working week. Is this a lack of understanding of how the University functions?

Humphreys says he is "very aware" of how the University functions, and says that 'Welfare Wednesdays' would be part of a "broader pushback" on student welfare to make contact hours more sociable for students and academics.

9:06pm The floor is opened up to questions from reporters. Varsity's deputy editor Maia Wyn Davies asks Ahmed about an opinion article he wrote in Varsity's Science section in 2016, in which he speculated about biological differences preventing women from gaining entry into STEM fields, asking why women and non-binary people should support him in light of this.

Ahmed began by stating that this was written almost three years ago, and that he does not stand by those views now. He says it is important to realise that university is a “transformative” time for many, adding that having grown up in a conservative household, his time at university has meant he has since been exposed to different ideas and people, and so his views have changed.

He says “I do apologise, I would never write it now”, and that he has since done work on events focused on encouraging women in STEM. He adds “thank you for allowing me to address that.”

9:03pm Parker Humphreys points out that he has experience on CUSU as a JCR president and on CUSU's Democracy Review. However, he says that his experience as being a JCR president has given him a “different experience”, meaning he has covered “so many different issues, such as intermissions processes”, and that he knows how to make change at a college level.

9:03pm The candidates are asked what sets them apart from each other.

Ahmed says that he can “hit the ground running”, and will be immediately able to start work because he understands CUSU, for example how committees work, and how the sabbatical team works. He adds that he can start work on projects which are already in the works and he has an understanding of.

He says that he can share his experiences with the new sabbatical officers and help them become more effective in their campaigning and their work.

9:00pm Ahmed says that graduate students have more experience, so that CUSU can learn from them, but adds that CUSU can also fight more for graduate students, particularly for their working conditions. 

9:00pm The candidates are asked how they would engage with postgraduate students and improve CUSU's engagement with this half of their membership.

Parker Humphreys saying that working with MCRs is important, but working with faculties is just as if not more important, because lots of postgraduate students identify more with their subject than their college.

He thinks that CUSU and the GU can work particularly effectively together on postgraduate funding, which he sees as an important issue.

8:59pm Parker Humphreys says he is standing because he believed students get "far too often ignored" – he believes he has the "determination" to get things done, despite people's scepticism about CUSU's ability to make a difference.

He mentions cutting rents and the cost of living, as well as things such as discounted May Ball tickets. 

He says he will prioritise welfare, and emphasises the issue of student loneliness. He also proposes 'Welfare Wednesdays', with Wednesday afternoons free in student timetables.

He also mentions engagement, stating he will visiting colleges every term and keep people up to date with vlogs.

Although Parker Humphreys admits he has an ambitious manifesto, he says that reflects the scale of problems students face, and claims that his goals are achievable. 

8:58pm Ahmed says that first of all he wants to make clear that he doesn't see the role of President as an extension of Access. He says that having encouraged students to come here, he now wants to be able to support them.

He references his experience in CUSU, and says that he has actively delivered on his manifesto from last year. He specifically mentions his work on diversity through organising targeted access events, and his work with Cut the Rent, which he hopes to continue as President.

In terms of why continuity is important, he addresses the fact that the CEO of CUSU is leaving, saying that it is vital to have someone who's been involved with all the different aspects of CUSU to stay on and support the transmission. He adds that it is important to have someone who has experience with the budget, with submitting funding bids, and with funding and supporting liberation campaigns.

His says his campaign will focus on support, access, fundraising and empowerment. He wants to engage with students, encourage skill-sharing, and get students involved with campaigning from inception to fruition.

8:53pm The candidates for CUSU President, Shadab Ahmed and Edward Parker Humphreys are now up, the final role of the evening.

8:52pm Banerjee would make democracy as part of all the GU's decision making processes – saying that students only hear from the GU during elections and in the occasional email.

8:51pm Ceccarelli says that his priority would be to see governing bodies of colleges take responsibility and "real actions", to generate safe spaces for marginalised students in particular.

8:51pm What would the candidates' ideal achievement as GU president be?

Chadwick would prioritise access and create a survey to track the inaccessibility of graduate courses to create change.

8:50pm Banerjee says that he thinks it ties in with the idea of participative democracy.

He says these channels of department representatives can be used and formalised to find out what different faculties and departments think about different issues, which can support the GU in campaigning for postgraduate students.

8:49pm Chadwick says that as the first GU Disabled Students' Officer that he has put together a mental health network for the GU, which 150 people so far have signed up to. He says that there is scope for working in other areas too, such as on LGBT+ issues.

8:48pm The hustings is opened to questions from the floor. Candidates are asked what they are aiming to do in terms of welfare, and also relating to equality and diversity.

