Minutes from Women’s Council – Lent 2008

WOMEN’S COUNCIL, 19TH MAY 2008, 7:15pm, CUSU Council Room


Hetti Isaac, Queens’ College Women’s Officer; Koshka Duff, Fitzwilliam College Women’s Officer; Juliet Mushens, Women’s Executive Secretary; Natalie Szarek, Women’s Executive Gender Matters Officer and Women’s Officer Elect; Rhian Keyse, Women’s Executive Welfare Officer





Elly: Went through this last time. Tidying up, outlining the team structure, anti-racism to the welfare team, and an Eating Disorders Support Officer.

Rhian Keyse, Tit Hall: Where was the anti-racism officer before?

Elly Shepherd: On the Ethical Affairs team, previously.


Elly: Discovered that one of the trustees had no idea that they were a trustee, so making sure we get someone to be a trustee, either student or external.

Rhian: Why is women’s officer not one?

Elly: Because women’s officer represents women rather than the entire student body. Was worried about ‘trustees meetings’ excluding the women’s officer, but now there will be four business meetings a year, and will make sure that the women’s officer is aware of what’s going on. She can sit in on reserved business.


Elly: Was expecting an external officer to come and introduce this, but no one is here! This is the controversial bit of the agenda. CUSU has previously passed a No Platform policy which has lapsed, want to protect against racist organisations. How should CUSU react to the possibility of them being invited to Cambridge

Selwyn: At their open meeting, they discussed this, and think it would be a better policy not to have a ‘black list’ but have it on a case-by-case basis. Might mean ’emergency’ CUSU councils but means it’s broader, and things can change.

Koshka Duff, Fitzwilliam: People would not be able to see that these people are on it for racism, and might see it that it was a policy which allowed them to block anyone they want.

Natalie: Do people who are loosely affiliated with the organisations involved going to be allowed to come.

Selwyn: Quite ‘pro’ freedom of speech, think that a list gives a bad message.

Elly: These particular six organisations are racist – there’s no argument against this. Perhaps the best way to counter racism is to debate it, rather than stop people coming to Cambridge.

Koshka: Quite a difference in protesting against their views, and protesting against whether they have a right to be in Cambridge. Would the policy be against them being here at all?

Elly: Yes, but CUSU doesn’t have the power to stop the Union inviting people from the ‘banned’ groups.

Natalie: What about welfare arguments? People feeling unsafe if these people are invited to speak.

Elly: Sure that the BNP would never do anything, trying to seem ‘respectable’ at the moment. Incidents before when they came to the Union. Combat-18 are heavies.

Natalie: If this policy was rejected and Combat-18 came would CUSU be able to coordinate with the police?

Hetti: What about the incitement to racial hatred?

Newnham College: It’s saying these people shouldn’t come speak – have a problem with that, for freedom of speech purposes.

Elly: The CUSU Constitution, as it points out in the motion, states that people have the right not to be discriminated against. No platform policy is essentially being presented as a tool to further that aim. Is it an effective or legitimate tool?

Newnham: What will they do to prevent students getting hurt? We have laws anyway, what more can people do.

Juliet: These people come to Universities to stir up racial hatred, it’s an effective tool.

Newnham: CUSU’s supposed to represent all the students, some students have these views.

Elly: Can say that CUSU shouldn’t take a side on elections, for example, but thinks it’s fair to say that CUSU takes a side against racism.

Koshka: CUSU can’t represent everyone, but needs to protect the majority.

Rhian: Issue with 6a, thinks that the way the Black students campaign dealt with James Watson was better.

Elly: But there is a big difference between James Watson and Combat-18 – he’s not as aggressive, just stupid! Not as dangerous.

Natalie: Worried about 6a and how vague it is – are they protesting the views or the actual appearance?

Koshka: Better if they oppose the views rather than the people coming full stop. Can we amend it?

