Several college JCRC chairs have spoken out against the University for its lack of communication with the student representatives at college level and the way it has managed their problems.
Important issues such as security and portering, social spaces and college bars are not being adequately addressed or recognised by the University according to some college Chairs.
Kallum Taylor, Vanbrugh JCRC Chair, described York as being “a poor-events company rather than a University.”
Taylor says he has been frustrated at the way the University has failed to support his college over issues such as portering and V-Bar.
Lizzie Bartholomew, Alcuin JCRC Chair, also described the problems she has faced regarding college bars commenting on the situation with B-Henrys.
“Currently I feel that we are not being communicated with at all by commercial services regarding issues concerning our college bars.
“Furthermore I feel that the attitude with which issues such as the partial closure of B-Henrys has been dealt with has been poor and at times, inappropriate.”
As reported by Nouse in March this year, James JCRC have felt sidelined in the recent planned demolition of McQ’s bar and the new bar being created in the Roger Kirk centre over the summer.
“It seems like the collegiate system is just a marketing ploy to put in the prospectus”
Vanbrugh JCRC Chair
Alcuin has also had continued problems with the University over threatened closure of B-Henrys in the last few years.
Bartholomew added that: “I feel like some members of commercial services talk to students such as myself in a way that they would not speak to their colleagues.”
Taylor agreed with this sentiment, stating that: “I’ve been told that some staff don’t even know why colleges need their own bar.”
“To this end, I have found it difficult to maintain a working relationship with them [the University] when communication is made about our own college bar, above my head.”
Jane Grenville, the Pro-Vice Chancellor for students, stated that: “It’s true that I haven’t seen the college chairs together since a ‘get to know you’ lunchtime meeting in February, as my diary has been crazy. Normally I would expect to visit each college JCRC once a term to discuss their specific issues rather than hold meetings with all the chairs together.
“I feel like some members of commercial services talk to students in a way that they would not speak to their colleagues”
Alcuin JCRC Chair
“However, I would stress that just by having me at meetings won’t mean all the issues can be sorted out instantly. I am a strategist, I can’t micro-manage.”
Commenting on the strengths and weaknesses of York’s collegiate system, Taylor stated that: “I am trying to improve the college but just get palmed off week on week. It seems like the collegiate system is just a marketing ploy to put in the prospectus.
“Durham and Oxbridge colleges have more autonomy and power, but we get very little support.”
However Grenville refused to comment on this assertion.
Students at Oxford and Cambridge live and are taught in their colleges, while at Durham there is a long tradition of college history and spirit.
“Living in a college means you are an important part of your college community”
University of York Undergraduate Prospectus 2011
Tim Ngwena, YUSU President, said: “College chairs and their JCRCs are elected to represent the students from that college, and in essence are the primary representatives for students in that college on all issues relating to the college.”
He added: “ However when it comes to representing these views YUSU and colleges have to work together given the governance structure of the institution. You must not forget that alot of issues that affect students don’t always sit within colleges.”
Nonetheless, many of the chairs feel that the University could use them more to address students needs and tackles issues at colleges quickly and effectively.
Matt Jenkins, Derwent JCRC Chair, bemoaned the fact that: “We [college chairs] spend 30 unpaid hours trying to get ourselves into meetings rather than spending that time in them.
“YUSU can’t be expected to deal with every single issue. We genuinely do care about the University.”
“At the end of the day we are a university and it should be centred around the students“
Vanbrugh JCRC Chair
Grenville stated that: “YUSU brought this issue to my attention on behalf of the College Chairs. I don’t view it as a structural issue: it is entirely possible to sort it out.”
However Jenkins also said he believed the University was beginning to recognise and respond to their needs, following the theft from the Derwent JCR three weeks ago.
“Even though they were slow to communicate with me, there have been really positive steps.”
Taylor concluded that: “People in offices are faceless, obviously they are professionals who could be in their jobs for 20 years but at the end of the day we are a university and it should be centred around the students.
“They don’t even know what the problem is, they just sit in their offices.”
A look at collegiate systems: Is York’s the worst?
“People go to the college bars to support their college”
Second-year Durham student
– An independent college day
– University type events but on a smaller scale
– Castle college has two formals each week
£20 million to be spent over the next five years on Durham’s college accommodation
CAMBRIDGE & OXFORD
At Oxbridge students apply to the colleges rather than the University
– Oxbridge colleges have the most autonomy
– But Durham students also apply to a department and a college together
– Most of Durham and Oxbridge’s colleges are in the city unlike at York