Ceccarelli says that he has already started work on this in his LGBT+ role, in which he presented two policies on gender neutral measures, and minority champions.

He says that this is particularly important in faculties and departments, and wants to work on championing BME, LGBT+ and women's issues in institutions as well as colleges, as well as working with college counsellors.

8:46pm Banerjee says that the University's processes are slow and rigid – but that that needs to be balanced with a patient approach and emphasises the need "wrestle with the system slowly".

8:45pm Ceccarelli says that he agrees with Chadwick's statements, and that he believes in networking to create a clear and transparent committee.

He suggests working on more direct channels between different aspects of the student body and the university, saying that he believes planning strategies together will enable them to create and generate real change.

8:43pm Candidates are asked about the fact that this is a “university-facing role”, and how they would work to affect change within the university.

Chadwick again mentions the fact that the GU president sat on around 50 committees last year. He says that his experience will come in useful, to “get the information that we need to get” in order to bring about change.

8:43pm Ceccarelli points out the difference between his experience as a PhD student compared to his rivals' experiences as Masters' students, having been in graduate studies for four years and so says he has more experience of academia. He says that increasing the number of students would need to be reconsidered – whilst he supports diversifying the student body, such as in class and gender, he's not sure increasing student numbers would necessarily do this.

8:42pm Chadwick says that he agrees with Banerjee's points, but adds that the expansion of the number of graduates can be a cynical move from the university in an attempt to raise money.

Therefore, he says that this must be accompanied by a clear commitment to increase scholarships and bursaries for postgraduate students, saying that access at graduate level goes further than is often thought, and more working class representation is needed.

8:40pm The next question: would the candidates support an increased numbers of postgraduates, and if so, how?

Banerjee says that this is "legitimate and viable" as long as it is not just a means of making more money for the University. He adds that the University would need to maintain the quality of student teaching and not compromise on its student focus. 

8:39pm Banerjee says that graduate students are put off engaging with the university because it feels very separate. He says that the onus is somewhat on graduate students to engage more with the university and try to bridge barriers.

He says that each persons experience in unique and different, and that the fact that graduate students often come from outside of Cambridge and have more varied life experiences, there is value in increasing their engagement.

8:37pm Chadwick says that there is a "real scope" for CUSU and the GU to work together, particularly on issues such as access and disability. He says he wants to share resources and mobilise both graduates and undergraduates to bring change. 

8:35pm Candidates are asked how they think CUSU and the GU should work together.

Ceccarelli says that as current LGBT+ Officer for the GU, he already works closely with CUSU, through the campaigns that they run, but that this collaboration can be pushed further.

He suggests increased meetings involving both CUSU and GU officers as a way to address this.

8:34pm Ceccarelli says that although their manifestos are similar in some points, his experience and background sets him out.

He says he is "very passionate" about student activism, and says he has put a lot of energy organising events for the Graduate Union as its LGBT+ Officer. He wants to generate a sense of belonging, and says that as he has been homeless in the past, he has witnessed the impact that building a sense of community, especially for BME students, has.

He points out that there are not many graduate students attending hustings, and says he wants to increase graduate engagement.

8:32pm Chadwick starts with an anecdote of pulling an all-nighter for a 9.30am deadline, and finding out afterwards that he'd been granted an extension that he'd applied for back in October based on disability.

He thinks this is "emblematic of the way this university is run", pointing out that last year the GU president sat on close to 50 committees, which process a tremendous amount of information, and can end up being quite inefficient.

In this role, he wants to bring a more positive grassroots student role back into the role, and filter information back to the student body.

8:29pm The candidates for Graduate Union president are up next. This is the most contested role, with three candidates fighting for one role: Alessandro Ceccarelli, Devarchan Banerjee and Jack Chadwick.

Banerjee is up first: he says that he wants to "forge a Cambridge that is willing to listen". He has three core pledges: a way to collect grievances that is followed through with a resolution, an accountability framework and participation in democracy through more than just elections. 

He cites his experience in working with social work, saying it has given him the "humility to understand that you don't always have the answers... but the ability to hold on and struggle through."  He says to vote for him if you "believe in a humbler Cambridge".

8:24pm Byrne says she is driven to take her role by the Student Support Initiative, a fundraising campaign announced by Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope, which she argues must be directed towards helping students, and not toward University interests. Byrne adds that she hopes to build on education strategy, to make sure it is solely focused on the needs of students coming into university.

8:23pm When asked what single policy she would implement, Cockburn says that she would push for divestment, as has been mandated in a Regent’s House Grace. 

