On 8th June 2022, the Student Union (SU) Council passed a motion to reinstate the Campaign for Suspended Students. The motion passed by 48 votes and the campaign can be expected to be fully functioning by the beginning of Michaelmas Term 2022.
Suspension of studies, commonly known as ‘rustication’, is a process that ‘stops the clock’ on a student’s degree. It enables the student to disengage from their degree for at least one term and a maximum of three terms at one time . Suspension means that a student will not have access to formal teaching from the faculty. Depending on college policy, suspension may affect other elements of a student’s life such as residence, academic funding, and access to college facilities.
The Campaign for Suspended Students, otherwise referred to as “SusCam”, was an SU campaign launched in 2015. It previously hosted socials, drop-ins, and blog-posts (amongst other resources) to support suspended students. However, the campaign dissolved sometime in 2020 and information about the campaign could no longer be found beyond an inactive Facebook page.
The motion introduced to initiate an official revival of the Campaign for Suspended Students stated a two-fold purpose for the organisation: both to support and advocate on behalf of suspended students. In respect of supporting students, this includes but is not limited to: providing advice on matters such as student finance, managing mental health, etc.; enabling opportunities for suspended students to maintain their connection with the university; and creating a safe space for students suspending their studies to talk about their experiences without taboo. The campaign seeks to advocate primarily for the two following issues: greater university-standardisation concerning the broader processes surrounding suspension and to ensure that all colleges allow students access to their facilities during their suspension. One concern which has frequently been raised over rustication has been the significant variation between college policies.
The motion was proposed by Gabriel Lazar and seconded by current SU president, Anvee Bhutani. The decision to have Bhutani second the motion was intended to show wider sabbatical support for the reintroduction of the campaign.
Hannah Capstick, a suspended music student at University College, who was one of the key individuals involved in the plans to reinstate the campaign, spoke of her experiences with suspension and how they motivated her to become involved in this project: “I found it difficult to find anyone else in my position to talk to, and that information was sparse, outdated and vague. I fractured my foot at the end of Hilary ‘22, and from there fell into a pit of much broader physical and mental health concerns which I could no longer manage in the 11th hour of my degree. I felt as though I had failed, not only myself but my friends, family and tutors. Now that I am back on my feet (both metaphorically and physically, as the case happens to be!), I want to use my experience of the process of suspension to help others—the additional year can be hugely beneficial to people in a wide variety of situations, and should not be treated as taboo or as some kind of failure”.
With plans being underway to get the campaign fully established in time for Michaelmas, Capstick also spoke to the greater ambitions of the campaign, stating that she and the rest of the organisers “hope SusCam will grow into a community where we can share and discuss our experiences, help others struggling with the same decisions we have had to make, provide advice and guidance, and push to make the experience of suspension not one of exclusion and judgement, but a time to heal, learn and grow. SusCam will not only provide a community for students who are or have suspended and those considering suspension, but will actively work to provide resources to make the process as smooth and as pain-free as possible. We also hope to engage with the university, the colleges and the departments to open a discussion around suspension, dismantling the stigma around suspended students and push for more productive, inclusive and consistent college policies, rather than those which paint us as failures and exclude us from our friends and communities.”