The franchise is on the line!

Cambridge University looks set to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the first women taking university degrees by trying to disenfranchise junior research staff, and in a way that discriminates against women.

The governing body of the University is the Regent House, which consists of tenured faculty, senior administrators and some research staff. Most of the research in the university is done by postdocs, who are mostly either research associates (RAs) or Senior Research Associates (SRAs). While permanent faculty appear on the roll of the Regent House by right, RAs and SRAs are enrolled only if their department is not part of a Faculty, or if the Faculty of which it is a part agrees to enrol them.

Some faculties, such as engineering and computer science, take an inclusive view and enrol their staff; others, of which the largest is clinical medicine, don't. This is clearly unfair and after much argument we decided to call a ballot directly. Grace 1 of June 27th will remove the requirement that a postdoc be a member of a faculty, or of a department that is not part of a faculty.

The forces of conservatism have struck back, in the form of an amendment promoted by the University Council which will impose a waiting period of 3-4 years before a postdoc can vote. As it does not grandfather those postdocs who can vote already, it will summarily disenfranchise hundreds of existing members of the Regent House. This will not only infringe their employment rights; as the qualifying period is 3-4 years of continuous employment, it will discriminate against colleagues who have taken a career break to start a family.

It is vital that we pass Grace 1 and that the Council amendment fails. If you are Regent, please vote now.

Here are the flysheets setting our the case for both the original proposal and the amendment. For the full back story of why postdocs in subjects like medicine have been treated worse than postdocs in science and technology since before the Second World War, see this history by Anthony Edwards.

Ross Anderson

For more on the Campaign for Cambridge Freedoms, and more links, see our 2007-10 web page which evolved through various governance tussles; our campaign web page on the IP issue; our 2003-7 web page; and our page on the IP ballot result.

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