8:23pm Cockburn is asked if she believes that there is a democratic deficit on university committees, and if student representatives risk becoming too entangled in the bureaucracy.

She says that she thinks there is a definite risk of this, but that she wouldn't just detach herself if elected. She says she would stay in touch with Zero Carbon, and keep her ethical integrity even while working within university council, which is notorious for being opaque and undemocratic.

8:22pm A question from the floor to Byrne from Ethical Affairs Officer Jake Simms on Byrne having interacted less with Cambridge’s activist organisations.

Byrne replies that it is not the job of the University Councillor is not to “persuade”, but to hold the University accountable. She says that whilst she agrees the University has vested interests, from conversations with the Vice-Chancellor, he is looking for a solution. She says “genuine alternatives” are much harder for the Council to reject than just lobbying.

8:20pm Cockburn says that she has demonstrated in her time so far here that she can do on the ground work, in her experience so far with liberation campaigns, saying that she will represent the students, not the management.

She also hopes to work with the sabbatical officers as well as current students to make sure she remains grounded in student concerns.

8:18pm The candidates are asked how students would be able to hold them to account.

Byrne says she has a blog, which she would keep active with reports of what she has done at meetings. She would use polls so that students can bring their opinions to her.

8:18pm Byrne says that this year she has been charity trustee at Murray Edwards college, and has worked as a member of staff at the university for the last four years, in which role she has met with the Vice Chancellor and other senior members of the university management.

She says because of this experience she can act as a bridge for students and sabbaticals because she understands how the University works. As she is not the only member of the sabbatical team who would have to interact with the Council, she thinks this will be useful.

8:16pm Next question: what experience do the candidates have with working with University management?

Cockburn admits that as a fresher she doesn't have the same experience in working with management as Byrne, although she has worked as a Green Officer on her JCR. She emphasises her grassroots experience, which she argues is “more relevant” as she is more in tune with “what students want”.

8:14pm Cockburn says that she is running on a very pro-divestment campaign, and that we can't come at this from a "gentle lobbying perspective", because that has been tried.

She argues the Divestment Working Group was doomed from the beginning, so she wants to be pushing the university at a “hard angle”, and says that divestment is a global issue.

8:14pm Both candidates mentioned divestment in their opening speeches — they are asked how they would take this issue forward.

Byrne says that she would ensure divestment initiatives mesh with legal and financial realities of the University and would propose “actual alternatives” so that it becomes a “meaningful reality in three to five years”.

8:09pm Byrne says that she cares about the same things that students do – divestment, rent inequalities, student support (which she thinks must be focused on what students need) and education policy.

She says that as a business masters student, she is in a strong position to understand University Council's finances, saying that ”I can see through their bullshit, they can't pull the wool over my eyes.”

She says she sees her role as to act as a bridge between the CUSU sabbatical team and the university.

She adds that her personal experiences as an undergraduate dealing with hardship has driven her to want to advocate for students, saying that she will "fight for a fairer university for all of us."

8:10pm Up next are the candidates for University Councillor, Poppy Cockburn and Tamzin Byrne.

Cockburn's campaign slogan is "Representing students, not management". She criticises the “undemocratic nature” of the University Council, Cambridge’s executive decision-making body. She  says she won't be intimidated by the powerful figures on the Council. She has been involved with Zero Carbon, which she says has given her “intimate knowledge” of how the Council operates, and will continue the work of the current University Councillor. She says the key focus of her campaign is divestment. 

8:05pm Hyde says that he wants to put mental health "at the heart" of his policies, adding that if had to pick a tangible thing to achieve it would be working on imposter syndrome for freshers.

8:04pm To round up, the candidates state what the most important thing they would do in office would be.

Chae says that he would fight against Prevent and push the University to have a University-wide policy to prioritise students rights over Prevent, citing Varsity investigation last year which found that Muslim students have self-censored under Prevent. 

8:02pm Chae says he wants to work on mental health and welfare, saying that “any meaningful action” must deal with structural causes.

He wants to campaign for a weekly afternoon on Wednesdays of no teaching, to improve work-life balance.

He also wants to work with UCU and the DSO on provisions for lecture capture and equal access, which has "thus far been lacking." He adds that disabled students' experiences of education are often very dependent on their colleges, and therefore wants to build up coordination and links between colleges.

8:01pm The candidates are asked what the most important educational issues facing disabled students are.

Hyde says that the three most important issues are mental health, academic pressures such as the exam adjustment process, and the need for a universal policy on lecture accessibility, in terms of both physical accessibility and for students with dyslexia.

