Women’s Union Policy

On this page is a list of all our current policy on a whole range of subjects, from liberation and representation, to women’s welfare and access, academic acheivement and our work with external organisations. If you want to see more about the discussion that Women’s Council had about these motions you can read the minutes of all the meetings.

The policy here was passed by Women’s Council, which is made up of all college women’s officers and members of the women’s executive. Once this policy is passed, it’s the job of the Women’s Sabb to make sure that our resolves are fulfilled and that we act in line with our policy. If you have any more questions about Women’s Council you can find out more in our section about ‘your union’, or email the women’s sabb.

Academic Issues

JCAP Working Party

The JCAP working party, originally created in 2003 to guide the WU’s reposnse to the release of the JCAP ‘Indicators of Academic Performance Report’, should be re-formed as an open committee to discuss WU strategy at this point. (Lent 04)

Access & Admissions

‘Target Women’ survey

In order to attract more prospective female applicants, the WU will provide information to prospective applicants about what they can expect from the colleges. Information will be gathered through a survey of students throughout the colleges, the results of which will be made available to current and prospective students through the WU website.
The original motion noted that the survey would be distributed via pigeonhole, however, the final survey was accessed online through a link from the WU website. (Mich 03)

Gender & Admissions

Significant discrepancies between men and women were noted in the 2003 intake in some colleges, however, University figures on applications and acceptances for 2003 were not available at the time. In order to take any necessary action before the 2004 intake action needed to be taken before the offical figures were available.
The Women’s Sabb conducted a sample survey of 2002 applicants which showed a gender bias. She was mandated to investigate the figures relation to admissions and gender across the colleges in 2003. (Mich 03)

Observers in Undergraduate Interviews

As part of the ‘Target Women’ campaign, the WU has made a number of suggestions related to good practice and policy concerning applicants and interviewees. The University has an obligation to protect interviewees.
Council resolved to continue to lobby the University for a Child Protection Policy, and put forward a recommended policy to all College Unions to have women committee members observe interviews conducted by a man with a young woman. (Mich 04)

External Affairs

NUS Women’s Conference Observer’s Report

The Oberver’s report written by Sofie Buckland was accepted as an accurate account of the conference and accepted in full. (Easter 06)

National Council of Women
The National Council of women is currently trying to increase their exposure amongst young women and is enabling university women’s campaigns to become affiliated by paying 25 for their sabbs to become individual members. This affiliaiton was approved for a year. (Easter 4 2006)

The WU voted to remain affiliated to the following organisations for another year.
For more information on these organisations see our page on External Affiliations

  • NUS Women’s Campaign,
  • Fawcett Society, Abortion RIghts,
  • Eating Disorders Association,
  • The Women’s Library

(Lent 2006)

b>OUSU VP (Women) By-election

Due to the resignation of the OUSU VP Women-elect, a by-election was organised for May 12th which had two candidates standing, a LIFE (OU Pro-life Society) candidate and an independent pro-choice candidate (Rebecca Wilkinson), endorsed by the CUSU Women’s Sabb.
If Ms Wilkinson had not entered the election, OUSU policy may have been changed from non-directional to anti-choice, which would have a detrimental effect on Oxford Students and the strong working relationship between CUSU and OUSU.
A letter of congratulations was sent to MS Wilkinson from the Women’s Union and a collection was held after council to contribute towards her campaign fund. (Easter 04)
Women’s Aid

Council resolved to sign the Statement of Support for Women’s Aid, recognising the work they do and pledging our support to promote the protection of women and children who suffer from or are exposed to domestic violence, and to become an Associate Organisation of Women’s Aid (subject to cost). (Lent 05)

