The open letter suggests Cambridge follow the example of the University of LeedsLucas Maddalena

An open letter addressed to Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope has been released tonight (21/01), calling on the University of Cambridge to change the wording of its return policy to avoid forcing students to “justify the extent of their mental health problems” when they attempt to return for Lent term.

The letter references a University representative speaking in a recent BBC Radio 4 interview, stating that only students with pre-existing “mental health challenges” would be eligible to return.

It argues that the current wording “not only forces people to out themselves as having mental health challenges, but also because of the ambiguity of its wording, as well as what merits it”.

The authors suggest that Cambridge follow the example of the University of Leeds, which told its students in a statement (19/01) that “if it is better for you to be in Leeds for your health and wellbeing you are welcome to return”.

The letter takes issue with students having to “undergo uncomfortable scrutiny regarding their needs”, and argues that the wording risks “overlooking those vulnerable to mental health challenges”. The writers claim that the current policy only includes “those with pre-existing mental health challenges”.

In its four demands, the letter argues that the University must change its wording in line with the University of Leeds’ statement and allow any students to come back “if it’s better for [them]”, with rent charged only from 15th February.

The letter also argues for a consistent, University-wide return policy to prevent differences across colleges, putting an end to colleges’ scrutiny of students’ “self-identified plight[s]”, and encourages colleges to not go “beyond [the University’s] regulations to exclude students from returning for reasons outlined within the University’s guidelines”.


Mountain View

Students speak out against disparities in returns policies

The writers also believe that students wanting to return will feel “physically safer” because of the University’s asymptomatic testing programme, and praises Girton, Murray Edwards, Churchill and Lucy Cavendish, claiming that these colleges “have been amongst the best at welcoming students back that require it”. 

At the time of writing, the open letter had been endorsed by the Girton College and Newnham College JCRs, as well as the Cambridge University Labour Club. It had also received signatures from over thirty students.

The news comes after Varsity spoke to students suffering from disparities in college return policies, with one anonymous student at Queens’ detailing “a tough and personally uncomfortable experience” in which they had “to share very personal issues and medical history in order to be taken seriously enough to be granted permission to return”.

An open letter released by Student Minds Cambridge recently (10/01) pushed for “a standard university-wide approach to allowing students with mental health concerns back to Cambridge [to be] adopted by all colleges as swiftly as possible”.

The University has been contacted for comment.