7:58pm Hyde says that he is excited about the proposal to create a new CUSU academic forum, and would like to prioritise work on shaping this forum.

He says that the Education Officer's role is to focus on departments and faculties, but wants to use and build on college resources. He says it can be harder to get in touch with faculty representives than college committees.

7:56pm The candidates are asked: will they prioritise working with colleges or faculties, and how else will they work to strengthen academic representation?

Chae says that academic reps need more regular and targeted training sessions. He discusses the need to work with UCU, which he says have resisted making material available online as a way to make lectures more accessible. 

He emphasises the importance of "co-ordinated campaigning", including with colleges.

7:53pm Chae says that thinking about the concerns of postgraduate students is a key part of his manifesto, and one of his aims is to increase links with UCU.

He cites his work with UCU successfully campaigning for the history faculty to properly pay postgraduate supervisors, whose supervisions had previously been categorised as a form of training.

He talks about his experience with lobbying for change, for example through open meetings and open letters, which he wants to continue.

7:51pm The candidates are asked how they will represent postgraduate students, who form half the population of the University.

Hyde says that he only recently realised that CUSU includes postgraduates, which should be discussed more. Hyde wants to improve training for PhD supervisors, and also support postgraduates who are involved in the supervision system by having an open office hour which they can bring queries to.

7:49pm Hyde says that he has spent his time at Cambridge "supporting students and advocating for students", on the CUSU LGBT+ campaign, in CULC, and on Downing JCR.

He says that from speaking to students over the past few weeks, mental health has come up as a major issues in education, which needs to be at the "structural core" of decision-making and needs a preventative rather than reactive approach.

He also wants to voice student concerns to do with the cost of living, marketisation and the consequences of Brexit. Finally, he wants to work on combatting imposter syndrome, saying that there is a huge disparity of support for students struggling to adjust, and "staggering" college disparities. He wishes to use the lobbying skills he has learnt from standing up to Downing's decision-making bodies.

7:46pm The candidates for Education Officer are up next. They are Ali Hyde and Howard Chae.

Chae starts, saying that he is running because he is "principled, experienced and dedicated". He says that experience on committees is not enough – the Education Officer needs knowledge on decision making policies in faculties, which he has as a previous History Faculty Representative.

He says he will prioritise decolonising the University and anti-racism, citing his experience on the BME campaign and Decolonisation campaigns beyond diversifying reading lists. He is impressed by how decolonisation has become "such an important part of student politics," and also wants to rethink the University's wider relationships with the arms trade and fossil fuel industries.

Chae adds that he will build links with trade unions – he says he has built links with the Universities and College Union (UCU) and has links with workers through his work on the Living Wage Campaign.

7:42pm Walters says that she would choose the creation of a DSO representative on every college's JCR and MCR committee, which she thinks will support long-term change and help the CUSU DSO work more closely with colleges.

7:41pm O'Brien says that if she could achieve one thing as Disabled Students' Officer, she would create a league table for college inequality. She says that this would be a start to “fundamental change”.

7:40pm O'Brien says that this was brought up at the last Disabled Students' campaign forum. She has ideas on how to expand on the accessibility requirement of every event - for example, a document with info on the accessibility of popular rooms in the university which are likely to be hosting these kind of events.

7:40pm The candidates are asked how they will work to increase the use of access statements for events across the University.

Walters mentions that the Accessibility Statement generator should be publicised. She emphasises the role of Disabled Students Officers. 

7:38pm Walters says that she thinks having a DSO on every JCR and MCR - particularly for graduates, who she argues are not as looked after – is hugely important.

She thinks there needs to be a system, especially for those who have a disability which can flare up at different moments, and that these students must be aware of the support they can access.

7:37pm The candidates are asked what ideas they have to improve student awareness on support available.

O'Brien says that she agrees with Walters that the first step is identifying as disabled to begin with, so that students can access support – having disability workshops in freshers' week would help with this. She adds that having a Disabled Students' Officer on every JCR is essential. 

7:36pm O'Brien says that welfare is a political issue, and relates closely to political structures within the university. She says that disabled people struggle so much at Cambridge, and that many of the problems they face must be addressed in political terms.

7:34pm Walters emphasises her experience dealing with the university administration and “a lot of old white men”. She says she believes the way to make change is by pushing hard, saying that experience lobbying should be provided in training.

7:34pm Next question: what are the political dimensions to the candidates' disability activism and how will that affect their work?

Walters says that the three strands of her campaign, identity, inclusivity and intersectionality, are all political issues, and that will inform her work.

7:32pm The candidates are asked what relevant experience they have for lobbying the University through committees. 

