Class lists are a cruel and unusual punishment

Do you really want to hurt me?

Cambridge class lists cruel debate piece exam term Exams Senate House unusual

The class list is not a fun tradition. It’s a cruel and unusual punishment.

It all reminds me of how my mother got her final exam results in university. She studied Medicine in Belfast during the mid-1970s. On its own, this is bad enough but the method of announcing results make it even more ‘troubling’. A large crowd would gather and they would announce OUT LOUD those who passed their exams and leave out those who did not. Although the publication of a class list isn’t quite that bad as reading them out to everyone, I imagine to some students they seem almost equivalent. Frankly, any public sharing of results is a harsh practice that belongs in the cruel streets of 1970’s Northern Ireland – not in our lovely little Cambridge of 2016.


The bunnies are so fluffy and exam-stress-helpy.

I understand that Cambridge is a competitive environment. I think we all knew that going in. If you didn’t I’m a bit confused by you as a person to be honest, although I’m sure you have some great stories.  There is also a lot to be said for tradition. There are a lot of traditions in Cambridge (gowns, Latin things, and formal dinners) which seemed serious at first, but which I’ve started to look at as no more than a bit of fun pageantry.

However, I don’t think you can really defend public class lists on the grounds that they’re just a bit of craic. Competition between colleges and individuals is fine, but I’m not a big fan of public shaming. If I fuck up I don’t really want everyone to know. Except the people I choose.  Apart from that, we’re probably competitive enough that we can lose the class lists and nothing else will really change.


Damn that’s a nice list

And as for devotees of the Tompkins Table, I’m sure someone can find a way to get statistics for colleges without a public list. Although, I do offer an alternative to people just love a good list on a wall. (God I love a good list.) Replace people’s names which specific numbers which only they know. Maybe not satisfactory enough, but it gives the aesthetic.


A small pile of sadness

I mean I can see some of the benefits. However, the main reason I can see is largely selfish. A part of me would love to know how the people who annoy me did in their exams. I can imagine the scene quite vividly, a maniacal laugh at that guy who always asks questions at the end of every lecture for getting a lower grade than the wonderful me (very unlikely, I’m writing this). In reality though, that would just be me laughing at a list.

I know, I know – we all get the urges to be nosy. It’s why “I’m going to facebook stalk them” is a phrase as common to Cambridge as “Just checking my pidge!” or “I’m drowning in a pit of panic and self-hatred”. Although the majority feel indifferent curiosity, class lists are unfair to people who really care. Honestly, nosiness and gossip-feed are the only real benefits I can think of, and those aren’t really benefits. It’s the academic equivalent of hanging the cast list in the hall so the person who KNEW they would get the part can stand there and gloat about how they were “soooo nervous” but “soooo happy they got it”. Not that ever happened to me. Not that I’m bitter.

Proof the author has indeed gotten a role at some point #publicadmiration

Really, I think the abolition of class lists is pretty much a no-brainer. For everyone who knows in their heart how their exams are going to go already (i.e. me, why am I writing this I have so much to be reading right now) they would really like that little bit of pressure taken off them.  There are also a number of reasons other than not doing enough work that may cause students to do less well in their exams. The wider student body has no business knowing about these personal issues, so why must they be shown the result of them?

Honestly, I don’t care if people know my results, but I think a lot of people do. Why don’t we make a real change in Cambridge – not just abolishing the class lists, but being nicer in general? Let’s combat the exam stress with a bit of kindness.

And to those of you who are still nosey – no, revision is not going well for me.