Left to right: Dr Rachael Padman and Professor Sir Alan FershtComposite: Sam Harrison

Members of the University on both sides of the debate have responded to yesterday’s announcement that members of Regent House have voted to keep publicly-displayed Class Lists.

The result, running counter to the recommendation submitted to Regent House by the University Council and General Board of the Faculties, means that the tradition of posting students’ results outside Senate House, which dates from 1748, will continue.

Earlier this term, CUSU held a referendum on whether they should change their stance on Class Lists. 55.23 per cent of students voted to change their policy, mandating the student union to campaign for the retention of the Lists.

Speaking to Varsity about the result, Professor Sir Alan Fersht, Master of Gonville & Caius College, who had campaigned for the retention of the Lists, said he was “pleased with the result.”

He claimed that the proceedings of the vote demonstrated that Cambridge is “one of the most democratic institutions,” arguing that the “close relationship between students and fellows in Colleges fosters a mutual awareness of feelings about relevant issues.”

“I am convinced that the overwhelming democratic basis of the University and Colleges is what keeps Cambridge an intellectually resilient institution and one that maintains its independence. If we can have democracy, where better than in the University of Cambridge, which is staffed by highly intelligent scholars and where the hierarchy is very flat,” he added.

“I am convinced that the overwhelming democratic basis of the University and Colleges is what keeps Cambridge an intellectually resilient institution.”

Prof. Sir Alan Fersht

Fersht also stated that he was sympathetic towards “the call for a simplified opt-out system.” On the initiative of the Save the Class Lists campaign to keep the Lists, the referendum bound CUSU to lobby for a system which would permit students to opt out of the public display of their results at will, rather than on proven medical grounds.

Dr Roger Sewell, a Maths supervisor at Trinity College, also welcomed the result, telling Varsity that it “allows those who have put in lots of work to do well at Cambridge to get the public recognition that they deserve.

“It also allows those who started from a less advantaged position to get the recognition they deserve when in due course their results improve, and those who have put a lot of effort into teaching to know that it has benefited their students,” he continued.

Sewell did not lend his backing to a more flexible opt-out system, saying that while he feels “less hostile towards calls for a simplified opt-out system than towards the defeated proposals to abolish publication,” nonetheless he does not believe that “‘opt out at will’ is something that should be promoted.

“Where a student is worried that they are not doing well, I do not believe that telling them "Don't worry, none of your friends will find out how badly you've done" would be of any great comfort. What is distressing is the feeling you are doing badly, not the fact that others will find out,” he concluded.

“It seems to me that a rather backward-looking traditionalism has taken precedence over the very real harm caused by continuing publication.”

Dr Rachel Padman

However, Dr Rachael Padman, a Fellow at Newnham College, expressed her “disappointment” at the result, telling Varsity: “it seems to me that a rather backward-looking traditionalism has taken precedence over the very real harm caused by continuing publication.”

Padman added that she would be “delighted if there were now an easy opt-out system.

“Is that what supporters of Class Lists want? Will they be happy with Class Lists on which the only students to appear will be those who confidently predict a first? Or do they need to see that they have done better than someone else in order to validate their results?”

“I am quite confident that if an easy opt-out system were made available, what little remaining point there is to Class Lists would rapidly disappear and Class Lists with it. Bring it on,” she concluded. 

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