What does the average York University student think of when they hear the letters JCR? Is it an organisation designed to give students the best opportunities and support, or is it some secret society tainted with cliquieness, student politics and boring committee meetings? Miranda Addey peruses the world of JCRCs, and asks what is it JCRCs do?
JCRCs, which stands for Junior Common Room Committee, are elected annually in the autumn term by each college as a whole and officially take over at the Christmas Ball. They range from about 35 to the maximum 45, sharing about 20 posts. These cover all the aspects of student life, and provide the main focus for college life (as opposed to university life).
The positions vary greatly, and provide a framework of activities and resources for each college’s students to enjoy. Goodricke Eco reps recently put on a successful Eco afternoon where people could found about environmental issues, and win prizes for recycling. Without JCRCs Fresher’s week wouldn’t be as diverse, and show such a complete guide to student life . Ents reps across the Uni have provided students with big DJs such as DJ Spoony, love dough DJs and and drum’n’bass DJs. Bar officers make sure your trip down to your college bar is always interesting. With them you couldn’t win that crate of beer at the quiz or humiliate yourself in front of all your peers singing bad oasis. Each college has welfare students whose sole purpose is to look after the wellbeing of their college’s students. They usually offer drop in sessions and supply their own personal email addresses as a starting point for people with concerns about any issues.
Things can sometimes seem unfair: the JCR of Derwent get into Club D for free as it is traditionally a richer college than the others.
But what are the motivations behind people getting involved in these things? There will always be a great polarisation of people who attend university- those that really want to have a part in absolutely everything and those on the polar opposite who do nothing other than degrees. Anouska Widdess, James Chair, encompasses this with her statement: “people are either really enthusiastic or massively apathetic.” JCRCs definitely offer a great opportunity to get involved in the running of those things that effect students the most. As most JCRC chairs agree, they provide a first step on that ladder. In the words of Fran Tarrant, Alcuin Chair: “a bridge between college students, the students union, and the administrative side of Uni.”
Without the college systems, there probably wouldn’t be such a diverse range of events. James Flinders the chair of Halifax college says “There is rivalry with other colleges, although this encourages us to offer the very best services to our students.” There is definitely rivalry, for example rag reps are encouraged to raise as much as possible to increases their college totals (amount raised), and college sport relies on this to entice people to play. But is this a good thing? The rag Parade, earlier this year, was marred with petty rivalry between colleges. As Stephen Hill, chair of Langwith says “The rivalries are good and promote participation and loyalty to your college as long as it is not taken too far.” How far is too far?
The main complaint of people surveyed about the JCR system is about their cliquieness, and therefore the difficulty to get involved in them, if you did want to. In response to this most colleges say that JCRCs are simply not cliquey. Fran Tarrant says “One of the positive benefits of joining JCRCs’ is the social life, which is very involved and can often appear to be cliquey.” Compare it to living with people in halls. You become friends, to outsiders this seems cliquey. The same thing happens in JCRCs, except in that case they all have something in common: they all want to get involved. Stephen encapsulates this “By their very nature, the people in them spend a lot of time together so do become friends and are social – this may appear cliquey to outsiders.” Outsiders?
It is possible to tell a lot about the mindset of a JCRC by its constitution. A constitution basically sets out what the role of the JCRC is and the role of each position. Halifax for example: its new (passed) constitution basically sets itself apart from any governing body.
“HCSA is an unincorporated association which derives its exempt charitable status from its association with Halifax College at the University of York.”
Student politics it may well be but without them there would be less options for York students to explore in their everyday life.
James Flinders says: “We’re an independent unincorporated association which is an exempt charity. We have no formal relationship with YUSU, although we work closely with YUSU and the GSA to get the best deals for Halifaxers.” It has combined the JCR and GCR and has become a charitable organisation, known as Halifax College Student’s Association. To get people involved they: “have worked incredibly hard to include all students in our decision making. The minutes from our meetings are on our website. We have Question Time (where any member of Halifax can ask questions to any Officer) for the first fifteen minutes of every meeting.” Should representing more people get you more money? Halifax is by far the biggest college and James Flinders thinks so:
“We believe that college funding should be done on the number of students, rather than by YUSU’s finance committee.”
Certainly things appear unfair in other sides of college provision. Derwent are traditionally a rich college, as Anouska Widdess says: “Their JCR gets into Club D for free, whereas James can’t really afford that.” Vanbrugh have recently had a refit, making old Vanbrugh bar completely over. Langwith have just had their eating provisions taken away to make way for a new lecture room. Stephen doesn’t find this fair: “we feel Langwith is neglected by commercial services and the university as a whole – much money has been plied into Vanbrugh and Derwent whilst ignoring that Langwith blatantly needs a refurbishment” And nowhere for Langwith to eat as a college, “is ridiculous as this provided a good meeting place and focus for the college”.
Student politics it may well be but without them there would be less options for York students to explore in their everyday life. It is definitely a goal of JCRCs to represent and provide for the students. As Richard Croker, Derwent chair, puts it “(If I could have one thing for my JCRC) I suppose a college where every member was involved and active and had a strong collegiate nature.” JCRCs can’t represent everyone; but they sure try.