Cambridge students demand change to disciplinary procedures

The group tied cards listing their demands to the railings near Senate House

CN: Mentions of racism, assault

On Monday, (28/11), the ‘Disciplinary Reform Action Group’ tied over 100 note cards to the railings of Senate House, in an action targeting the Office for Student Conduct Complaints and Appeals (OSCCA). The cards remained tied to the railings for at least 7 hours.

The action also featured a speech by SU Women’s Officer, Eseosa Akojie, who has previously written she is “saddened” at the thought of “all the survivors failed by OSCCA.”

The cards listed the demands made by the Disciplinary Reform Action Group (DRAG) which can be found on the SU website. The demands include that cases be handled within 60 days, panels judging cases of racism shouldn’t be all-white, and for students to only have to provide testimony once.

The SU write that “very minimal progress has been made” in meeting their demands. Daisy Thomas, SU Welfare and Communities Officer argues “the demands are simple and the University has no excuse not to make these changes” and that students are being “re-traumatised through the process, or stuck on year-long waiting lists.”

A University spokesperson outlined that the university this term has been “consulting on changes to the Student Disciplinary Procedure” and that following approval processes, revisions “will be in place from October 2023.”

“It is not possible to make significant changes to any formal Procedure during an academic year.  Therefore implementation in October 2023 is the fastest possible timeframe for making changes, noting that the Disciplinary Reform Action Group first sent the list of demands to the University on 12 July 2022.”

Of the action, participant Lily Ingram commented that “[OSCAA’s]  response to the demands presented last year has been completely inadequate  – of the parts they didn’t ignore, there has been no delivery on the limited reforms promised. It’s important to show OSCCA that we won’t be going anywhere until they take student concerns seriously, and act with more urgency.”

The ‘Disciplinary Reform Action Group’ is composed of the SU Women’s Officer, the Women’s Campaign, the SU Welfare and Community Officer, the SU BME Officer and members of the student body.

The group has previously coordinated a teach-out at the 2022 UCU strikes, explaining their demands and the need for reform to disciplinary procedures at the University.

This action paid homage to a 2018 action by the SU Women’s Campaign, which resulted in a change in the standard of proof used by the university in cases of sexual misconduct.

As per its website, OSCCA handles “complaints, the review of examination results, fitness to study, harassment and sexual misconduct, discipline, and a number of final appeal stage processes.”

OSCAA has “requested several meetings with the relevant SU officers this term,” as a result of which a meeting will be taking place in mid-December according to the University.  OSCCA has also told SU Officers that it “would like to meet with members of the Disciplinary Reform Action Group to discuss their ideas for improvement and hopes that this can take place in the near future.”

The Office is currently undergoing a consultation about how to reform their procedures, which is open until December 20th.  A university spokespeople told The Tab that consultation responses are “welcomed from all students and staff of the Collegiate University. Though responses are requested in email form, the note cards attached to the Senate House gates have been added to the consultation responses.”

Further information about the consultation is available here.

All image credits: Cambridge SU