Abolishing the Tompkins Table is just celebrating mediocrity

CUSU’s idiotic proposal represents a dangerous tendency to move away from celebrating excellence – and towards equalising the results of students.

CUSU tompkins table

As reported in The Tab earlier this week, CUSU has decided to “eradicate” the Tompkins Table by campaigning to ban the publication of class lists.

They also want to change the Baxter Table, Cambridge’s internal ranking system to an unranked data set.

CUSU President Priscilla Mensah argued for the motion by saying all students “work extremely hard to get here” and “we are all great”.

No one has disputed that students at Cambridge work hard and achieve great things but that doesn’t mean that all students achieve the same great things.

It’s completely illogical to suggest that someone who gets a Third is deserving of the same praise for academic success as someone who gets a First. Saying that they are equal actually diminishes the work and sacrifice the higher-achieving students have put in to get a high mark.

Oh hey there CUSU.

Oh hey there CUSU.

The principle that any and all results should be valued equally, no matter whether you come first or last is the reason why Millennials have been referred to as the ‘Trophy Generation’. Cambridge is known for celebrating academic excellence – it shouldn’t buy into this faux-Marxist idea that all achievements are equal and should be treated the same.

The end of the Tompkins Table wouldn’t do anything to get rid of stereotypes about the colleges either. All it would do is reinforce current perceptions. While stereotypes like ‘Trinity is the most academic college’ might be a generalization, at least it’s one that’s based on some data.

If the Tompkins Table didn’t exist, students at Cambridge and potential applicants alike would still rank the colleges, but they would do so devoid of any data. Colleges like Magdalene, who improved their Tompkins Table rank by 8 places last year, would never be celebrated.

The Tab's scientific poll: landslide victory for the Tompkins Table.

The Tab’s 100% scientific poll: landslide victory for the Tompkins Table.

Women’s Officer Charlotte Chorley attempted to say the “class lists don’t have a net benefit and we know from consulting with students there are damaging effects on mental wellbeing”.

When it comes to mental health, the focus should be on providing better services to allow students to cope with stress or perhaps encouraging the faculties from giving people so much work their health suffers. Focusing on the impact of the Tompkins table or of class lists ignores the underlying reasons why people may feel pressured. If students are that concerned about the perceptions their peers have of their academic ability, the solution is not to protect them from all negative judgment, it is to build resilience so that they can cope with it.

Competition and ranking exists in the real world. When we stop being Cambridge students and start being employees of a company, nobody is going to hire or promote us just because they’re worried our self-esteem will be diminished. University should be a place where people gain the skills to cope with real life. If Cambridge protects all students from any kind of comparison and criticism, the culture shock will be so much more confronting when students enter the workforce. CUSU’s proposal doesn’t prevent mental health issues, it just delays them.

Students don’t have to look at the Tompkins Tables or class lists. There are certainly many who couldn’t care less. But the information should be published for those who are interested.

CUSU need to stop being delusional and pretending that all results are equally ‘great’.