O'Brien says that she is "used to fighting college and University structures" – such as confronting Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education Graham Virgo on the issue of offering hot drinks for finalists who have filled out the National Students’ Survey.

She is currently fighting her college's Senior Tutor on intermitting students not being able to ballot. She wants to give the Disabled Students' Officer mroe power by putting the position on the Education Committee.

7:30pm O'Brien says that she thinks being visible during freshers' week is the most important thing to focus on, as it can become a model of the rest of your university experience.

She wants to increase the work she is already doing – in her current work, she has created an infographic on what being disabled is, and is keen to make sure that students understand what qualifies as disabled and what support services they can access.

7:30pm The first question: how will the candidates increase engagement with the Disabled Students’ Campaign?

Walters wants to implement a “buddy system” like the LGBT+ family system run by CUSU LGBT+ Campaign, so that the freshers know about the Disabled Students’ Campaign.

7:28pm Walters has also had experience of intermission, and served as DSO on Queens’  College JCR.

She says that her personal experience is not the only reason she is running, but she does have experience advocating for herself and her needs across the University, which means she understands the processes.

She adds that she has been on the other side, advocating for the needs of others.

Walters also thinks that the role is not simply about experience, but also about identity, intersectionality and inclusivity. One thing she wants to change is to make sure that every JCR or MCR has a DSO.

Walters ends with a pun, telling the audience that “I hope I will be a Beth of fresh air.”

7:26pm Next up are the candidates for Disabled Students' Officer, Beth Walters and Jess O'Brien. This is the first ever contested election for the role since its creation in 2016.

O'Brien's slogan is “vote for experience”. This includes intersectionality, as she says that no student's experience is the same. In particular, she wants to carry on the work of the Disabled Students' Campaign (which she sits on) to create a Class Representative on the campaign. 

She also wants to create a league table showing the disparity in the implementation of reasonable adjustments between colleges and faculties, in the model of the Taylor’s Table, a table ranking colleges by their treatment of their lowest-wage employees.

O'Brien also emphasises her familiarity with the Disabled Students' Campaign, to which the Disabled Students' Officer is accountable.

7:21pm Woodvine says that if she could achieve one thing, she would want to increase collaboration across different access efforts going on throughout the University, including JCRs, MCRs, and CAO, and through this make the access work done by CUSU more visible.

7:20pm If the candidates could do only one thing in office, what would that be?

Sharry says that she would reduce alienation that students might feel through targeted initiatives addressing academic and emotional support.

7:19pm Sharry says that she agrees with everything that Woodvine has said on the question of national tuition fee policy.

She also wants to work in partnership with Cambridge Defend Education, mentioning recent proposals for two-year degrees. She says that students who went to low-performing schools begin Cambridge with a grades gap that narrows throughout their degree, and that there are “access concerns” in discussing restructuring of degrees.

7:18pm Questions from the floor: as fees and maintenance loans are influenced by national policy, what should the candidates, and student unions, do to address this?

Woodvine says that CUSU should reassure prospective students there is financial support available to them. She adds that student unions should prevent the ways that the government is trying to justify fee rises, such as by boycotting the NSS.

7:16pm Sharry thinks that the economic side of supporting students is important, saying that she addresses this in her manifesto in her policy to make funding guides available to all students, and wants to work closely with Cut the Rent.

In terms of tackling the alienation that students might feel, she wants to expand pre-arrival support and mentoring.

She adds that disadvantaged students should be offered academic support, as students are prepared to different extents when they arrive in Cambridge and so CUSU has an “absolute obligation” to provide needed support.

7:14pm Another pre-submitted question: how would the candidates work to support current students, when access to admissions is often prioritised?

Woodvine says that she would work on financial issues such as rent and bursaries. She says she would consult Class Act, which she has experience on. 

7:12pm Woodvine says that the most important starting point is getting in contact with the BME campaign and ACS, adding that as a white person she doesn't know what these campaigns want specifically for access and would therefore want to “work with them on their terms”.

She spoke on that as she is a white woman, above all she would want students from BME backgrounds to be involved in discussions and access initiatives, as it is “not something [she] can represent fairly” on her own. 

7:12pm The candidates are asked how they would make the voices of BME students heard.

Sharry says that "access should be intersectional" —  she would work with Target Oxbridge, the BME campaign and ACS.

7:10pm Sharry says that some of her policies address this issue, including her idea to update the alternative prospectus, and her aim to set up a postgraduate mentoring scheme.

She would also like to work with other student unions, especially for postgraduate access.

7:09pm The candidates are asked how they would address postgraduate access. 

