Cambridge University Labour Club open letter calls for changes to mental health returns policy

The open letter demands for the wording of the return policy to be changed

Cambridge University Labour Club (CULC) has written an open letter to Professor Stephen Toope demanding the University of Cambridge to alter the language used to describe mental health returns in its policy.

The letter calls for the University of Cambridge to follow the policy of other universities, such as the University of Leeds.

The policy from the University of Leeds states: “We understand there may be many reasons why it is better for you to return to Leeds for the start of term and the guidelines still allow for this. If you need access to University facilities to study or if it is better for you to be in Leeds for your health and wellbeing you are welcome to return.”

The open letter points out the difference in language in policy from the University of Cambridge compared to that of the University of Leeds. It objects to the language “mental health challenges” used in the University of Cambridge’s policy, saying it “forces people to out themselves as having mental health challenges.”

The CULC also states that there is a large amount of ambiguity in the message, which risks vulnerable students being unable to return to Cambridge, even if it would benefit their mental health.

The letter argues that the wording of the policy forces students to “justify the extent of their mental health problems” which can be uncomfortable and harmful for students.

It congratulates Girton College, Murray Edwards College, Churchill College, Gonville & Caius College, as “the best at welcoming students back that require it’ and says they have not been “putting students struggles under scrutiny.”

The signatories demand that Cambridge University rewords their statement in order to create a policy of returns “if it is better for you to return from Cambridge” with rent charged from the 15th of February, which is the University’s current rent policy.

It also asks for a “United University response” on returns policies, to avoid disparity between colleges. Student Minds Cambridge also launched an open letter addressed to the university, demanding a “university-wide” response to the return policy and allowances for students to return to Cambridge on mental health grounds.

CULC’s open letter calls for the University to encourage colleges to follow University guidelines, rather than their own, as some colleges have been using their own policies which “exclude students from returning for reasons outlined in the University guidelines.”

It also demands that colleges stop scrutinising students’ self-identified plight to avoid further damage to students’ health.

Ell Thomas, CULC Disabilities officer told The Cambridge Tab: “It is key the university listen to us and recognise their insensitivity regarding the returns policy. And in turn, follow suit of other university’s who allow return ‘if it is best’.”

She adds: “Students know themselves best and this harsh and selective policy adds to the stress and strain of this already incredibly tough time.”

The open letter can be found, here.

Feature image credit: Ella Fogg

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