The leaders of 'Save the Class List' campaigned for an easier opt-out systemLouis Ashworth

Cambridge students have been dealing with the constitutional fallout of not one but two referendums. 

The ‘Yes’ result of the Class Lists referendum now means that CUSU must campaign for the retention of the Class List with an extended opt-out. The final decision, however, will be taken by Regent House, which consists of all fellows, lecturers, and senior admin staff younger than 67.

Each member will have one vote, either for or against the submitted Grace – a change in University policy – to abolish the Class List. Members are not obliged to acknowledge the opinion of CUSU or any other student body in the exercising of this vote. The vote will take place between 28th November and 8th December. 

Contrary to what some have speculated, the deadline for amendments to this Grace has passed. The Grace will be voted on in its current form, providing a binary choice between abolition or retention of the Class List. The extended opt-out students were promised in the referendum will not be possible from this vote. 

Four possible scenarios arise from this situation. In the first scenario, members of Regent House ignore the CUSU referendum and decide to vote for the abolition of the Class List. 

This is not an impossible outcome. The members are specifically voting on the recommendations of a report published in July, which recommended the abolition of the Class List. This report is unchanged, and much of the tension surrounding the vote arises from the fact that its gauge of student opinion, a prominent reason for abolition, now seems out of date. 

The report states that “The central bodies [of the student organisations] remain of the view that the public display of class-lists is undesirable, unnecessary, and no longer benefits the interests of the collegiate University or the various parties within it.”

In the second scenario, members decide to vote against the Grace and then move on from the matter. This scenario would not yield the extended opt-out system promised during the campaign. Any students who wish to opt out will have to follow the procedures currently in place.

The third and fourth scenarios retain the Class List with an extended opt-out. In the third, members vote against the Grace, but a new Grace proposing an extended opt-out system is soon after submitted. This outcome is certainly possible, though the time-frame in which it might occur is difficult to determine. 

The fourth scenario was proposed by the Yes campaign. The current University ordinance states that students can only opt out of the Class List if they can provide ‘good cause’ for doing so, which requires demonstrable medical evidence. The Yes campaign argued that the definition of ‘good cause’ should be broadened to include personal choice. This would require no new University legislation. 

As with Brexit, the possible scenarios are numerous. Unlike Brexit, however, the question of ‘sovereignty’ – of power – is clear. The final decision lies with Regent House and the University more broadly. The CUSU referendum only has power in so far as it undermines the basis of the original report. Regent House members might ultimately decide that there are good reasons for voting for abolition regardless.

Whatever the outcome, democracy will decide, though it will be the Regent House vote, in which students are not enfranchised, rather than the recent referendum, that will be decisive