Woodvine says that growing up in a low-income, state-school background, she did not know anyone with a Masters degree, and so thinks that information should be made more accessible. She adds that she would work with postgraduates on the issues they want to work on, such as funding.

7:08pm Woodvine is up. She says that “access has always been part of my life at uni”, saying that access programmes she was involved with before coming here made Cambridge a less intimidating place for her.

She has experience at St Catharine’s JCR Access Officer, where she says she worked to fight for students with issues such as financial support and fair rents.

She wants to focus on transparency and schools which don't see Oxbridge as a target, or have limited information on the application process. She talks about her work on InsideUni, which aims to demystify the admissions process.

7:06pm The candidates for Access & Funding Officer are now up. Running are Ashley Woodvine and Lily-Rose Sharry. 

Sharry cites her experience as Robinson Access officer and as Care Leaver and Estranged Students' Officer on Class Act. She has received a nomination for the Students' Social Mobility Awards for her work on helping care leavers. She says that the “emotional and structural barriers” to access must be considered. 

Sharry's discusses the regional disparity in access and wants to expand targeted access initiatives. She says that "targeted access is extremely effective" and would work with campaigns such as the BME Campaign and the Disabled Students' Campaign.

She adds that access is not just about “getting in” but also “getting on” and wants to increase the number of academic skills programmes.

7:01pm Gilderdale agrees that their role is essentially about campaigning, and so the more students - and locals - involved, the better.

She wants to focus on critically engaging students, saying that if they can get more people involved it would be a “great way to leave Ethical Affairs for the future”.

7:00pm The candidates are asked to summarise by stating what they would do if they could achieve only one thing.

Simms says that if he would boost the amount of people involved in ethical campaigning by empowering students to get invovled, such as by creating a political freshers’ week and running political workshops.

6:59pm Simms adds that the vast majority of the issues that they have pledged to campaign on are "clearly supported by the student body." CUSU Council reaffirmed its support for divestment in November 2017.

Simms says that they have been making an effort to be as visible as possible, and are democratically bound by CUSU Council decision.

He hopes to continue to keep in touch with students on the ground.

6:58pm A person from the floor asks whether the candidates can claim to have a mandate if elected, as they have no opposition and have very similar views. 

Gilderdale says that when the pair ran last year, they had another person running against them so currently have a mandate. She hopes that people will RON (re-open nominations) them if people do not support them. She adds that they are “welcome to criticism”.

6:56pm Gilderdale adds that the university often sees itself on an international level, and often forgets that it is part of a local community.

She specifically addresses the contrast between the extent of the homelessness in Cambridge, compared to the wealth and power contained with the university. She says that Cambridge University has "extreme tunnel vision", and wants to work with wider campaigns to address bridging this divide.

6:56pm The candidates are asked what they think the biggest issues outside the University facing Cambridge are.

Simms says that the demolition of Montreal Square is an important issue — one member of staff at Christ's, Simms' college is a resident.

The Cambridge Housing Society announced last year that 18 houses in the Montreal Square housing community would be replaced with over 30 new houses and blocks of flats. 

He discusses the lack of social housing in Cambridge, which he says the University is "complicit" in, as student accommodation prices out locals. He wants to bring unions to work with students, and adds that he also wants to support the work of working-class students.

6:53pm Simms says that Zero Carbon was the first campaign he became involved with and he passed a motion in his first term calling on Christ's college to divest.

He says he goes to "pretty much every" Zero Carbon meeting, but that his recent focus has shifted to supporting college campaigns which he thinks has "exciting potential", and he organised the first cross-college divestment meeting.

Simms adds that he wants to push CUSU to be more supportive of the divestment campaigns, and would continue to do this if re-elected.

6:53pm The first question for the candidates is on divestment, to describe concrete action they have taken on it and their plans for it. 

Gilderdale says that she has been an active member of Zero Carbon since she was a fresher, and has raised over £400 for the campaign as a Green Officer and Ethical Affairs Officer. She would engage Green Officers in their JCRs to scrutinise their college divestment practices.

6:51pm Gilderdale is up next, and is also re-running for the role. She has a very similar background to Jake, having been a JCR Green Officer in her first year and Ethical Affairs Officer last year.

Speaking about local issues, from the perspective of being a local herself, she says it is "amazing" to see students supporting the local community.

Gilderdale wants to build solidarity between campaigns, from divestment, to JCR Green Officers. The two of them have been making ethical affairs a bigger role, and hope to continue their work.

6:48pm Candidates for Ethical Affairs are up next. The race is uncontested, and current Ethical Affairs Officers Alice Gilderdale and Jake Simms are running.

