Fitzwilliam College’s JCR has commenced debates on the consequences of CUSU membershipHorace co

Fitzwilliam College JCR has decided to hold discussions with its members concerning possible disaffiliation from CUSU.

The question of Fitz’s continued participation in the students’ union was heavily debated during a meeting held on 24th January. Describing a previous CUSU meeting as “pointless as usual”, Fitzwilliam JCR listed some of its discontents with the organisation.

The debate concerning possible disaffiliation centred on the two main issues of sexual health supplies and the university shadowing scheme. According to the minutes of the meeting, CUSU’s supply of contraceptives and other sexual health items is substantial enough that any alternative systems would be short-term and could not match the current system. The potential loss of the CUSU shadowing scheme was also thought to have the potential to significantly impact on Fitzwilliam College’s access programme.

The following week’s meeting, however, concluded that “the JCR is concerned with the current undergraduates of Fitz”, and hence access should not prominently feature in its deliberations. It also concluded that “there would be no change to sexual health supplies”, as students remain eligible for these thanks to their individual affiliation to CUSU.

Currently only Gonville and Caius and Corpus Christi have led successful disaffiliation campaigns.

Corpus still receives sexual health supplies for its students on an individual basis and still participates in the shadowing scheme, while Caius relies on the NHS as a sexual health provider.

The experiences of these two colleges have formed a key part of the disaffiliation debate. It was therefore decided at the second meeting to call for an organised discussion with the head of CUSU, Helen Hoogewerf-McComb, and the leader of a disaffiliated JCR.

Central to the discussion has been the findings of the Robinson Report, not available to the JCR at the time of the first meeting.

Detailing the various benefits of affiliation and consequences of disaffiliation, the report, compiled for the Robinson College Students’ Association, aims to give a clear outline of the position of a college within CUSU structures.

The failure of current CUSU President Helen Hoogewerf-McComb to supply Fitz with the updated report in time for the 24th January meeting was cited as “a classic show of CUSU efficiency”.

Representatives of Fitzwilliam JCR said the report “seeks to be impartial and objective in regards to the value of CUSU membership. As such, it was (once acquired) fundamental to our decision to hold a ‘general meeting’.”

Shots directed at CUSU in the minutes of the earlier meeting include the accusation that “CUSU said they’d send an informative handbook, but hey, CUSU say a lot of things”.

In the ‘actions to be taken’ section, CUSU were told “Put that in your pipe and smoke it”.

Discussion ended with a decision to expand the debate to include other colleges and the student body of Fitz.

“We will ultimately have a discussion/debate first with Helen and the other affiliated JCR presidents, and then with college, which we would like to do before third years leave, as they have the most experience of what CUSU actually offers,” it concluded.

A Fitz representative summarised the current state of the debate:

“This is not a ‘campaign’ in the traditional sense nor has the JCR collectively formed an opinion on CUSU. We have simply decided to debate this issue as individuals amongst the wider student body,” they said.

JCR Vice-President Damiano Sogaro gave Varsity the following statement: “Although I strongly feel that CUSU is neither as efficient (and consequently not as helpful) nor as active as it might be, this does not mean that it is not a force for good.

“The only question is whether disaffiliation provides a greater ‘good’ than staying with CUSU. The only way to come to an answer is through an informed debate.”