SU open letter calling for safety net receives over 1000 signatures in less than 24 hours

Louis Mian 14 January 2021
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

An open letter, drawn up by the Cambridge Students’ Union, calling for the implementation of no detriment policies for this year’s exams, has gained over 1000 signatures in less than 24 hours. This follows the University’s decision, on 10th January, to confirm the Russell Group’s statement, on 7th, not to implement safety nets this year, as was done last year.

The open letter demands that the University ‘rescind its support’ for the Russell Group’s decision, ‘allow first- and second-year undergraduates to automatically progress to their next year of study’, and put in place ‘robust’ safety net arrangements, ‘produced in consultation with the Students’ Union’.

It further explains that implementing no detriment policies would ‘take into account the stark reality of the current situation and the scale of COVID-19-related disruption to students’ lives throughout this academic year.’

While the open letter notes that ‘Cambridge has taken measures to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 disruption on students’ personal academic lives’, it explains that nevertheless ‘the scale of this disruption necessitates adjustments to workloads and exam arrangements.’

‘To categorically rule out the possibility of adopting a set of “no detriment” policies without any consultation from students demonstrates a disregard for the sacrifices that students have already had to make and will continue to make to keep up with their studies this year.’

‘The reality is that the anxieties, stresses, and pains of living through a pandemic are still affecting students. Students have been separated from their friends, families, and support networks due to lockdown restrictions, in addition to worrying about vulnerable family members, financial insecurity, housing instability, and further related concerns.’

‘The sole burden of applying for mitigation should not fall on individuals who have been disproportionately affected by circumstances that continue to impact the experiences of every student this year.’

‘Instead, the University must recognise that the extraordinary circumstances that led to the adoption of emergency “safety nets” did not stop with the end of the previous academic year,’ the letter continues.

Those signing the open letter are asked to put their year of matriculation. It appears that some time-travellers have taken it upon themselves to support calls for a safety net. One Veterinary Medic, matriculating in 2026, signed the letter, as did one historian who should just be starting sixth form. Clearly they know something we don’t.

On Monday, the Undergraduate and Postgraduate SU Presidents, Ben Margolis and Aastha Dahal, joined SUs from 22 other universities to ask the Russell Group to reconsider its decision not to introduce safety net arrangements. They told the Russell Group that their decision had ‘caused unnecessary anxiety amongst’ students.

‘We understand that having an individualised, algorithmic method this year is challenging, and unfeasible, due to the lack of data for some students to create these baseline averages.’

‘It is, however, our belief that no detriment policies are not simply about algorithms resulting from banked assessments, but are a collection of policies that ensure the full magnitude of the pandemic and its effect on education are fully considered.’

Sussex University has already told students that it has decided to ‘develop a no detriment policy’, with the aim being ‘to ensure that you are not disadvantaged in terms of your final grade through no fault of your own due to the pandemic.’

Meanwhile, the University of Surrey has announced that they ‘will be introducing a “safety net” policy for every student in every year of a taught programme for 2020/21.’

The SU’s open letter can be read and signed here: CAMBRIDGE OPEN LETTER: 2021 No Detriment Policy – Google Docs

TCS has contacted the University for comment.