Many of the incoming Sabbatical Officers ran uncontested, in a campaign bemoaned by its participants for the low turnout at hustings.Lucas Maddalena

Voting for the Student Union’s Easter by-elections opened earlier this week (08/05), after the BME and Women’s officer roles received no applicants in the regular elections last term.

Many of the incoming sabbatical officers ran uncontested, in a campaign bemoaned by its participants for the low turnout at hustings. Voter turnout at the Lent elections stood at 10.8%, down from 12% and 18% in the preceding years.

Sabbatical officers represent students on University committees and command a salary of £23,000. Varsity asked candidates in each sabbatical race how they would improve student engagement.

One of the candidates spoke to Varsity regarding the SU’s use of the term BME, which they believe to be “hugely problematic in that the term prioritises and emphasises certain ethnic groups yet excludes and further marginalises other ethnic groups.” The candidate said that they had raised these concerns with the SU, who told them that this year’s BME Officer race could not be further postponed. The SU did tell the candidate, however, that role titles will be reassessed in an upcoming ‘democracy review’.

Cambridge SU’s democracy committee told Varsity that concerns were reviewed "promptly”. They also stated that “at the point concerns were raised, the election process had already begun, and that “democratic and governance processes need to take place prior to advertising and accepting candidates for the role”.

Women’s Sabbatical Officer

There are three candidates running for the role of Women’s Officer, following the withdrawal of Georgie Warner.

Michael Elizabeth Gasior told Varsity: “If I wasn’t running for sabbatical officer position, I might not even know that there were by-elections happening right now”. She hopes to bolster community engagement with the Cambridge SU and has had five years of professional student welfare experience. Gasior is running for the position to “promote women’s safety, support, and success across colleges, the University, and the city as a whole”. Gasior told Varsity: “Mental health support and sexual harassment and assault prevention/response are causes near and dear to my heart”.

Rosie Freeman aims to prioritise “community, safety and data”, by building up the Women’s Campaign community - working directly with JCRs and Women’s officers to combat sexual violence in the university. Freeman promised to create “an easily accessible portfolio” about disciplinary procedures in colleges.

“I hope to [...] focus on safety by continuing policies on street-lighting, against drink spiking and casualised postgraduate contracts; and use surveys and research to create credible, targeted solutions,” they continued.

Madhulika Chebrol is also running for the position, with previous experience as MCR President of Murray Edwards and experience campaigning for a wider accessibility of period products in faculties and departments. 

BME Sabbatical Officer

There are four candidates running for the BME Officer role following the resignation of Kefeshe Bernard last term.

Sally Yuen Sze Leung is the “very first and only” Asian candidate running for the BME Officer role. She wants to “strengthen support for ethnic minority students from all backgrounds” to address the awarding gap of First/Good Honours degrees to BME students. Leung promised to “dismantle racism in the University”, improve access for under-represented students, and “push for a decolonised curriculum”.

Nesar Rafiq is a part-time mature student in his 50s who is running “to improve engagement”. Rafiq said, “things need to change and ensure that the diversity of the students at Cambridge needs to reflect society and not continue as a place for the elite”.

Maroof Rafique, a former National Youth Policy Forum Committee Head at the UN Development Programme, hopes to improve engagement with the SU by “furthering collaboration between all campaign stakeholders ranging from LGBTQ+ to Ethical Affairs so that we collectively move forward.” Rafique wants to change BME to BAME, adding that “BAME is the tapestry of various colours, and my goal is that every colour shines through the light - adding value to the diversity at Cambridge”. Rafique is promising to improve academic support for BAME students.


Mountain View

Candidates slam low student turnout at SU election hustings

Darold Cuba, an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion officer at St John’s, describes himself as a “research scientist, social entrepreneur, cultural heritage preservationist and oral historian”. Cuba is also part of the college’s commemoration team for the abolition of slavery. The candidate went on to describe how he wants to lead the SU’s “work in advancing an inclusive, supportive and progressive environment” by working with “college BME reps and EDI officers, university staff and administration and the wider Cambridge community to advance a just and equitable experience for BME members”.

Both roles are full-time positions, starting in July. Polls for the sabbatical positions and campaign committees are now open and close on Friday (12/05).