Cambridge SU changes its campaign to demand opt-in system for in-person learning

A friendly amendment was passed to campaign for opt-in face-to-face teaching, with online learning as the default

Earlier today, the University’s Student Council has voted for the SU to amend its position on teaching arrangements during the COVID-19 pandemic. This comes just over two weeks after the SU launched an open letter urging the University to move all non-essential teaching online.

Previously, the SU cited the advice of the Scientific Advisory Group For Emergencies (SAGE) and argued that reducing the risk of transmission in academic spaces was vital to allowing some freedom in social spaces. The open letter proposed that: “In order to make these important activities as safe as possible, we as a community should minimise in-person teaching which can be delivered online.”

With the new amendment, there is still a demand that all education should be available online, but there is now an allowance for in-person teaching on an opt-in basis.

JCR Drama

These changes come after a particularly fraught week for the SU’s relationship with various college J/MCRs, many of which opposed the strict position on teaching arrangements.

In a press release, the SU stated: “We have consulted a large number of J/MCRs over the past week about their concerns and found that our objectives are aligned. One of the primary issues raised was that people felt the provision of online teaching was not at the same standard as in-person small group teaching.

“This is the responsibility of the University and Colleges; their failure to account for the rising number of students in self-isolation and the possibility of moving to Tier 2 has led to a lack of provisions as basic as adequate college Wi-Fi.”

(Image credit: Author’s own screenshot)

Student Wellbeing

For those with a positive test in their household, stringent isolation restrictions might prove detrimental to mental health. Current rules state that those in isolation should limit contact even with their own household to prevent intra-household spread, meaning that affected students could go up to two weeks without any physical human interaction.

Ben Margolis, Cambridge SU President (UG), commented: “Our demands on teaching sit within the context of a wider campaign to protect student-staff safety and wellbeing as the pandemic continues to affect the University.

“As student loneliness becomes a defining feature of the term for some students, our campaign seeks to ensure that all students feel like they can participate in university life and retain a high quality of education despite any disruption caused by the pandemic.”


The amendment supports the further demands of the SU’s #DemandSafeCambridge campaign. Launched in September, the campaign asks for the creation of safe socialising spaces within the University, as well as ‘compassionate discipline’ for those caught breaking restrictions.

The campaign also endorses pay rises to compensate for the increased effort of an online workload for staff.

Featured image credit: Extra Medium (Flickr), Creative Commons License. Screenshots from  Camfess via Facebook