To date, more than 1,200 students from the University of Cambridge have signed a petition organised by the student campaign group ‘Our Grade, Our Choice’. The petition’s aim is “to allow students […] to decide whether or not they appear on public university class lists”.

A recent update on the campaign’s Facebook page has shown that JCRs, namely Murray Edwards, have ended the public display of exam results within the college. The post praised the college, saying: “In response to this campaign our [Murray Edwards] Senior Tutor initiated (!!) discussion with the JCR about the Class Lists that are usually put up near our plodge and have agreed not to publish them this year - a step in the right direction!”

Under the current system, results are posted in a number of ways: online, outside the Senate House, and in the respective departments. Reasons for the initiative listed by the group include: that the current system promotes a culture of grade shaming; that the publication of grades may cause mental health episodes; that it ignores the right of privacy; and that it presents the results without any context. The public listing of grades also allows for photographs to be taken, which can then be posted on social media, leaving affected students with no way to control the process.It is possible for a student to request for the class mark to not be shown outside the Senate House and in the relevant department, but that requires a form to be filled. The Guidance Note on Withholding Names from Class Lists states that the application, which needs to 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”.

The campaign, on the other hand, stresses that students with mental health issues may find the whole process overwhelming, and that it could trigger an episode even if their grades are not actually published.

Testimonials posted by the campaign organisers on its Facebook page recount mental health episodes connected to the public posting of grades.One of them states: ‘In my Part II year I suffered greatly with depression. […]I went on for a long period having to handle regular questioning from people who couldn’t understand why I had ‘failed’ (despite getting honours). I had to explain about my depression to get people to stop being so nosy on an incredibly personal issue.’The campaign has been gathering support in the media and has received attention from many national publications, ranging from the Guardian to Seventeen.Helen Hoogewerf-McComb, CUSU president, added to the debate saying : “While the university does have a right to publish examination results without gaining students’ prior consent, it also has a duty to provide an appropriate mechanism for students to opt out, particularly where publication may cause distress or harm.”Mary Beard, a professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, has commented in her TLS blog ‘A Don’s Life’: “[…] universities are not supposed to be places (surely?) where you always feel comfortable, or safe, or unthreatened. They are supposed to be places where you feel there is someone to discuss, to debate and support when you do feel that.”

Until 2010, results were displayed publicly before the students received them privately. This changed to the current system following a campaign by CUSU, and ended a 300-year-old tradition. Meanwhile, the University of Oxford has kept exam results private since October 2009 after 40% of students had opted out of the practice, using the Data Protection Act.

On 30 May, ‘Our Grade, Our Choice’ forwarded the petition, as well as comments, testimonials, and an accompanying letter to the University. A university spokesperson confirmed on Monday that the petition will be confirmed on 1 July by the “General Board’s Education Committee”.

“For the present time, the University’s position is that Class Lists will be published in accordance with the University’s Statutes and Ordinances”.“there are procedures whereby student can apply through their colleges, for their names to be withheld from Class Lists”.

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