At the beginning of September, we launched our #DemandSafeCambridge campaign in collaboration with JCRs, MCRs, staff trade unions and a variety of different student-led groups. We thought it was time for an update on the impact we’ve made on university and college policy through our lobbying efforts, as well as the progress we’ve made in bringing students and staff together:
1. Supporting international students
International Students have understandably been feeling a great deal of concern about returning to Cambridge, particularly those who are being required to travel to the UK from countries which have dealt with the pandemic much better in comparison. We collaborated with the campaign to come up with a list of demands that they could take to the University, and helped establish channels of communication between the campaign and key decision-makers so that progress could be made.
2. Revised Trinity College Community Statement
We and students at Trinity felt that the College’s “Community Statement” was excessively punitive and restrictive to the point where it was not enforceable and jeopardised the safety of the college community. No student should have to consent to the possibility of being made homeless as a condition of living in college, particularly international and estranged students. We worked with Trinity College Students’ Union and the BA Society to lobby college to back down and revise their statement, and won! This is a huge victory for students, and credit should go to student representatives in Trinity College for standing up for their constituents.
3. JCR and MCR engagement
Over the summer, sabbatical officers met with almost every JCR and MCR to discuss the issues they were facing in their colleges. We ran training sessions and produced resources to share best practices and recommend guidance and advice on how to negotiate with their colleges on preparations for term. As of now, 17 JCRs and MCRs have signed our #DemandSafeCambridge open letter, with many more set to vote on it in their committees when term starts.
4. Asymptomatic screening
After weeks of lobbying by the sabbatical officers on various University-level discussions and decision-making groups, the University agreed to utilise its resources to screen students for COVID-19 regardless of whether they report symptoms - a key step to safeguard the community from the risk of asymptomatic COVID-19 transmission, which is especially high among the 18-29 age group. The asymptomatic screening programme has been devised to accommodate all students who live in college-owned accommodation. We still have some concerns about the programme, which we hope to resolve through ongoing conversations with the University.
The record high of confirmed cases in recent weeks highlights the urgency of our #DemandSafeCambridge demands. Over the coming weeks, a key priority for us will be to make online teaching and learning the default option for non-practical educational activities. This is in line with the recommendations of Government SAGE, Independent SAGE, and with UCU and NUS policy. On the other side of this, we want to see colleges prioritise student wellbeing and dedicate more resources and support to JCRs and MCRs to combat the crisis of student loneliness, which will be greatly exacerbated by COVID-19 restrictions. With reports coming of mass outbreaks in universities across the country, decisive action is needed now, and we will be pushing for this through every route we have.
Sign our open letter: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Rh0dxQSf9IOmASmJhrGO5BO2n128jQOlj9G3cL3KF18/edit