WomCam tied ribbons to Senate House last year, in solidarity with survivorsFelix Peckham

Around 25 campaigners gathered this afternoon to tie white ribbons with purple notes to the gates of Senate House and “build collective strength” ahead of today’s Senate House discussion on proposed Disciplinary Procedure Reforms.

Among the proposed reforms is changing the burden of proof from the criminal standard to the civil standard, also known as the ‘balance of probabilities’. Cambridge is the only UK university that still requires proof 'beyond reasonable doubt' in its disciplinary procedures.

Speaking to the crowd, Claire Sosienski Smith, CUSU Women’s Officer, stated that the Disciplinary Procedure as it stands is “not fit for purpose”. She called on the University to implement a disciplinary procedure “that works, that has appeals processes” and is “punctual, consistent, transparent”. Campaigners delivered speeches and read feminist poetry to those gathered.

Emrys Travis, CUSU Disabled Students’ Officer, highlighted the importance of addressing “what happens after” violence is inflicted upon women and non-binary people.

“We are not breaking our silence, we are demanding control of our own narrative”, they told the crowd, while directing attention to an ideal world “free” of sexual violence, homophobia, racism and transphobia.

Thanking those who attended, Sosienski Smith said that she was “so proud” to be there, to show the University “that we come back every single year”.

“We care”, she emphasised.

This is the second Senate House discussion on the University’s disciplinary procedures to have occurred in the last two academic years. The first discussion occurred just over a year ago, where around 50 campaigners aimed to tie 800 ribbons to the gates of Senate House - one to represent each signatory of an open letter calling for changes to the University’s Disciplinary Procedure.

This year campaigners attached notes to the ribbons. One note read “we must stand with survivors”. Another spoke of the need for “a demystified procedure” which can then be “accessible to students who have trauma and/or are afraid of being disbelieved”, while another said that “a less hostile university environment for women and particularly women of colour would be a step towards intersectionally improving mental health and the attainment gap”.

Another note highlighted the results of a recent consultation held by the Review Committee on Discipline regarding the proposed changes. Of the 200 student responses, 88% supported the proposal to change the standard of proof to the ‘balance of probabilities’, while 12% opposed the change.

The report on the consultation by the Review Committee on Discipline, which occurred in February of this year, referred to external legal advice received with regards to the proposed changes. The advice concluded that it is legal for the University to adopt the balance of probabilities and to deal with cases of sexual misconduct.

Sosienski Smith highlighted the importance of “collective strength”, and encouraged the crowd to “take care of every woman and nonbinary person” around them.

“We must come together to show commitment to a movement which claims space for those who have been excluded”, she said.

The Regent House vote on the Disciplinary Procedure reforms will take place between 18th and 28th of June.