Dear Women’s Officers,
You may have heard by now through TCS that Laura (President) and Jennifer (Services) are proposing a motion to scrap the position of the Women’s Sabb.
Instead, my position will be replaced with a general administrator, who will be expected to do the admin for all five autonomous campaigns, but who won’t
need to be a member of any of those campaigns. Due to a reshuffling of the CUSU Executive, all five autonomous campaigns (Women’s Black students, LBGT,
International and Students with Disabilities) will also be demoted to a sub-committee of the CUSU Executive, with only one speaker present at exec meetings
to represent their huge diversity. No one thinks this is a good idea and this has been proposed with no consulation whatsoever.
The first I heard about this idea was on Wednesday morning, even though I work each and every day with three members of the committee that have supposedly
decided this, with no visible evidence of consulting anyone else, not least the people that their desired changes are going to affect. This is not only a
slap in the face to women’s representation in CUSU, but also a huge threat to the autonomous campaigns in general and an enormous blow to college women’s
If we lose the Women’s Sabb, the work that we do will suffer enormously. My days are already full to bursting and I cannot begin to imagine how much the
women’s campaign will have to descale if the Sabb post it lost. The Women’s Union is currently taking on more and more, especially because the Graduate Union
no longer has a Women’s Officer and the Black Student’s campaign is not big enough to support a women’s group. All of this work is now coming to us, and
we need a Sabbatical officer to support college officers, organise university wide campaigns, organise events to increases participation, and to educate men
and women about the problems in the university and the wider world, whilst fighting for change. The reasons why the Women’s Sabb was established in 1993
have not gone away. Laura reassures me that these changes won’t come in until 2007, but that doesn’t reassure me at all. It’s not as if Cambridge and the
wider world will have changed by then.
Of course it’s true that the other autonomous campaigns need more support, and the Women’s Union has always supported those claims, but scrapping the women’s
sabb is not the way to do that and other officers are equally opposed to it. It would have saved a lot of time and energy if we had been consulted, but the
decision was made not to notify people until the last minute. Gwawr Thomas the women’s welfare officer described this as a dictatorial and populist motion
and she is right. We are all shocked and angry at the Women’s Exec, but also rather disgusted that the proposers have completely ignored the validity of
Women’s Council – because they know that their motion would never pass there.
According to the CUSU Constitution, CUSU Council has no right to stamp all over the autonomous campaigns and overturn their autonomous constitutions. For
the women’s sabb to be removed, we would need to pass a vote through two women’s councils and then hold a university wide referendum. I don’t think that a
motion to scrap the women’s sabb would ever pass through Women’s Council, but we need to prove that point with a motion defending autonomous campaigns in
general and the position of the women’s sabb. We need ALL OF YOU to turn out and vote on behalf of your college women on Tuesday at 7pm in the Lloyd Room
at Christ’s. We also need as many women as possible to come along to CUSU Council (New Hall, Wednesday 7.15)and show that they care about women’s
representation, about the autonomous campaigns and about the democracy of CUSU, where a handful of people cannot make decisions on behalf of 18,000 students.
Please make sure that you are there.
We’re going to try and get these motions thrown out at tonight’s exec meeting, on the basis that they are unconstitutional. If we fail, Alice Felstead the
Women’s Officer at Sidney will be sending an email to you all, and to previous women’s officers saying that the position of the Women’s Sabb is crucial
to the work that you do. I hope that all of you will agree to sign it. I’ll also be sending out a statement tomorrow for all of you, so that you know why
we have a women’s sabb and what I do on a daily basis. I will also be sending out a model motion to you, so that those of you with open meetings can
hopefully feel compelled to bring a motion defending all of the autonomous campaigns and the right of all students to have a voice in CUSU. I know that some
colleges have problems with the women’s officer, but all colleges can agree that the way these changes have come about is unconstitutional and undemocratic.
I’m also determined to continue with our work over the next week. We have a lot planned for this term and I am not going to let it suffer because of this.
The Women’s Union is one of the most active parts of CUSU, and we need to make sure that it stays that way!
We can defeat this and we will.
I’ll let you know how the exec meeting goes,