Caian students head to their graduation ceremonyLouis Ashworth

I want to begin by saying that I am not someone who tops the Class Lists. I do not use them to inflate my ego or to judge people. I use them to validate my Cambridge experience.

I, like almost everyone else I’ve met here, have Cambridge Imposter Syndrome: I do not feel good enough to belong here. There is something about seeing my name pinned up behind a pane of glass in front of an old fancy building that makes me feel like I’ve worked hard enough to be worthy of this place.

Hearing that the Class Lists could soon be abolished felt like a blow to my stomach. It normally takes years to change Cambridge traditions, and I hadn't even seen this one coming. I understand the legitimate arguments for taking them down: anxiety, issues over the name displayed, personal privacy. However, some of the arguments for are the same as the arguments against. Anxiety over grades is a huge deal here at Cambridge, but I cannot emphasise enough how much Senate House’s publication of class lists has improved my anxiety over results.

When I go to check the results, I always start from the bottom up. They are sorted in alphabetical order within each class, not by rank. When I pass surnames of people I was worried about, I feel relieved that they are coming back next year. In first year, I found my name in the mass of Seconds – the class is not subdivided further on the class lists for NatScis – and there was relief, so much relief. I was elated. I immediately logged on to Camsis there and then and was a touch disappointed to see my rather average 2.ii. I was no longer excellent, I was just okay. Senate House had buffeted my academic fall.

Everyone only speaks about their results if they get a 2.i or a First so I felt like the only person who had got a 2.ii. It took two terms for me to find out that other people, people who I admired academically, had also got a 2.ii. When you feel somewhat ‘lesser’ academically than everybody else around you, that realisation that others got the same class mark as you can mean so much.

The next year, I knew what was coming. The relief I felt when I saw my name on that board, telling me I had passed the year was immense. I had finished Cambridge second year and here was proof. I could see equal numbers of 2.is and 2.iis on the board as I measured the inches between my thumb and index finger and compared the two subclasses. It completely changed my perspective on my self-worth. I was now a part of a substantial population of people: I did not have to feel bad about myself anymore.

You cannot find that out on Camsis, you cannot see your name in a sea of others, as part of a cohort who has gone through the year together. You do not get the anticipation of wondering when the Class List will be posted up, or the support of walking there with your friends. There is no relief of finding your name on the board, or elation of hugging your friends and becoming part of a Cambridge tradition.

Instead, you see a rank. A single number to sum up your academic achievement, pitting you against the students you have spent hours studying with. I’m not saying we should eradicate Camsis – it of course has its uses for people who can’t make it to Senate House, and it saves letters being sent out. But I want something physical to prove my Cambridge existence. Besides, Camsis is not the solution to many of the problems perceived in the class lists system – to me, it instead serves to endorse the rank system.

Rather than completely abolishing class lists, why not have an opt-out, or even an opt-in scheme? There is so much we could do to improve the existing system. We could have results displayed by candidate number rather than name, or ask people how they would like their name to be presented to protect trans individuals. We could ensure Senate House is Camcard-accessible only on the days results are up, to stop the public from entering.

Having your results posted outside Senate House doesn’t change them. Not displaying the results outside Senate House will not stop people from asking, and it will not stop the pressure that everyone here feels sometimes at Cambridge. It does, however, provide a refreshing sense of honesty. In a culture where announcing your results on social media is now commonplace it is so easy to get a distorted view of the results distribution.

I would argue that it is not the class lists which perpetuate grade shaming, but that it is the culture we live in. The Class Lists serve to acknowledge that classes below a 2.i exist and celebrate and validate them. They combat grade shaming by giving all classes equal visibility.

This has not been a victory for mental health issues. Instead, the debate has pitted some people’s anxiety against others’ anxiety, and made one triumph. This is not ‘Our Grade, Our Choice’ – this is a mess in which I feel powerless to change a decision which was made without considering the full spectrum of student views.

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