"Utterly broken": Reflecting on Class Lists after exams

Image credit: Gianamar Giovanetti-Singh

Last year, students across Cambridge had their applications to opt-out of the class lists rejected in light of a stricter university policy on the matter. In a toughly fought-out referendum in the world of Cambridge student politics, the student body voted to keep the class lists – with the condition that it would be easy to opt-out if one so wished. I spoke to students who had their applications rejected to hear their thoughts on having been so deviously misled in the referendum last year.

In CUSU’s controversial referendum last November in which students were asked whether they wanted to keep the class lists – the list of names pinned up on the Senate House every summer, containing students’ exam results – the “Yes” faction, led by an unsuccessful CUSU presidential candidate and CUCA “heavyweight”, campaigned to keep the class lists with an easy opt-out system. They argued that the class lists were not, in fact, harmful to the mental health of students, and that on the contrary, they could (somewhat absurdly) even be beneficial to students struggling with stress in exam season. One of the main promises the “Yes” campaign was riding on was that if the class lists were indeed to be kept, an easy opt-out process would be introduced.

Half a year since the “Yes” vote won the referendum by an 11-point margin, students sat their first set of Tripos exams under the new policy. After a large number of students across colleges chose the easy opt-out option, in the interests of their mental health and general welfare, they were outraged to find out that in light of a new, stricter university policy on the class lists, their applications had been rejected. The one and only promise of the “Yes” campaign which surely persuaded so many undecided students to vote for their cause had been completely and utterly broken. 

Even more outrageously, under the new policy, students who had their opt-out application approved will still have their names and results published in a special edition of the University Reporter in September, essentially creating an implicit list of students who have been diagnosed with mental health illness, thereby generating a whole wealth of privacy issues.

Mary told me how she found out about the university’s plans to dramatically change their policy; “In previous years, as long as you had [college’s] support, it’s been easy to opt-out without medical evidence. When people started to hear that their applications had been denied, then we started getting emails and messages from students.”

When I asked them who they thought was to blame for this quite frankly embarrassing change of policy, Mary replied that “the application committee who are in charge of opt-outs changes every year, and in the last couple of years the kinds of applications that we’ve been encouraging people to make have been accepted. This new committee has decided without looking at what the student body wants, and had they even seen that there’s been a referendum on this highly contentious issue, maybe the outcome would’ve been different. They’ve decided to be more rigorous and only accept applications on the basis of medical evidence of why it would affect you negatively. To even get that medical evidence is a faff, it involves going to see a doctor, taking their note to college, and then still having to apply – I don’t see how that could possibly be good for someone with a mental health problem.”

Eric said that “the entire problem is symptomatic of the fundamental three-way disconnect between the university’s administrative systems, the collegiate administrative system and the desires of the student body. Currently, the student body wants a class list that can be truly, genuinely and easily opted out of, the college system supports this in some cases, but [these desires] are not being heard at all at the university level.”

I also spoke to Rory Kent, a second year Natsci at Tit Hall who had his application to opt-out from the class lists rejected. When I asked him about how he felt to have had his requests denied, Rory told me that he was “vaguely unsurprised by it, it seemed like the sort of thing that wouldn’t actually get through as it was a college-wide opt-out rather than university-wide”. When I asked him whether he thought that the “Yes” campaign was misleading in its message, he replied “I don’t feel it was misleading, I feel that if [an easy opt-out] was a condition on the vote that went through, and I remember it being written on the ballot, that must have then been the official position of CUSU, so that not being followed through is confusing.”

Rory was most angered by the fact that those whose application to opt-out from the class lists were accepted would still have their results published in the University Reporter, telling me that “if someone is really bothered to do it, they could look at the class list and look at the University Reporter and find out who has got a mental health issue. That seems really shocking to me, as essentially, what they’re doing is publishing a list of people with mental health issues implicitly.”

blog comments powered by Disqus

Related Stories

In this section

Across the site

Best of the Rest