As the year rolls to a close there are several things on which we – as officers, as a team, and as an organisation – may reflect on. For the six elected officers at CUSU, six months have whizzed by. We are halfway through our terms and, with elections just around the corner, it requires motivation to keep momentum going around those things we want to see changed before our time is up in July.
As a sabbatical officer at Cambridge, you start days after graduation. You must hit the ground running, learn as you go, learn the names of—and members on— the 50-odd Cambridge committees and, eventually, settle into a steady rhythm preparing for the beginning of term.
Then before you know it, as I personally found, term erupts. Students are back, and you are working 12-hour days at the Freshers’ Fair and, in my case, doing 17 Freshers’ talks at the Colleges that eventually submitted to my constant emails. Michaelmas Term 2015 has been a splendid experience, but also a hard learning curve. Some changes come fast, but many of the changes we want for students in an 800 year old institution are slow and require serious persistence. They also require acceptance of the fact that in most cases, the changes we petitioned or wrote papers for, will not be implemented in our time in Cambridge, nor will we be accredited for them if they are to become a new and positive norm for students.
Nonetheless, the team have continued to work tirelessly this year and it is exciting to inform students of the work that has been done in the brief gap since term ended.
Rob Cashman, the CUSU Education Officer, has facilitated University-wide Faculty Rep elections since November, and continues to draft CUSU’s detailed response to the Government Green Paper on Higher Education. The ideas contained within the Green Paper could have lasting impacts on the cost and quality of education, and even the grading system here at Cambridge (share your thoughts here). Helena Blair, the CUSU Access Officer, is currently working non-stop to pair shadows with Cambridge students for the CUSU Shadowing Scheme 2016, and Charlie, the CUSU Women’s Officer, has been leading Good Night Out training for staff in Cambridge nightclubs. Jemma Stewart, the CUSU Coordinator and I continue to work closely with our support staff team to ensure things are ready for the CUSU Conference on the 16th January, and all sabbs are pleased to be creating tailor-made and interactive sessions on topics ranging from rent negotiations and academic parity, to conflict resolution and liberation.
Not to forget, the CUSU-GU Welfare Officer, Poppy Ellis Logan, who organised and put together, with the Students’ Unions’ Advice Service, a guide for students who will remain in Cambridge over the break, which you can find here.
Of course, Michaelmas term flagged up challenges that we must continue to work on as your students’ union; it remains a consistent priority for CUSU to communicate its aims, objectives and wins across a widely spread collegiate University. Unfortunately, we can’t be on the ground talking to students every day. We are therefore incredibly grateful to those students who have met us halfway this year by coming to CUSU events, CUSU Council and the 9 student consultations we ran; I hope to keep meeting many more new students in the new year.
Of course, I’d be remiss not to mention how incredibly encouraged we are by the amount of students who have come through the doors at 17 Mill Lane, despite the delays in the refurbishment of the CUSU Offices. Though the first CUSU Council might have been off to a slow start, by the last, we struggled to find enough seats— though we did find enough in the end. Furthermore, although it seems a long time ago now, the CUSU Freshers’ Fair was a massive undertaking of this term and the feedback we received was better than ever.
These moments remind us why what we do is important and worthwhile.
Your feedback is worthwhile, so please keep it coming. Whenever I’ve had the opportunity to speak to a large group of students so far, I have always said the same thing: the surveys we send out, the questionnaires we ask you to fill in, and the consultations we run are important. It shows the strength of the student voice, when we can say to University officials that students want or need “X” when 4,000 students ask for it, or 700 students respond to a survey. I guess what I’m saying is that often, with a schedule as busy as a Cambridge schedule, it’s hard to get involved, and easy to think your voice won’t be missed. But it is, and it will.
Next term, things will remain as busy as ever with CUSU Conference, the Shadowing Scheme, Elections and four CUSU Councils. The team and I hope to pop over to as many Colleges as possible for open meetings, talks and events and to keep students informed about our plans for Lent term. As ever, it’s easy to get in touch. From the 4th January, the team are back in the office and would love to hear your ideas for some CUSU New Year’s resolutions.
As always, it’s a pleasure being CUSU President, and I look forward to what the team and I will accomplish in the New Year.
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