This is the first year the new Access, Education & Participation role has been contestedAnna Ward, Ewan Hawkins, Ben Dalitz, Robin Denham, Zaynab Ahmed, Alex Roberts

With voting open as of yesterday (02/03), Varsity takes a look at this year’s contested sabbatical officer roles, and candidates’ visions for the Cambridge Student Union (SU) for the coming year. 

Access, Education & Participation Officer (UG)

The Access, Education & Participation Officer (UG) role was first introduced last year, and merges the access and education portfolios. This is the first year the role has been contested, with Alex Roberts and Zaynab Ahmed seeking the position. 

Both candidates have entered this campaign with a range of experience: Alex is the Vice President of the Class Act Campaign, meanwhile Zaynab is currently the CU Bangla Society’s Access and Welfare Officer. 

Their manifestos both propose several potential actions to help tackle issues in the University that they feel have been exacerbated by the pandemic. 

Alex, a third-year Natural Sciences student at Magdalene, largely focuses on access in his manifesto. He proposes an expansion of the Shadowing Scheme, a yearly outreach programme which the current AEP UG, Esme Cavendish, is currently running online. His campaign emphasises the importance of both pre- and post-admissions access, and he would continue to support the Class Act Campaign in the lobby for Class Act officers at college level. 

Zaynab, a third-year Classicist at Newnham College, places equal emphasis on the access and education side of the AEP role. Her access proposals include the publicising of grants available at different colleges as part of the student-produced Alternative Prospectus. In terms of improving education at the University, Zaynab will push for lectures to continue being recorded after the pandemic, and wants to work with the Disabled Students’ Campaign to make faculty buildings more accessible. 

The candidates’ campaigns prioritise different aspects of the AEP UG role. When contacted by Varsity, Alex commented that Zaynab’s manifesto “could have gone further, particularly with accessibility," while Zaynab believes that Alex’s manifesto could have “expanded more on the Education side of the role”.

Alex added that the “the future of access in Cambridge will be good,” regardless of this election’s outcome. 

Welfare & Communities Officer

The two candidates running for Welfare & Communities Officer are Ben Dalitz, an MPhil Classicist at St John’s, and Ewan Hawkins, a third-year HSPS student at King’s. Both candidates’ manifestos focus on housing rights, social justice, and connecting with the local community on issues such as homelessness and period poverty. 

Ewan’s manifesto is split into three sections: “Wellbeing, Welfare and Rights”, “Free and Liberated University”, and “Justice and the Community”. Ben’s manifesto, meanwhile, is divided into “Support”, “Rights”, “Justice” and “Accountability”. Both candidates address issues that reflect the pre-existing priorities of SU campaigns, such as the Ethical Affairs Campaign’s commitment to environmentalism.

Ewan told Varsity that “there are clear similarities between mine and Ben’s platforms, particularly in our manifestos and ideas”, which “recognise the systemic nature of inadequate welfare provision across the University and have similar policies to tackle these issues”. 

Ben and Ewan have both pledged to improve funding for the Disability Resource Centre (DRC), which a former Disabled Students’ Office, Jess O’Brien,  described in a recent report as “critically underfunded”.

They are also both supporters of University-wide divestment and student liberation campaigns.

Both candidates aspire to guarantee housing as a right, another topical policy given the ongoing national work of Rent Strike campaigns.

However, Ben hopes to do this by supporting students living both in college and in private accommodation. Ewan is more focused on housing in the wider Cambridge community, hoping to “combat the ‘town-gown’ divide” and work for affordable rent by supporting the Rent Strike and local homelessness charities. 

Ewan sees the COVID-19 pandemic as having “shown the power of community and collective action”. However, Ben’s manifesto deals more with the specific effects of COVID-19 on student wellbeing. They intend to ensure counselling at Cambridge is equipped to deal with the effects of grief and COVID-19, and want all public health technology developed in Cambridge to remain affordable and accessible. 

Ben told Varsity that their manifesto adopts a “comprehensive and nuanced approach to welfare issues”, with a focus on “the specific welfare impacts that COVID-19 has had upon the student body”. They also feel that their social justice focus is “central to the Welfare and Communities role”. 

Ewan, meanwhile, feels that his manifesto “comes together as a coherent set of policies”, which also includes commitments to postgraduate rights, such as the abolition of the postgraduate application fee, and a pledge to support the “anti-casualisation campaign” of the Cambridge branch of the University and College Union (UCU)

Ewan is a member of Varsity's investigations team but has been removed from all channels of communication for the duration of the campaign.

Disabled Students’ Officer

Three candidates are running to be Disabled Students’ Officer (DSO): Anna Ward, Robin Denham, and Peter Jonathan Lucas. Anna and Robin are both finalist MML students – Anna is at Emmanuel, while Robin is at Corpus Christi. Lucas is studying for a Certificate in History with the Institute of Continuing Education, and is also running for the role of University Councillor.

The DSO’s main role is to coordinate the SU’s Disabled Students’ Campaign (DSC), and only disabled students can run for the position.


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Peter's manifesto focuses on his personal experience of disability, but he was not present at this year's hustings. He states that he has “significant experience of the workings of elected bodies, having served as a town councillor for nine years and as an NHS Foundation Trust Governor for five years”. He is running under the slogan: “No student left behind – a voice for all disabled students”.

Anna and Robin's manifestos have much in common, focusing on funding of the University’s Disability Resource Centre (DRC), more accessible assessments, and making it easier for disabled students to obtain documentation from the University.

They both pledge to campaign for increased funding for the DRC, which a recent SU report claims is “critically” underfunded. Anna would also like to see “structural change” in the service.

Disabled students can currently obtain a Student Support Document (SSD), which contains a set of recommendations for teaching the student, and go through Adjusted Modes of Assessment (AMA), to alter examination arrangements. Denham would like to “push the University to complete the transition to online SSDs”.

Meanwhile, Anna would lobby for “the automation of the SSD system”, as well as “pushing for minimal medical evidence required for SSDs, and exam adjustments and AMAs”.

The two candidates agree that the move to online teaching and assessment has helped disabled students and would like the University to retain it as an option in future.

Anna further says they will “build community solidarity” and “encourage more people to participate in the DSC”.

Robin makes a further point relating to the pandemic, wanting to “lobby for an urgent University plan to meet the needs of current and future students whose courses have been taught mostly or entirely online during COVID”.

Anna and Robin have similar experience in student politics. Anna has been a DSO for Emmanuel College Students’ Union and a Double Time Officer at the SU. Robin is on the committee of Corpus Christi JCR.