CUSU Hustings

During CUSU Elections week, candidates for Sabbatical Women’s Officerand other CUSU positions attend hustings at various venues around the colleges. Candidates for Women’s Officer are often subjected to abuse and intimidation, ranging from heckling to extensive verbal abuse and physical intimidation during and after hustings. In 2004 the Women’s Officer candidate was routinely subjected to such abuse and intimidation, with the elections committee failing to take action against such behaviour.
CUSU has a duty to candidates to ensure that if they are going to commit to a rigorous and exhausting hustings schedule, they will not be expected to hust in inappropriate or inaccessible venues.
Council resolved to lobby the CUSU elections committee to explain the conditions under which hustings are to be held to all returning officers who have requested hustings, and to further lobby the committee to suspend hustings where candidates are subject to continued verbal abuse (without consultation with candidates). (Lent 05)

NUS Women’s Conference Observer

Traditionally the Sabbatical Women’s Officer elect attends NUS Women’s Conference as an observer, but WU elections for delegate and observer were held before nominations for Women’s Sabb opened.
Council resolved to send the Women’s Sabb-elect to NUS Women’s Conference as observer. (Lent 05)

Casework Support

The wide-ranging work of the Women’s Sabb includes representational casework, providing support and information for WU members on issues such as discrimination and harassment. The nature of casework makes the workload both unpredictable and inflexible.
This support and representation is vital but we must be solid in delivering on our campaigns and resources. These problems are also experienced by the other members of the ISSS, all of whom’s predecessors have made repeated calls for a casework support staff member over the past decade.
Council resolved to renew calls for a casework support staff and work with the other members of ISSS to lobby CUSU to implement a ‘roadmap’ towards creating a new staff position for casework support. (Easter 05)

NUS Women’s Conference Observer’s Report

The Oberver’s report written by Michelle Nuttallwas accepted as an accurate account of the conference and accepted in full. (Easter 05)

‘While You’re Down There!’ Campaign

A national recycling campaign aimed at over 18s was targeted at students in pubs/clubs and student unions, ‘enticing’ people to put their litter in the bin ‘while they’re down there’. The campaign used images of scantily clad women in sexually suggestive poses.
Council resolved to write to the charity running the campaign to register our objection and to work with CUSU to ensure that these materials will not be distributed. (Easter 05)

Casework Support Staff

The CUSU Development & Planning Committee recommended to CUSU Council Easter III 2005 that a ‘Campaigns Support Staff’ should be employed by CUSU to support the autonomous campaigns who do not have a full-time chair. CUSU has long been committed to putting a casework support staff in place, and last year the CUSU Services Officer committed to employing a casework support staff at teh enxt available opportunity.
Council resolved to lobby the DPC to withdraw the motion and continue to campaign for a casework support staff. (Easter 05)

Women Workers

Many women in Britain and around the world are exploited in the workplace. The Women’s Union resolved to affiliate to the NO SWEAT campaign and to support its work helping exploited women around the world. An amended version of this motion was submitted to NUS Women’s Conference.
(Michaelmas 4, 2005)


Harassment, Discrimination & Representation

Godfrey Bloom

A WU member, Rebecca Bowtell was vilified in the national and student press for coming forward with claims of sexual harassment against an MEP. The MEP in question also denounced the claims by casting ridicule on Ms Bowtell’s work with the WU.
Ms Bowtell’s right to come forward and her right to be treated with respect after making her allegations were affirmed and the Women’s Sabb lobbied for the MEP’s invitation to speak at the Cambridge Union Society to be retracted. (Mich 04)

University Website

The Osprey’s ‘Cambridge University Sportswomen’ calendar was publicised by the University Press Office in the News & Events section of the website under the title ‘Girls on Film’. Some WU members who contacted the Press Office to complain received replies stating that their complaints were understandable, but that no offence had been intended.
Council resolved to lobby the Press Office for an apology and the removal of the item from the news archive and the Women’s Sabb followed up the matter with the Press Office and University Registary. (Mich 04)

Academical Dress

University statutes allow women graduands to wear trousers, but this right may be restricted by College Praelectors. In the few colleges that place restrictions on the wearing of trousers, the ruling is often misrepresented as a University rule set down by the Proctors.
The Senior Proctor was asked to clarify the position of the Proctors guidelines on this issue. Council further resolved to conduct a survey of the restrictions upon academical dress throughout the colleges, and lobby for the removal of any restrictions on women wearing trousers. (Mich 04)