Elly: Yes, but it’s hugely contentious and a lot of people will be mandated to vote specifically one way or another. If it’s not obviously fixing something that’s a problem, then it might be too difficult to try and do this.

Ellie Poppy, Sidney-Sussex: What’s the position of most other Universities on this?

Elly: NUS no-platform policy is slightly different, but their policy is that NUS shouldn’t share a platform with people from a slightly longer list of organisations. Some student unions are vehemently against this, but they tended to be in the minority.

Koshka: Can people have a stall at the freshers’ fair if they’re from racist organisations?

Elly: Should consider ‘safe space’ in the same way, see views on that policy. This would be included under CUSU events, important to keep the fair free from racist institutions.

Natalie: CICCU and the army get a stall.

Rhian: If we’re protecting people on the basis of sexual orientation then has a big problem with CICCU,

Elly: The racist organisations are all racist by definition, whereas can’t generalise like that about CICCU. The fear is, that other organisations will be added to this list, where do we draw the line.

Koshka: The policy makes a big deal of race, but not the other things it wants to protect.

Elly: In terms of the military, some unions have passed motions banning the military from their campuses for recruitment purposes. Do people feel comfortable that they understand this, even if they haven’t decided how to vote? The two motions are similar, but not contradictory.

Rhian: So this wouldn’t stop CUSU members who are also BNP members from attending CUSU events?

Elly: No, it wouldn’t stop these people.

Koshka: Would ‘bits’ of CUSU, without the no-platform policy, be allowed to organise protests against these people?

Elly: This is just strengthening that – CUSU are obliged to organise a protest, but each are able to organise protests off their own back.


Elly: There was a problem in that they didn’t adequately define what a constituent representative was, so who could vote etc. Make sure it explicitly explains who has a vote, and who doesn’t. Let’s take a vote:

Student with disabilities officer counts as a constitutent? PASSED

Mental health officer? PASSED

HE funding officer? PASSED

Target Campaigns? PASSED

Ethical affairs chairs? PASSED


Elly: Group of reports a few years ago which discussed how some groups underperform (e.g. women and ethnic minorities). Not enough has been done based on the report and they need to do more. Also talks about initial limitations of the report.

Hetti: Can we read the report? Did they identify different reasons?

Elly: It’s confidential!

General uproar – why is it confidential?

Hetti: What is the point of it if it’s confidential and nothing’s been done about it?

Elly: This does seem ridiculous! The motion is about putting pressure on people to do something about the report.


Elly: The prescient point is cusu resolves 3 and 4 – increase facilities for students and support colleges who want to fight against academic room balloting.


Elly: Scientists have Saturday exams and lectures. This motion says that this is unfair to practising Jewish people – how do they cope? Jewish students have to stay overnight and take the exam on the Sunday. Engineering changed it, so why not.

Newnham: Biologists in 1st and 2nd year have a lecture every Saturday. They’re quite well attended.

Elly: Lectures, you can miss if you’re desperate, but it’s awful if you miss an exam. They could easily reschedule it.


Elly: Trying to get student Oyster cards as Cambridge students. Costs very little to do this. Would charge you less on each journey.


Elly: In the Uni they meet often to make big decisions and CUSU has no representation on this. Want to push for representation on this.


Elly: Has previously had policy about remembering the holocaust, should continue this.


Elly: Declared to have deserved honours for those who are too ill to take their exams – done the work but not done the exams. Would have got between a first and a third if they’d sat the exams. Motion is that this is ridiculous – no other Uni has this, people should just resit if they were seriously ill. More resits, less ridiculous acronyms! Also, pushing for anonymous class lists.


Juliet: What’s happening about the student campaign to educate tutors about sexual assault?

Elly: Preparing a report on this to take to the next senior tutors’ meeting.

Natalie: Feminist Shebangs, 1 hour, fortnightly, next Sunday. Has a facebook group – check it out if you’re interested.

Juliet: Is there going to be a garden party?

Elly: Yes!

Natalie: Need to book a lawn for this.