The motion was proposed durning a SU Council meeting on Monday (09/11) nightLouis ashworth

A motion was proposed during a Student Council meeting on Monday night (09/11) “in favour of Fair Enforcement of College Codes of Conduct in the Covid-19 Context”.

The motion was proposed by Chloe Newbold, the Cambridge Students' Union (SU) Women’s Officer, and seconded by Alice Gilderdale, SU Welfare Officer.

The motion comes at a critical moment as Cambridge joins the nation in entering a second lockdown, expected to last at least until December 2nd, and colleges set out their own internal enforcement policies to ensure students stick to the guidelines.

The SU has noted that “There is significant variation in the approaches taken by the 31 colleges towards the enforcement of Covid-19 discipline guidelines’ with some colleges adopting far more punitive measures than others.”

The SU highlighted that “These punitive measures include threats to remove students’ access to housing”, which the motion contends would disproportionately affect those without stable or safe home environments and overseas students.

The motion also notes that these “threats have led to increased anxiety among students and the creation of a ‘culture of blame’ which has ’led to members of the community testing positive for Covid-19 being ostracised for assumed breaching of behavioural guidelines.”

King’s and Downing have even gone so far as to implement a fine based enforcement system meaning that students found to have broken guidelines face financial punishments The motion contests that this system disproportionately affects those from less privileged backgrounds and may allow wealthy students to break the guidelines without facing severe consequences.

The motion also raises the ongoing issue of students who experience sexual abuse or misconduct while in breach of lockdown guidelines. No college has yet made it clear what the disciplinary procedure will be for students who make a report while in breach of guidelines but there is a growing concern that the punitive approach taken by some colleges will discourage students from making reports.

If passed, this motion would commit the SU to “push for colleges to adopt a series of educative measures, including a clear system of warnings and community centred penalties, and a fair and transparent appeals process.” The motion additionally calls for colleges to communicate policies clearly to students, endorsing the view that clear communication of measures will encourage the active participation of the student body in mitigating the spread of Covid-19’

Speaking to Varsity, Newbold, said that “It is more important than ever that colleges are both compassionate and transparent with students at a time of heightened anxiety across the University. Uncertainty around punitive enforcement will increase the likelihood that students will engage in covert rule breakages, and will therefore fear coming forward to report harms committed during breaches of guidelines.”

“We are asking that the colleges live up to their institutional responsibility to provide a safe environment for all students, treating them as adults who wish to behave in a way that protects fellow members of the community. A focus on student well-being and community must be at the centre of our response to the pandemic.”


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A spokesperson for the University has told Varsity that “The University and colleges are putting a huge amount of effort into supporting students, helping them to understand and observe national public health guidance, and keeping them as safe as possible at what is understandably a difficult time”

The spokesperson went on to say that “the pandemic does not alter the University’s commitment to ensuring a culture free from sexual misconduct and abusive behaviour” and stated that “students reporting sexual misconduct will not face punishment for breaching COVID-19 restrictions.”

King’s and Downing College have been contacted for comment.