Women’s Representation in College Unions

Women’s Officers are unable to do their job without a position and vote on the college union executive committee. It is the right of all women in college unions to have access to representation on college union executive committees through a female executive committee member.
Effective representation cannot take place without a vote on all union matters, not simply those deemed to specifically concern women by other members of the union.
Council resolved to survey college unions to determine how women are represented in each college and how satisfied women are with their representation, and to petition each college union to ensure it has effective representation for women on its executive committee. (Lent 05)

Effective Representation for Women in College Unions

If the position or status of a women’s officer in a college union is to change, this must be decided by the women of the union, as it is solely concerning their representation in their union. For a women’s officer to effectively represent the women of her union she must be elected by, and ccountable to them. The only issue to be considered regarding the status of a women’s officer, is whether the women of the union feel that they need changes to be made in order for effective representation to be a reality.
If changes are made to a union by both male and female members which affect the position of the women’s officer, effective representation for women does not exist in that union. As such these changes must be ratified by a women-only vote or referendum in order to be legitimated.
Council resolved to work with college unions to ensure that their democratic structures protect the right of women members to choose to elect their own women’s officer and to be solely responsible for deciding upon changes to the position of their women’s officer. (Easter 05)

College Union Representation on Women’s Council

Without representation on Women’s Council college unions are failing to provide vital representation that should be available to all women students.
Council resolved to work with college unions to develop a system of representation for women and to continue to lobby for elected women’s officers with full voting rights on college union committees. (Easter 05)

Liberation Issues

Inclusion of ‘Trans’ in Womens LBG
In a strive to promote inclusivity and in acceptance of the fact that those unfamiliar with the Women’s Union don’t realise that it is open to all those who define as women, it was decided to change the constitution so that the executive position of Women’s LBG is changed to womens LBGT. (Lent 3 2006)

Defending autonomous campaigns and the women’s sabb
Motions were submitted to the first CUSU Council of lent 2005 calling for the CUSU Executive to be restructured, which meant putting the autonomous campaigns on a sub-committee of the executive and abolishing the position of CUSU Women’s Officer. The Women’s Union has firm policy to fight against all attempts to scrap the position of Women’s Sabb and to defend the autonomy of The Women’s Union and Women’s Council. DPC should meet with the heads of the autonomous campaigns to discuss any potential changes and insist that any further proposed changes are brought through their own democratic structures. (Lent 1 2006)

Black & Asian Women’s Committee

Current numbers of Black & Asian women students attending Cambridge are disproportionately and unacceptably low, and those who do attend the University often face difficulties and obstructions. Whilst recent efforts to foster a more inclusive and diverse atmosphere within Cambridge have gone some way in making improvements, there is still much to do.
The Black & Asian Women’s Officer(s) were mandated to work to increase awareness in the wider community at Cambridge of issues facing Black & Asian women stduents, and further work to increase numbers and help create an atmosphere of tolerance and equal opportunities within the Women’s Union, CUSU, and Cambridge. The Black & Asian Women’s Committee was formed to meet these objectives. (Lent 04)

Graduate Women’s Committee

Despite the fact that graduate women’s Officers account for the majority of voting members (53%), typically they make up a small percentage of those attending council. In the past, insufficient liasion between graduate women’s officers and the WU, and between the Graduate Union and the WU have led to a shortfall of services provided to graduate women.
It is in the interests of graduate women to promote interactionw with the WU, in order to ensure that their interests are represented, and there is a need to set up a regular channel of communication between graduate WOs and the Women’s Sabb.
In order to achieve these aims, the graduate women’s committee was formed, to meet twice termly in order to discuss issues and concerns of graduate women and to ensure more direct participation of graduate women in the forum of the WU. (Lent 04)