Simms says “anyone who knows me, knows that I spend a bit too much time campaigning”, citing his work with Zero Carbon and the Living Wage Campaign. He says that the University is an institution that “hold immense wealth and power and is not using that for the social good”, and comments on the failure of the University to take big steps in divestment.

Simms wants to make ethical affairs more accessible, such as holding an ethical societies fair and creating a guide on how to campaign.

6:46pm Candidates are asked what they would want to do, if they could do only one thing as Welfare & Rights Officer.

Both Carey-Stuart and Swain qualify their answers by saying that it is hard to pick, but Carey-Stuart says that he would like to focus on training for student representatives, while Swain wants to centralise the application of rights and leave with the Welfare & Rights role being seen as a "really vital and political role".

6:44pm Carey-Stuart says he would work with the Disabled Students' Officer on the issue of mental health. He would work with the Education Officer on Prevent and creating training for faculty reps who are currently "underprepared". He adds: "I'm sure I will come up with other things."

6:44pm The candidates are asked about the fact that historically, the Welfare & Rights role has worked in close collaboration with the Disabled Students' Officer, and if they plan to continue this.

Swain says that especially with the Disabled Students' Officer there has been really good discussion around what counts as a disability, and wants to work on issues surrounding who can access support, as well as work with the Education Officer on mental health that can affect education, and with the Women's Officer on survivors' forums.

6:41pm Swain says that is a good point, and suggests a separate Survivors' Forum for different genders. She emphasises the importance of "combating stigma" and "lifting up the voices of male survivors". She also suggest training welfare officers in colleges and centralising resources in CUSU. 

6:41pm  Questions are opened to the floor. Referencing an earlier question to the Women's Officer candidates, candidates are asked how they will support male survivors of sexual assault.

Carey-Stuart says that this is an issue which is "sadly ignored a lot in Cambridge student politics", saying that he thinks the key aspect is training for JCRs and MCRs.

6:39pm Carey-Stuart says that, as Swain implies, rights is “at the heart of what CUSU does”. He says that rights aren't limited to the role of Welfare & Rights Officer, and so would work with other sabbaticals such as Education Officer.

6:36pm Candidates are asked the final pre-submitted question, about interpretations of the 'Rights' part of the Welfare & Rights role.

Swain says that she thinks that Rights cannot really be disentangled from welfare, saying that welfare provision without advocating for students' rights is only a temporary fix. She will be focusing on advocating for the most marginalised students and ensuring that the campaigning undertaken by these students has CUSU's “full support”.

6:37pm Swain says that she would create a resource, such as an online training course, that staff can use, as the training that tutors receive is not standardised across colleges. 

She would also look at welfare issues for specific groups — for example, she would look at reviving the Survivors' Forum for survivors of sexual violence. She would also look at Prevent, which she says "racialises students".

6:34pm The candidates are asked about their priorities in addressing undergraduate and postgraduate mental health.

Carey-Stuart says that his priorities in his role are to assist officers on the ground and facilitate the support given by others, rather than directly giving mental health support himself, for example through “liberation”.

6:34pm Carey-Stuart says that it is sad to see how few graduate events compared to undergraduate events are organised, so he will encourage MCR officers to “engage in the same kind of student welfare that undergraduate officers do”. He adds that, as an undergraduate, he needs to do more research on graduate issues before taking on the role, and that certain issues such as families affect graduates more than undergraduates.

6:33pm The candidates are asked about the fact that this is a CUSU and GU role and what they think are the big welfare issues facing graduate students, from their perspective as undergraduates.

Swain talks about housing, with only 45% of graduate students satisfied with their housing, while single rooms can be extremely expensive for graduates.

Swain wants to centralise undergraduate and graduate services to “share campaigning ideas”. She also talks about the “casualisation of graduate teaching”, who are often only paid hourly and therefore sporadically.

6:30pm Swain says that she wants to deal with the structural issues that have created the mental health crisis, such as the removal of maintenance loans and increasing tuition fees. She talks about Cambridge-specific problems such as the “isolationism of this bubble” which means that students often feel like work is the only important thing in their lives.

She says that “without rights, any attempts to provide welfare is just pasting over these problems”. 

She talks about the need to make rents fair and affordable, as well as the importance of campaigning against Prevent.

She adds that graduate issues are also important, such as housing. 

6:28pm The two Welfare & Rights Candidates are now on the floor, Cici Carey-Stuart and Stella Swain.

Carey-Stuart says that he is running because he thinks there is significant room for improvement in student welfare and has "the best type of experience necessary for the role" - having worked as a Corpus Christi JCR Officer, as a faculty representative, and as Trans and Non-Binary representative for the CUSU LGBT+ campaign.

