People who want to keep Class Lists are being drowned out

Loud student campaigns are hogging the limelight

Cambridge class lists our grade our choice public class lists Senate House

Fingers crossed, in a few months time, I will wander down to the Senate House to see my name published on the class list. 

This will be the last time for me regardless, but it looks like it could be the last time for anyone, as the University is considering abolishing the tradition.

This is mainly due to the work of the Our Grade, Our Choice campaign group, which at the time of writing have just under 700 likes on their Facebook page, and have gathered over 1200 signatures on a petition. The campaign was then supported by a CUSU Council motion to stop publishing the Tompkins Table. This passed in November, and, as a consequence, requires these class lists to stop being published.

The Senate House when not adorned with class lists

The Senate House when not adorned with class lists.

Despite passing convincingly at CUSU Council, this motion turned out to be controversial – in a poll conducted by The Tab at the time, answered by over 1100 people, 60% of readers were against the abolition of the Tompkins table, with less than 25% voting for it. And as far as I’ve seen, this recent announcement has led to mixed reactions. Many people are happy, but a significant number think it would be a shame to end the centuries-old tradition of publishing class lists. 

You may notice I’m avoiding using the words “minority” and “majority”. This is for good reason – the debate following the original motion shows that CUSU Council is, at times, failing to fairly represent the population it serves. Although the decision to abolish public class lists is being taken by the University itself, not CUSU, it is quite likely that it is on the agenda due to the student campaign.

This strange Mathmo ritual could also end under the General Board's plans.

This strange Mathmo ritual could also end under the General Board’s plans.

We know there is a significant group of at least 1,200 students who oppose class lists being published. However, the University currently has over 19,000 matriculated students. It’s possible (although very unlikely) that all 17,800 of those who remain would like to see class lists remain. By the same logic, it is very unlikely that all 17,800 support Our Grade, Our Choice’s campaign. We simply don’t know where that division lies.

This puts us in a difficult position. It’s great to see students who care about a cause getting together, campaigning for change, and getting results. CUSU will soon have an executive Disabled Students Officer because of it. However, if we are not careful, and it becomes too easy, we could end up influencing changes which the majority of students are against. Is this one of those cases? It’s hard to tell without a referendum. The Tab’s poll is currently very tight, with the option to abolish public class lists just ahead.

The familiar green noticeboards may not reappear after this summer.

The familiar green noticeboards may not reappear after this summer.

At the end of the day, the Cambridge student body needs to work to make sure that we listen to everyone in our democracy, including those who aren’t vocal enough to make their own voices heard. It can be difficult to speak out against a campaign that is gaining steam, especially if friends or neighbours are involved with it, so we need to make sure we really are listening to everyone.

More JCR President consultation on CUSU Council motions is a good start, and I’ve seen some evidence of this since November. But why not use direct democracy? In the 21st Century, a referendum of the entire student body can be held effortlessly, so why not do it for any CUSU Council motion that is at all controversial? Not only could this lead to better representation, but could also increase engagement in CUSU.

Students being vocal about things they are unhappy with is fantastic, but we must make sure we don’t leave those who aren’t as loud behind.