Supporting World AIDS Day

Women account for a large proportion of HIV/AIDS victims, due to factors including sexual violence. Drugs that could stem the tide of mother to child transmission are not provided to many women around the world. Women with HIV face gender discrimination which denies or delays them treatment. The World Aids Day campaign theme for 2004 is ‘Women, Girls. HIV and AIDS’.
Efforts need to be made to end the discrimination against women and girls with HIV; equality can never be a reality until we have control over our own bodies and have equality of access to medical services.
Council resolved to ‘wear’ the virtual red ribbon on the front page of the website. (Mich 04)

Developing the Women’s Union

All women have the right to a representative voice within their colleges and the nature of that representation should be decided upon by the women of that college. The WU should continue to work towards having a full team of 57 Women’s Officers, and whilst working towards this aim the beliefs and intentions of the WU should not be diluted to pander to a wider audience. The more people know about the WU, the easier it will be to break down preconceptions, challange ignorance and increase participation.
Council resolved to publicise the work of women;s officers and provide information on the work of the WU throughout the colleges through our cmpaaigning and representational work. (Easter 05)

Sexual Harrassment and Violence
Although fresher’s packs contain information on sexual and mental health, they include little information on sexual harrasment and college tutprs are often woefully ill equipped to deal with incidents that arise in colleges. In response, women’s council resolved to develop an information pack about sexual harrasment and violence for college unions to deliver during fresher’s week and to distribute accurate information about the options available to women who have been the victims of sexual harrasment and violence. This information will also be distributed to colleges via senior tutors.
(Michaelmas 3, 2005)

Safety & Welfare

NHS Waiting lists
In the recent survey ‘NHS Abortion Services’ conducted by the ‘Voice for Choice’ coalition it was noted that South Cambridgeshire PCT gave no figures for whether or not they were hitting target waiting times. The Women’s Sabb was asked to look into this.(Easter 3) Infra-Red cameras on Parker’s Piece
Given the confusion over why the council had decided to erect infra-red cameras on Parker’s Piece instead of improving lighting, it was decided to accept Counsillor Ian-Nimmo Smith’s offer of a meeting to discuss the issues and to maintain our stance that further meansures are needed to increase personal safety on Parker’s Piece and Christ’s Pieces.

Sanitary Disposal Facilities in Colleges

Many colleges do not provide adequate sanitary disposal faciltiies and in many cases such facilities are not located in suitable areas. Every toilet cubicle to be used by, but not necessarily specifically for, women should have a sanitary bin for the purpose of hygenic disposal of sanitary items, and the failure of a college to provide means for the disposal of snaitary items directly or indirectly constitutes discrimination.
In order to solve the problem, the Welfare Campaigns Officer was mandated to look in to the sanitary faciltiies situation throughout the colleges and lobby colleges to improve these facilities where necessary, with the assistance of college women’s officers. (Lent 04)

Security in Colleges

Many colleges do not have appropriate emergency startegies for students who are attacked in or near college residences, despite the steady increase in the number of reported attacks over the past 2 years. Colleges have a duty of care to students and appropriate safety precautions must be taken to ensure student safety.
It is imperative that colleges stop targeting women students only about matters of personal safety, and it is unacceptable for colleges to scaremonger women students into not leaving college grounds at night unless in male company.
The WU has been working with the Parkside Police on a ‘be aware not afraid’ campaign, which aims to keep stduents safe without fear or use of a ‘victim’ ideology. This campaign will be extended throughout the colleges, to be run on a college-based level by women’s officers where there are problems with student safety. The WU will look into organising and subsidising regular self-defence classes for women across the year. (Lent 04)

Eating Disorder Support (EDS)

Due to the frequent turnover of volunteers, EDS has been unable to maintain a steady presence over the past few years, despite attempts at restructuring in Michaelmas 2003. EDS originated as a CUSU Women’s Campaign project, due to the impact of disordered eating on the lives of many women students in Cambridge, and the majority of students involved with EDS continue to be women. Since the EDS phoneline was launched in 2000 responsibility for EDS has fallen to CUSU Welfare, but the WU has been asked to take over responsibility of EDS for a trial period of 1 academic year.
The Women’s Sabb will work with the CUSU Welfare Officer in recruiting volunteers for an EDS team ready for the 2004-05 academic year, and will support and promote EDS by meeting regularly with the EDS team and supporting training intiiatives for volunteers. The President of EDS will be invited to join the WU Executive Committee (to be ratified by Council upon her election), in order to offer her the full support and resources of the Exec. (Easter 04)

