For those of you who have been following, CUSU, Cambridge students, and specifically targeted individuals have been at the centre of a sensationalised and distorted media storm focusing on a Remembrance Day motion presented at the last CUSU Council.
We want to provide clarification that we have not “banned” Remembrance Day or the wearing of poppies. Last week, approximately 50 student representatives met at CUSU Council - a body tasked to represent the views of over 20,000 Cambridge students. Our backgrounds, political persuasions, and experiences are diverse, but we all understand that our role is to represent the collective views of Cambridge students.
On the agenda was a motion put forward by two non-voting students, to ask Council to promote Remembrance Day actively across the whole student body, as a way of remembering British war veterans. An amended motion was also proposed which deleted various phrases of the original motion, as per standard practice, in order to include all those affected by war. In deciding which of the two motions to take forward for a final vote, the amended motion was selected. However, and contrary to many reports in the media, the amended motion was then defeated by a huge margin with only three votes in favour.
There were other items on the agenda, but at the conclusion of the meeting, it was understood that in not passing either motion, CUSU would carry on as it always had in its Remembrance Day commemorations. This includes having the CUSU President lay a wreath as part of the Cambridge Remembrance Day commemorations and continuing to encourage individual students to commemorate Remembrance Day in any way they feel appropriate, which is consistent with Royal British Legion recommendations.
National and tabloid media—including the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, and the Sun—picked up the story. The headlines were exceptionally misleading, some might say inflammatory, but certainly full of inaccuracies, omissions, and clickbait. Despite repeated attempts to get the students’ side of the story across on social media, the online world continued to spread false information. Death threats, other abuse, and general anger followed from those who now believed, based on these false reports, that our students had collectively decided to ‘boycott’ Remembrance Day. As a student population, we were portrayed as ‘snowflakes’ who didn’t care about the atrocities of war and the suffering of those who died during the war. We do care, and beyond remembering those who have been affected by past conflicts, we should also do whatever is in our power to learn from the past and ensure that it never happens again.
We condemn in the strongest terms the mistreatment received by students as a result of the misrepresentation. These false reports that culminated in a vile torrent of abuse and death threats from general members of the public, directed toward a specific student undermines our democratic process; we deplore that students may have been made to feel unsafe participating in a free and open debate at Council, our policy-making body, and consider the actions of national media in particular in twisting the narrative and enabling such abuse a serious attack on free speech. We are working actively to ensure this doesn’t happen again to anyone engaging with CUSU in whichever way they decide to do so.
We’re disappointed that the press appear to have used Remembrance Day and Cambridge students as a political football in such an insensitive way which has infringed the safety of our students. We do not believe that we, as students, belong to a snowflake generation who don’t give a damn, quite the opposite in fact.
CUSU Sabbatical Officers 2018/19