The University have said that they plan to make a formal decision on class lists this yearLouis Ashworth

Key figures in last year’s CUSU referendum on the future of class lists were unaware the class list opt-out did not apply online, Varsity can reveal.

Senior figures involved on both sides were not aware that the existing opt-out system does not apply to the class lists posted in the Cambridge University Reporter, which is accessible to all members of the University with a Raven login.

This important fact of the system, which is still in place, was not common knowledge among students at the time of the vote in November 2016.

This week, CUSU admitted to Varsity, “The issue of students' names being published in the Reporter has only recently come to CUSU's attention.

“Once it was brought to our attention we immediately made contact with senior members of the University, including Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education Graham Virgo to work on ensuring that opting out of class lists also meant opting out of publication in the Reporter.”

Roberta Huldisch, CUSU education officer at the time of the vote, has also admitted she only became aware of the fact after the referendum. Huldisch said, “I think students were definitely misinformed about the incomplete nature of the current opt-out, and I was also misinformed.”

“This rule was never communicated to us by the University or anyone else and I feel like there is significant confusion about how the system works, even among those implementing it. I know that current CUSU officers and the University are still working on a real and complete opt-out system.”

Huldisch was not permitted to campaign in the referendum due to her position in CUSU.

The revelation raises questions about how well informed voters were in the referendum in which students voted to mandate CUSU to campaign to save class lists. 55% of a 20% turnout answered ‘yes’ to the question: “Should CUSU campaign to keep the class lists, with an easier opt-out process?”

The Save the Class Lists campaign, which was responsible for the wording of the referendum question, declined to comment on the particulars of the referendum campaign, saying only, “The referendum was clear: implementation is CUSU’s responsibility.”

The question seemed to imply an opt-out system was already in place, yet it was not made clear to students by the relevant campaigns that this system did not apply to the class lists published online in the Reporter.

The form to withhold personal data from the physical Class Lists, which is freely available on the University website, states that “the procedure only relates to the list posted outside the Senate House and in any list posted by the relevant department; their names will continue to be included in the complete Class List which is published annually in the Special Edition of the Reporter”.

Senior figures involved in the referendum, including those in CUSU and the students involved in the campaigns, have admitted to Varsity that they were unaware of this at the time of the vote.

No change in the system has come since the result of the referendum, which bound CUSU to campaign for “an easier opt-out process”. A month after the referendum, Regent House, the University’s highest governing body, voted to retain Class Lists.

The current system has been criticised as heavily onerous for students wishing to opt out. Any opt-out application, which must be submitted by the student’s Tutor to the Secretary of the Applications Committee, “will only be considered where there are exceptional circumstances and for good cause, such as where there is demonstrable medical (e.g. from a GP or Counsellor) and or/other appropriate supporting evidence that publication would be likely seriously to endanger a student’s health or mental well-being”.

Even for those having completed this arduous process, their names are still included in the University Reporter which is published online.

Nadine Batchelor-Hunt, co-founder of Our Grade, Our Choice, which campaigned to abolish class lists, said, “initially I was not aware” of the fact, and only found out after the campaign.

Our Grade, Our Choice was founded in April 2015, around 18 months before the referendum, to push for an unconditional opt-out process. By the end of May 2015, the campaign gathered over 1,200 signatures of students in favour of this, but no change was implemented by the University.

However, in April 2016, a freedom of information request by Varsity revealed that the General Board of the Faculties had proposed to the University Council that the public display of class lists be stopped. In July 2016, the University Council approved the proposals and a Grace was submitted to Regent House. Regent House then rejected the proposals, with 727 against to 514 in favour.

Since the referendum, which bound CUSU to campaign to keep class lists but lobby the University for an easier opt-out system, no changes have occurred. A hypothetical guidance document for college Senior Tutors to help ease the process for students was floated at CUSU council in February, but this was put aside as CUSU tried to lobby for a long-term overhaul which the University has not yet been implemented, as deliberations are ongoing over the future of class lists in the face of data protection regulation.

Speaking anonymously to Varsity, one student who opted-out condemned the “abhorrent” status quo, which does not allow names to be entirely removed from class lists despite the “deeply stressful process of obtaining a medical letter saying that to have their names published would seriously endanger a student's health or well-being.

“The fact that results are still published online makes the whole process completely redundant and shows no compassion from the University for students going through extremely difficult times. My name being removed from the physical list decreased the visibility, but this was of little benefit.

“I do not think that this process was made clear enough to the students of the University, as I was only told that my name would not be removed entirely once I asked. It goes to show that the University puts its honour of tradition above the welfare of its students. This is a problem which should have been addressed a very long time ago, and it baffles me that this is only just coming to light now.

“I only found out when I talked to my director of studies and tutor about wanting to withdraw my name. I was also not informed as to whether or not my application had been successful, so spent exam term stressing about whether or not I had been successful.”


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CUSU’s lobbying of the University was delayed due to long-term concerns which have been raised in the face of incoming EU data protection regulation, due to be implemented in May 2018, which may put the legality of class lists in doubt.

Now the University has received legal advice, CUSU insists that it is “once again clearly and strongly arguing for the retention of class lists with an easy, unconditional opt out option for students, and furthermore for the choice of opting out of class lists to also apply to the publication of results in the University Reporter.”

A University spokesperson said, “The University is currently considering the potential effects of this legislation. As part of this, it is reviewing whether the display of class lists should change to an opt-in or opt-out system.

“As this is a complex issue this will be considered by the relevant University bodies before a decision is made.”

Keir Murison, former president of Student Minds Cambridge, the mental health advocacy group, expressed his dismay at the lack of progress on the issue. He said, “It is very frustrating that there hasn't been a change. Ultimately Cambridge moves very slowly.”

Varsity understands the University will make a decision on the future of class lists this academic year.