Awareness of Alcoholic Units

Heightened public concern about the effects of binge drinking on women’s health has combined with government and media vilification of recreational drinking by women. Promoting a sensible attitude towards drinking for both sexes is desirable. In many cases alcohol companies promote binge drinking and do not provide adequate labelling. Responsibility for avoiding harmful amounts of drinking is on the individual. Women students in Cambridge can be particularly vulnerable due to the high stress and drinking culture here.
Council resolved to distribute information about alcoholic units to College Unions, to be displayed in college bars, and to ensure that this list is kept up-to-date. (Lent 05)

Drink Spiking

Incidents of drink piking during freshers’ week in 2003 and disparate incidents during recent history in Cambridge have been targeted at women students. Colleges take action to raise awareness of drink spiking in the immediate aftermath of these incidents, but continuous efforts need to be made.
Council resolved to furnish College Unions with materials to raise awareness of the dangers of drink spiking and distribute ‘alcotops’ to prevent drink spiking incidents. (Lent 05)

Improving Street Lighting

Street lighting in Cambridge is highly inadequate , and the need to improve street lighting is not a priority of the county or city councils. As well as a general welfare issue, the lack of street lighting is a specific women’s issue. As well as supporting the ‘Light Up Parker’s Piece event on November 17th, the women’s union resolves to work with college unions to increase the support for improved street lighting, as well as lobbying senior tutors and college councils to lobby local authorities.
(Michealmas 2, 2005)


According to the NHS, 95% of women suffer from pre menstrual symptoms. As these symptoms can seriously affect the welfare and academic performance of women, council resolved to mandate the women’s welfare officer to work with organisations within the university and beyond to produce a leaflet detailing ths symptoms of PMS and possible treatments, as well as looking into other ways of raising awareness of PMS and lifting the taboo on the subject.
(Michaelmas 3, 2005)

Abortion Rights

A women’s right to free, safe abortion is increasingly under attack, especially with regard to the 24 week time limit. Council resolves to campaign against any reduction to the time limit and to support calls for abortion to be made available on request up until that time limit.
(Michaelmas 4, 2005)


Union Housekeeping

Women’s Council Motions Deadline

Council resolved to change the deadline for motions from mondays at noon to fridays at noon, to give voting members sufficient time to read council papers. (Mich 03)

Women’s Union Constitution

Council resolved to accept the revised WU constitution, which formalized the language and necessary procedure but did not change the content of the constitution. (Mich 03)

Women’s Union Office

Council resolved to renew the women-only status of the WU office during office hours (weekdays 9am – 5pm). (Mich 03)

Women’s Handbook Editor

Council resolved to remove the post of Women’s Handbook Editor from the Women’s Handbook Editor, and the role will be undertaken by the Women’s Sabb, supported by the Executive Committee and college women’s officers. (Mich 03)

Women’s Council Motion: Endometriosis

Council resolved to dissolve the Endometriosis support group, created by policy passed at Lent I 2002 Council but which was never organised. (Lent 04)

Women’s Handbook

Council resolved to change the editorial deadline of the Women’s Handbook from September to April, in order to provide more lee-way during the summer vacation in the case of problems, such as those encountered with the printers of the 2003-04 handbook. (Lent 04)

Women’s Union Executive Committee Vacancies

Council resolved to hold a by-election to fill vacant Executive Committee posts created by graduating Exec members. (Easter 04)

Women’s Handbook

Council resolved to move the delivery date for the Women’s Handbook from September to August, to avoid distribution delays experienced in recent years through no fault of the WU. (Mich 04)

Safe Space

Council resolved to adopt the CUSU Safe Space policy (written by the Women’s Sabb) for the WU office, and meetings of the Women’s Union, and Women’s Council. (Mich 04)

