The CUSU sabbatical team. Sebatindira (right) and Wing (second from right) are not mandated by the referendum resultCUSU

Following their victory in the student referendum last week the Yes Campaign, Save The Class List, has bound CUSU to work with them on lobbying Regent House, the University’s top decision-making body, to keep the Class Lists with an easy opt-out system.

Whilst the referendum passed with a majority of nearly 11 percent, a year ago CUSU Council passed a motion to campaign for the abolition of Class Lists with 20 voting for, zero against and four abstaining,  suggesting that wider student opinion is out of sync from that of their JCR/MCR representatives.

CUSU’s President, Amatey Doku, was quick to put down questions as to whether the referendum challenged the legitimacy of the student council, instead stating that the result was “a sign of healthy democracy”.

He emphasised that the referendum was not advisory, and that its result automatically overturns the motion to campaign for the abolition of class lists previously passed by CUSU.

Nevertheless, representatives from Save The Class List, Jack Drury and Nicholas Taylor, submitted an Emergency Motion to CUSU council that clarified the result and outlined steps going forward for the campaign.

The motion was passed with a clear majority, with one vote against, from the representative of the autonomous BME Students’ Campaign, and a few abstentions. It stated that “the student referendum must be respected” and proposed the actions CUSU ought to take in order to campaign for an easy opt-out system.

Commenting on the actions needed to enact an easy opt-out system Nicholas Taylor of Save The Class List said “the vote in Regent House is now the key battleground”. From 28th November to 8th December Regent House will be voting on a Grace, the body’s equivalent of a motion, proposing the abolition of the Class Lists.

In order to implement an easy opt-out system the Grace must first be voted down by the members of Regent House, comprised largely of academic and senior administrative staff of the University and colleges, allowing for the process of negotiating for an easier opt-out begin. Save The Class List, however, have suggested the road to an opt-out system could be simplified by modifying existing statutes.

Jack Drury, of Save The Class List, welcomed the resultLouis Ashworth

CUSU resolved to draft a fly-sheet, a document circulated to members of Regent House before a vote, with the Yes campaign outlining their new position of campaigning for an easy-opt out system. Jack Drury told Varsity “we are drafting a flysheet with CUSU, and expect a draft by midweek”.

It was also agreed in the motion that CUSU would “ensure eligible and mandatable CUSU officers sign the fly-sheet”, and also that CUSU would pursue its new policy position in conjunction with the Yes campaign.

The CUSU sabbatical officers excluded are those who are also the heads of autonomous campaigns. This applies to Disabled Students’ Officer Jessica Wing, and to Women’s Officer Audrey Sebatindira, who head up the Disabled Students’ Campaign (DSC) and Women’s Campaign (WomCam) respectively. The DSC will hold a meeting today to decide upon its stance.

In spite of the motion passing with a clear majority, a number of concerns were raised during the CUSU council meeting, both about the motion itself and the feasibility of an opt-out system.

Questioning the wording of the motion, one voting member of council remarked, “I think there is a slight of hand here to change the meaning of what people voted for”. 

This was due to a discrepancy between the wording of the referendum and the wording of the motion’s resolutions. Whilst the referendum was worded: “Should CUSU campaign to keep the Class Lists, with an easier opt-out process?” the motion resolved: “To lobby the university for keeping the Class Lists and for an unconditional right to opt out” [emphasis added].

The voting member felt that the use of ‘and’ suggested that the Yes campaign were saying that to keep the Class Lists and campaigning for an easy opt-out were separate issues. This meant that, if passed, CUSU supported the Class Lists being maintained even without the easy opt-out system.

The member suggested that ‘with’ meant that the two were inseparable and that if the opt-out system couldn’t be attained; the Class Lists should not be kept.

The problem was resolved with the Yes campaign agreeing to amend the motion’s wording to ‘with’ rather than ‘and’.

There has also been controversy about the feasibility of implementing an easy-opt out system.

Education Officer Roberta Huldisch raised doubts about how an opt-out system could be implementedCUSU

Roberta Huldisch, CUSU Education Officer, told Varsity: “I have always been very clear that the University is reluctant to implement a more comprehensive opt-out system because of the administrative burden it would entail.”

She said that her worry stemmed from the findings of the University’s consultation, revealed by Varsity, which was launched following a petition submitted by the ‘Our Grade, Our Choice’ campaign. Huldisch said that the University’s concern “has been reiterated to me many times since, both in public meetings and private conversations”.

This contradicts the claims of the Yes campaign, who told Varsity: “We don’t accept and have never accepted, that an opt-out system in impossibly difficult to implement.”

They believe that an opt-out system may be implemented even without a vote in Regent’s House. Currently, University ordinances state that one can only opt-out of the class list if you have ‘good cause’, proof of which involves demonstrable medical evidence.

The Yes campaign believes that the definition of ‘good cause’ could be liberalised to mean opting-out of the class list online, facilitating the implementation of an easy opt-out system.

They told Varsity: “As far as we understand it, the interpretation of the current ordinance mentioning ‘good cause’ is up to University Council, which could decide to broaden the meaning of the term without requiring a new grace.” 

The Yes campaign can also point to the fact that the University of Oxford have a similar, simple online opt-out system.

Despite both the student referendum and CUSU’s new campaign position, the ballot at Regent’s House at the end of this month will be the ultimate decider of the issue – meaning the status quo could remain for some time longer.

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