A controversial proposal that would have changed employment and dismissal rules for academic and academic-related staff was rejected last week by Regent House.

Regent House, which is the self-governing body of the University’s nearly 4,000 staff, voted last week two reject two ballot measures that were aimed at reforming Statute U—the set of guidelines that govern dismissal, disciplinary, and grievance procedures for University officers.

The main proposal was rejected by a vote of 988 – 625. A secondary proposal, which would have introduced different rules for teaching and administrative staff, was rejected 1,119 – 491.

According to current rules, which will now remain in place, redundancies to academic staff can only be made following two separate votes in Regent House: the first to approve, in principle, that job cuts will be made, and the second to approve the specific list of staff to be sacked.

If the new proposal had passed, University authorities would have only needed a single vote to approve that redundancies were to be made. The list of positions to be cut would no longer have been voted upon.

Opponents, who had feared that the new proposals would have restricted academic freedom, expressed relief at rejection of the proposals.

According to Ross Anderson, Professor of Security Engineering, and a leading critic of the proposals, “It's a good job that Cambridge remains a self-governing community of scholars; we had the chance to vote down this damaging and foolish measure, and we did so.”

Professor Anderson added, “The strategic question is this: Over the next 2 - 3 years we might see a 10 - 20 per cent reduction in our government funding. I suspect the administration was planning the lazy response - closing a few departments. By rejecting the statute U reforms, we've made that harder.”

Professor Anderson believes that the University needs to employ creative solutions to raise money. “We need to raise more money by getting better at winning research grants and contracts and by offering more MPhil courses; we have to stop the growth in central administrative staff; and we need to kill the North-West Cambridge project.”

On the other hand, Professor William Brown, Master of Darwin College and Montague Burton Professor of Industrial Relations, who led the committee charged with reviewing Statute U, expressed disappointment at the rejection of the proposals.

“Naturally those who have been working on these reforms are disappointed by their rejection by Regent House. But, in such dire economic circumstances nationally, it isn't surprising that any change to the status quo might be perceived as a threat to job security, even though in this case it definitely was not.”

Nevertheless, Professor Brown was optimistic that agreement would be possible in the future. “It does not mean the reforms are blocked,” he said.

“There is a large area of agreement. Cambridge's uniquely clunky process of decision making is a poor way of making subtle policy. I am confident that we can negotiate a very satisfactory package embodying the many uncontroversial elements which Regent House will find acceptable.”

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