Women’s Union Standing Orders

Council resolved to divide the Union’s governing documents into a Constitution and separate Standing Orders, with each document containing the appropriate materials for the governance and running of the Union. (Mich 04)

Women’s Union Equal Opportunities Policy

Council resolved to accept the CUSU Equal Opportunities Policy (written by the Women’s Sabb). (Mich 04)

Representation of Women’s Union Policy

Council resolved to amend the Standing Orders to clarify that the Women’s Sabb should be primarily bound by Women’s Union policy in her work with CUSU and the WU. (Lent 05)

Women’s Union Database

Council resolved to compile a database of information regarding women in each college and resources available to them from the Women’s Officer feedback forms. Council further resolved to keep this database updated and extend its scope as deemed necessary by council, and to update the Standing Orders accordingly. (Lent 05)

Voting Members at Women’s Council
Council resolved to amend the Standing Orders and Constitution to ensure that where a college union representative holds an executive committee position, the college vote will be used at Council. If another member of a college union committee is willing to hold the union’s vote for the length of the exec officer’s term, it is entirely acceptable for both an exec and college vote to be passed. In this case the member must be appointed by the college union. (Lent 05)

Lent IV Council & Women’s Union Hustings

Council resolved to move Lent IV Council to March 8th, and hold a WU hustings at 8pm after Council (open to all). (Lent 05)

Equal Opportunities and Digital Media

Council resolved to provide documents in accessible formats and to ensure that these formats are used in an accessible manner. (Easter 05)

Women’s Union Budget 2005

Council resolved to strengthen the campaigning work of the WU and make campaigning involvement more accessible to WU members through the website and women’s bulletins. Council further resolved to retain campaigns as the WU’s top priority in subsequent budget negotiations and adopt the proposed system of budget headings to provide greater clarity and transparency. (Easter 05)

‘Gender Agenda’

It is important that the magazine of the WU is seen as interesting and relevant, whilst maintaining its significance as a WU publication, with our beliefs and intentions as a union enshrined throughout. Whilst a large cross-setion of people at CAmbridge read and value ‘gender Agenda’, many others who would enjoy reading it are turned off by the title.
Council resolved to rename ‘Gender Agenda: the magazine of the Women’s Union’, ‘SIREN: The magazine of the Women’s Union’. (Eatser 05)
Women’s Representation in College Unions Survey

CUSU Council policy passed at Easter I 2005 mandated college unions to survey the women in their union about their representation. It i simportant this survey takes place and that it is conducted properly.
Council resolved to draw up a template survey and distribute it to college union Presidents. (Easter 05)

Women’s Colleges

Campaign in Support of Women’s Colleges

Without Women’s Colleges many women would not be able to attend the University, and if there were fewer women’s colleges in Cambridge there would be increased competition for places in the remaining women’s colleges by women who could not otherwise attend the University, resulting in many eligible applicants being left in the pooling system who are unable to attend other colleges.
Recent moves by some members of the fellowship of St Hilda’s College in Oxford to ‘mix’ and the upcoming vote on the issue will have a knock-on efefct on the Cambridge Women’s Colleges, who may also come under attack if St Hilda’s ‘goes mixed’.
All women have the right to access a Cambridge education, and as such Women’s Colleges remain a necessity. (Mich 03)

St Hilda’s College

St Hilda’s College governing body plan to vote on the college’s single sex status during week 8 of this term, despite a vote taken 7 months ago which was defeated. The governing body has refused to respect the wishes of the JCR and MCR of St Hilda’s, as well as the fellows who voted against ‘mixing’ at the last vote.
St Hilda’s single-sex policy is in a great deal of danger, and if St Hilda’s becomes a mixed college the women’s colleges of Cambrdge will come under threat.
Council resolved to write a letter to the governing body of St Hilda’s urging them to cancel the vote, or at least postpone it until they have entered proper discussion with the student population of the college, and to write a letter of support to the St HIlda’s college JCR and MCR. (Mich 01)