Carey-Stuart thinks his experience makes his aims achievable and that he wants to campaign for free sanitary products, support for those targeted by Prevent, and work closely with MCRs and JCRs.

6:24pm Litman says she feel she has one policy that is more important than her other ones, but she says as each Women's Officer is only in the role for a year, she hopes to leave her successor the legacy of a “really active and strong women's campaign that they can build upon”.

6:23pm The candidates are asked what they would do if they could achieve one thing.

Kidd says that she wants to "grow and broaden" campaigns so that they feel accessible to all women and non-binary people. 

6:22pm Varsity's deputy editor Maia Wynn Davies then asks how the candidates would ensure that extending CUSU's organising into the city at large wouldn't remove the agency of women/non-binary people who aren't students.

Kidd says Whitworth House is a good example, because they are taking the lead. She wants to engage with people who are experience issues in their daily lives and ask what would feel like "meaningful support" to them.

6:22pm Questions are now to the floor. Varsity's Deputy Editor Maia Wyn Davies asks Litman how exactly she will work with other feminist groups, which she mentions on her manifesto. 

Litman says that wants to collaborate "more meaningfully" with FLY, a forum for women and non-binary people of colour in Cambridge. Whilst WomCam currently cohosts events with FLY, she suggested that the FLY facilitator could be invited to help facilitate WomCam Forum. She also wants to "draw women of colour" into the WomCam space.

6:19pm Kidd sees the fact that WomCam has helped her question her assumptions as a strength, saying that she has found it an educational experience.

She seconds what Litman said about issues of accessibility in WomCam, but also points out the fact that the Women's Campaign does not have a working class representative, and says that she thinks WomCam can be "paternalistic", adding that they must support organisations such as FLY "on their own terms".

6:18pm The candidates are then asked what they see as the strengths and weaknesses of WomCam.

Litman says that WomCam has been a place where she has "found joy and solidarity", especially after returning from intermission. She notes that this is not the experience for all women, especially women of colour and trans women, and so wants to address that to make the campaign more inclusive.

6:18pm Litman says that trans women can't be expected to feel welcome in WomCam until they are included in its activist work. She mentions her work at Medwards changing the admissions policy to include trans women.

Litman also says that we must think about trans issues after admission, saying that the university must include non-binary identities in their records, for example in exam results, and make it easier to trans students to change their name on record.

6:16pm The next question: what steps will the candidates take to include more trans women and trans feminine women?

Kidd says that as Women's Officer at Newnham she worked towards reforming the admissions policy at Newnham. She mentions the importance of "access for trans women post-admissions and to feel welocme in WomCam and campaigning generally." She adds that "centralising" trans voices is also important, "rather than assuming cis is the default".

6:09pm Kidd says that the Women's Officer and WomCam in general can feel "intimidating" - but acknowledges that many of the most "inspiring" people she's met in her time at Cambridge have been in this roles. She suggests bridging the gap through specific forums for women's officers.

Kidd says it is important to "look beyond the institution" in feminist organising, mentioning the example of Whitworth House.

6:12pm The candidates are asked how they will support JCR and MCR Women's Officers and more broadly engage with feminism activism across the city.

Litman says that she will have one on one meetings with newly elected Women's Officers and build toolkits on issues like gender neutral toilets and menstrual provision. She also wants to set up a weekly bulletin on feminist society events across Cambridge.

6:06pm Litman says that she is committed to making "active and informed" change, focusing on class, race, and trans identity through work with the BME, Class Act and Disabled Students campaign. She referenced the Mind the Gap report conducted five years ago, speaking about academic disadvantages which women and non binary people face.

Litman referenced Prevent, and her desire to "turn words into conscious action". She has been closely involved with Breaking the Silence, and wants to expand this so that students have a choice between college-level and university-level support.

6:07pm First up are the candidates for CUSU Women's Officer, Kate Litman and Finley Kidd.

Kidd says the she has participated in WomCam throughout her degree, and also has experience as Women's Officer.

She says her campaign will be "uncompromising" and "unapologetic", while acknowledging that liberation is only meaningful if it is only open to all, including support sex workers and BME women. She also wants to support other groups like FLY and Class Act.

6:00pm This evening, candidates for CUSU and Graduate Union Sabbatical roles will be going head-to-head in hustings from 6pm at the University Centre's Cormack Room. The debate between the presidential candidates - Shadab Ahmed and Edward Parker Humphreys - will likely draw the most attention, and will be taking place last. 

All races are contested, except for the position of CUSU Ethical Affairs Officer.

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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