EXCLUSIVE: Trinity supervisor says stopping class lists would be ‘a victory for mediocrity’
“And Cambridge, above all, is supposed to be non-mediocre”
The Tab has exclusively accessed the thirteen reasons which Trinity supervisor Dr Roger Sewell gave in his letter to the Vice Chancellor requesting a Regent House vote.
The Trinmo supervisor collected more than double the necessary signatures on a petition that will force the class list issue to a referendum of Fellows. He explained his reasoning to The Tab.
According to Sewell, without public display, many supervisors will lose access to the results of their students. The current proposal is “unclear” about who will be allowed access to class lists and under what conditions. “I (supervise) for love of teaching, my subject and my students,” he said.
“If this Grace is approved, I will no longer have officially-permitted access to the results of the very students I have taught…be able to offer congratulations to those who have done well, commiserations and support to those who have done badly…I will no longer be able to analyse my own performance”.
“The student campaigners claim that their results are their own alone – “Our grades, our choice’. These results are in fact also those of their supervisors, their lecturers, their DoSs, and even their Tutors…In most cases they are also the results of public funding indirectly by you, me and my neighbour. All these parties should have access.”
He was also concerned about the impact of non-publication on students. High achieving students should be “socially rewarded” for what “may be the only thing they are good at” while “the possibility of appearing at the bottom of the class list should be retained as a significant disincentive to be lazy”.
All students should be exposed to, rather than “artificially protected” from competition – “an inevitable part of modern life”: “molly-coddling would be bad for them, and would be abdicating our responsibility”.
Sewell acknowledged concerns about mental health and referred to his “personal experience both of severe depression and of once getting bad results in Tripos”, saying “better mental health care should be available”. But “the response to this should be to provide decent mental health care, not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
He was fine with an easier opt-out system, questioning objections that it would increase the administrative workload: “it is already necessary to process an opt-out list, and with computers available it should surely be relatively easy to just have a different number of names”.
Employers, too, would be affected by non-publication. Sewell said he knew of two employers who visit the Senate House to know “whom they should head-hunt”. Preventing access would make that impossible and also stop employers knowing whether job applicants inflated their degree class on their CVs: “published lists are a significant disincentive to lie”.
What students themselves wanted was far from obvious, he said, comparing the ‘Our Grades Our Choice‘ campaign and near unanimous CUSU Council vote with the ‘Save the Class List‘ campaign, which has racked up 700 signatures on their petition.
In response to the 55 signatures collected by Sewell, the Vice Chancellor has announced that the Fellows will vote after the students have their say.