Shah (left) and Taylor are challenged by Student Minds President Keir MurisonLouis Ashworth

The Yes and No campaigns for the Class Lists referendum – “Should CUSU campaign to keep the Class Lists with an easier opt-out process?” – finally met face-to-face last night for a fiery hustings session which ended in stalemate.

Several representatives from both sides gave speeches and took question on the vote, which could change CUSU’s current pro-abolition stance on public exam results.

The No campaign was represented by Nadine Batchelor-Hunt and Freya Sorrell, both from Jesus College, and a student called Eleanor. They were opposed by Nicholas Taylor of Churchill College, law student Rajiv Shah and Jack Drury of Gonville & Caius. 

Batchelor-Hunt lead arguments for abolitionLouis Ashworth

Batchelor-Hunt lead the arguments for the ‘No’ side, advocating an end to the lists on the grounds that they cause mental health issues for students, and don’t properly reflect systemic disadvantages which are faced by some groups within Cambridge.

She was supported most prominently by Eleanor, a fellow campaigner, who said that employers’ use of the public lists to head-hunt created disparities.

They were opposed by several members of the ‘Save The Class List’  campaign, who are calling for Yes vote, advocating a simplified opt-out system to the replace the University’s current procedure.

Nicholas Taylor, campaigning for the Yes side, said that public results meant that students who get low grades could feel ‘less alone in unworthiness’, and help benefit mental health through community spirit.

The outcome of the referendum will have no direct influence on the fate of the lists, which will be subject to a vote by the over 5,000 members of Cambridge’s Regent House at the end of this term. However, several Regent House members who spoke to Varsity said that they would look to the results of the student referendum this week for guidance. 

Both sides ultimately struggled to answer two questions – whether the proposed opt-out system is feasible, and whether if abolition is rejected this year, the issue might be kicked into the long grass.

The practical possibility of an opt-out system was an area of contention between the two sides. The University’s internal consultation on the lists – revealed by Varsity  – suggested that there was very little support from the faculties for an opt-out system.

However, no clear documentation has emerged from the University as to whether that is based on the existing opt-out system, used by about 30 students a year, in which individual approval is required, or on a system of the kind proposed by the Yes campaign, who envision a simple tick-box on the University intranet. There has also been no answer from the University as to whether there are hidden practical difficulties to an opt-out system.

(From left) Drury, Shah, Taylor, the moderator, Batchelor-Hunt, Eleanor and SorrellLouis Ashworth

The second issue was on whether, if student vote for an opt-out and abolition is subsequently rejected in Regent House, the University will be likely to re-undertake a consultation and put forward a new proposal. This is based on the wording of the Grace which was submitted to Regent House, which if passed will mean total abolition, and if rejected will mean a continuation of current practices.

The No campaign expressed their doubts, saying that the Regent House vote might be the best opportunity students have to produce a clear change in University policy. Eleanor called for decisive action to be taken immediately, saying that “prolonging is a process that actively harms some people”.

Yes campaigner Jack Drury said that the proposed opt-out system is the only one which would give students a ”real choice” in how their results are presented, emphasising that having varied options would be best for students who have mental welfare issues. He was supported by a questioner from the floor, who asked why the No side weren’t happy with a longer, fuller student consultation process.

He was supported by fellow campaigners who said the lists can help fight ‘imposter syndrome’, in which some students think they are not worthy of being at Cambridge, by showing their names in such a prominent place. Save The Class List member Rajiv Shah echoed this view, saying that as one of the first people from his native country to have gone to Oxbridge, seeing his name validated that he deserved to be at the University.

The point was strongly contested by the No side, with Batchelor-Hunt saying that “normal people” found the lists off-putting, and that they create an access issue for students who are intimidated by the centuries-old practice.

There was some discussion over how late the opt-outs would be allowed to occur, with the Yes campaign suggesting that up to three days before results are posted would be ideal. Some No campaigners said that this would not solve the issue for students who receive unexpectedly bad results – who under the both the current system and the one proposed by the Yes side would find that their grade is public for all to see.

Voting is now open on CUSU’s portal, and will close at 12am on Friday.

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