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Why JCR?

This week Ciaron Tobin runs us through the ins and out of JCR president life…

The President

I wave goodbye to my aunt before walking into the cloisters and up a steep set of stairs to a door titled ‘JCR President.’ My new home for a year is right opposite my Head Tutor and above the College ‘Dean of Divinity’. What could go wrong? The room is massive, complete with an en-suite bathroom, a living room, a double bed, and countless old pictures of JCR Presidents from the 1950s. Yet, signs of modernity are present. The smoke-scarred window from a predecessor, letters from 2018 in the drawers, and a cabaret of untouched glassware in storage.

The room, in keeping with other Oxford traditions, is extravagant. One might ask: ‘with views of the deer park and Magdalen Tower, is the JCR President really a student politician, or are they the ones that receive the benefits?.

JCR Presidents have great influence. From holding accountable College authorities, to a successful Rent Strike by a young Ed Miliband and, what we all want, cheap pints that show the President can change college life for the better

The aim of this column is transparency and accessibility as I occupy this role. I will write about every aspect of JCR life, including the moments when things go wrong.

A JCR President is essentially an SU President in miniature, with more impact over a student’s daily life. They control a budget of over £60,000 and can oversee pivotal moments in the undergraduate experience such as Halfway Hall or Sports Day. They are the hidden gem of Oxford Presidencies and ensure that a college student-body sees direct student-led action

The Family

From the beginning of Freshers’ Week, we are encouraged to think of the JCR as a family.Venturing to another college’s ‘Bop’, karaoke night, or formal would be a total betrayal of Godfather-esque proportions. As college sports teach us, our college comes before all and a JCR committee is the embodiment of this spirit in the highest hosanna. The fact that even last year’s impeachment scandal at Magdalen College is now a cherished memory in our JCR is testament to this. A play may even be made out of the story, if any theatre kids want to hop on the job…

Although a sound JCR experience for all would be ideal, it may not be realistic. College life can be alienating for some, particularly at smaller colleges where there is less opportunity to avoid a dreaded tute-partner, or a noisy neighbour. In these cases, JCR life can divide students into those heavily involved in uni-wide commitments, and those who don’t feel comfortable even leaving their college. To craft a JCR that works to combat cliquiness and division is an ideal. It may not be perfect, but hopefully it will come to resemble a family-oriented, fun, and safe place for all college members.

The Future

So, why should you get involved in your JCR? From the lads that want to organise a BOP, the rent strike goers, and even just those that simply want to eat lettuce at general meetings (Oscar D’Tortoise), all ideas and preferences are welcomed and collaboration between all students is encouraged. When we look back at our Oxford experience, we want trinkets, we want memories, we want to remember the fun times had. It feels good to make events that people enjoy. Whether that is a boozy punt race, a bar quiz, or a social. Making the college experience even just the slightest bit more fun makes the JCR presidency worth it. I know that being a JCR President means there will be stress at times, and certainly time away from my badly-loved History degree, but I truly believe it is a body worth fighting for in all forms. As a JCR member, you learn and fight for what you believe is good. So, you may think your JCR is miniscule but there are no limits to the ways in which your college can be reshaped and improved. I hope you follow this column as I go in-depth with JCR life and presidency, and that it encourages you to connect more with your own JCR!

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