A campaign calling for a vote to re-determine CUSU’s stance on the abolition of Class Lists has received enough signatures to trigger a referendum, its organisers have claimed.

500 people have signed a petition calling for a student vote, said campaign group ‘Save the Class List’. 350 signatures are required to trigger a referendum.

The petition has now been submitted to CUSU, meaning that a referendum will be held by the 25th October. In it, students will vote on whether CUSU reverses its current pro-abolition stance, and instead advocate for the creation of an opt-out system.

This system would give students the chance to opt-out of publication, without having to cite mental health concerns as the reason. The campaign stated that this model was ‘explicitly proposed’ in a 2015 petition that was signed by 1,300 students and alumni. Under the system currently in place, students must submit medical evidence to opt out.

There have already been two referendums held this year: on the introduction of a Disabled Students’ Officer role, and on CUSU’s affiliation with National Union of Students.

The campaign has also condemned what they called an “anti-democratic” decision by the University Council to approve the abolition of the lists, which are published outside Senate House at the end of the academic year.

A spokesperson for the ‘Save the Class List’ group said that the campaign’s understanding “is that members of University Council were in favour of the change because they thought that this is what students wanted. A successful referendum would change that perception.

“Similarly”, they continued “if the vote of the Regent House was held after the student referendum members of Regents [sic] would be able to vote in light of a better understanding of what students want.”

They claimed that the email invitation to the CUSU Council meeting last November on the issue “only arrived in many students’ inboxes after the meeting had finished, meaning that no students who cared about the issue were able to turn up.”

They also said they thought that the University would act on the basis of a 1,200 strong petition, and not “a small group of students at CUSU Council who are often perceived as being out of touch with students on the grassroots levels.” 

In addition to this, the spokesperson stated that the campaign’s proposal would be less of a burden administratively, citing that there would be no need to check and approve medical evidence and that the voluntary opt-out could be done electronically.

They also stated that mark books would not need to be anonymised, nor would faculties need to produce reports of the class breakdown for each part of the tripos.

A Grace containing the proposal for abolition was sent to the Regent House on July 11th. Unless 25 people who are part of the top administrative body – which comprises high-ranking University members – call for a vote on the topic, the Grace will be approved, and Class List publication will cease from next year.

If the referendum passes, it could mean that the incoming sabbatical officer team, lead by Amatey Doku, would have to officially adopt the stance that public Class Lists should be re-introduced, a reversal of what Priscilla Mensah’s team called for last year.

If CUSU is mandated by referendum to support an opt-out system, it will find itself working against many other bodies within the University.

When the University’s General Board held a consultation of stakeholder groups including CUSU last year, it received thirty-seven responses, including seventeen from Colleges, and fifteen from Faculty Boards and University institutions. None of the respondents supported the establishment of an opt-out system, and only one supported the continuation of public lists.

CUSU has been campaigning for an end to the practice of the lists being posted publicly, a centuries-old tradition, since November last year.

Then, a vote at CUSU Council to oppose the publication of lists passed with 20 for, zero against and four in abstention.

Welfare Officer Poppy Ellis-Logan and Education Officer Rob Cashman said at the time that “The current system of Class Lists denies students privacy with their results and is damaging for the welfare of many students.”

Last Easter term, the ‘Our Grade, Our Choice’ campaign launched a petition directed at the University, asking that students be allowed to decide “whether or not they appear on public University class lists”, which received over 1,300 signatures. It advocated the creation of an opt-out system which would allow students to choose whether their results are put on display, saying the current system “promotes a culture of grade shaming”.

CUSU held a consultation in 2008, in which 66 per cent of students surveyed said they “like the tradition” of class lists, and 91% said they were interested to see the proportion of people who got a particular grade.

However, 84 per cent sympathised with those who find the lists “distressing”, with 70 per cent agreeing that students should be allowed to have their names excluded from public lists without having to state a reason.

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