Class Lists: archaic tradition, or vital affirmation?Louis Ashworth

Jack Drury: Class Lists give you perspective

Save the Class List is calling for change. We want to save the Class List because we believe in it as an important and affirming part of Cambridge. We are not asking for the status quo, and never have been: preserve the Class List, and overhaul procedures for removing names. Whether or not a candidate’s name is to be displayed should be that candidate’s choice, not a decision made for them by a typically out-of-touch CUSU. 

The issue, it seems, has gone so far down the road to actual implementation because student representatives are so ensconced in their own arrogance that they would rather deal with what students should believe than what they actually do. “It makes sense,” you can just imagine them commenting to University officials, “for state school pupils to want to abolish Class Lists.” These are the same conversations that very likely happened at Oxford last year during the Other Place’s referendum concerning their academic dress, sub-fusc. In that campaign, it was alleged on the iconoclasts’ side that sub-fusc was archaic, elitist and off-putting for people from different backgrounds: many of those people from different backgrounds counted among the three-quarters of students who overwhelmingly rejected the proposals. One can only imagine the mindfuck at OUSU. CUSU, we’d tentatively suggest, is equivalently out of touch.

Save the Class List has already garnered support from precisely the kind of people CUSU is attempting to speak for, and University officials are clumsily attempting to aid. Priyasha Vadera powerfully wrote for Varsity in July about the validating effects of Class Lists for those who struggle with anxiety – a point that cannot be overstated. She highlighted the positive effects of being able to clearly see the 2:1/2:2 distribution: Class Lists, she argues, are a better guarantor of perspective than just your own grade and rank on CamSIS. For those who worry about the inadequacy of anything less than a 2:1, the Class Lists are the University’s historic method of saying: “This person has a Cambridge degree; and that’s what counts.” Abolition of the Class Lists would completely undermine this.

We would deny mathematicians the opportunity to have their names read out in the same way as Newton’s, and deny minority groups the celebration of the achievement of presence by having their names on the Lists. We don’t want to defend tradition for tradition’s sake; we want to defend agency and choice. 

Keir Murison: an opt-out system could never work

First-years will have to decide months before they sit their first ever Cambridge exam if they feel comfortable with their grade being displayed – a decision made before they know how they will cope with exam term, and with little information to gauge how they are performing relative to their peers outside their small supervision groups. Then the exams themselves. Three or more hours to recall every detail crammed into your brain, an alien and intense experience to any fresher. Attempting to predict your reaction months down the line, especially for a completely new experience, is near impossible.

It’s this inability to predict an exact reaction to your grade and its publishing which makes the opt-out system a complicated and ineffective way of attempting to solve the problems with the current system. 

The self-inflicted shame of having a grade below expectation (for whatever reason) published is simply not worth saving an outdated tradition for. When harmless, traditions can be a bit of fun, but when they can have negative consequences – especially exacerbating Cambridge imposter syndrome – we must reconsider their utility.

Wanting to conform or ‘fit in’ may lead to students feeling they ought to have their name on the Lists, and absences may cause panic in students, believing that their choice to opt-out will be questioned by their peers. It’s time the Class Lists die for good.


Lisa Jin: toxic ranking culture affects us all

Pinning Class Lists on any public wall can only mean one thing – taking something which matters greatly to each and every student and showing them to people who have no need to see. Abolishing Class Lists gives students the choice of whether to display their grades or keep them private – those who want to celebrate are given the opportunity to be the first to announce their grades, while those who prefer to keep their results to themselves no longer have their privacy violated.

This begs the question: what was the original reason we came to university? Learning as best we can in a united effort to seek knowledge appears to be scorned by the unrelenting message of Class Lists: a) you will be compared, b) you are only as good as your exams results show, and c) all those classes, supervisions and essays are just the means to one end – to achieve, perfect, and rank above others. This tends to put students off pursuing subjects for the sake of interest, instead encouraging them only to work on subjects at which they perform well.

Is it any wonder that students are driven to take study drugs, to cram for days and sleep in libraries, to deprive themselves of rest, and give themselves writer’s cramp in the gruelling exam seasons? Abolishing Class Lists will only be one step towards shifting the focus from exam performance to learning, but we can reflect and improve on our performance in peace.