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Corpus Christi College disaffiliates from Student Union

Corpus Christi College voted overwhelmingly, with no vote against and one abstention, to disaffiliate from the Student Union at a JCR meeting on 18 February, citing the SU’s “controversies and ineffectiveness.” The disaffiliation will go into effect at Corpus’s pizza party with the SU-funded pizza they recently won.

The motion notes that “JCR presidents and JCR committees often do the work that the SU proposes to do for them” and believes that disaffiliation “will have no palpable or material impact on any of [JCR members’] lives.”

When asked about whether Corpus JCR expects any changes or additional duties, President Elias Laurent told Cherwell: “The JCR isn’t expecting any difference in its role as a result of disaffiliation.”

The motion also notes that “The SU is often marred by controversy, some of these recent instances including the current President being suspended under investigation whilst retaining a salary, recent electoral malpractice allegations, and the Vice-Chancellor’s belief that the SU does not sufficiently represent common rooms.” The opening line of the motion refers to this year’s SU elections as “a great travesty called ‘democracy’ [sarcastic]” but clarifies that disaffiliation is not a response to any of these specific controversies, but “the culmination of SU failings.”

Co-proposers Freddie Scowen and Grace Lawrence told Cherwell: “We are both in our fourth year at Oxford and have held executive positions within the JCR in the past. This motion reflects long standing apathy towards the SU, and we really hope that the SU considers why multiple common rooms have disaffiliated or are currently considering disaffiliation. Cynically, we do not believe anything will change and thus encourage other common rooms to also consider disaffiliation motions.”

Corpus’s affiliation follows the precedence of Christ Church College’s 2021 disaffiliation – known as “ChChexit” – and Brasenose College’s 2023 disaffiliation. The motion also claims that the issue of disaffiliation will soon be proposed to University College JCR “predominantly on the basis of alleged malpractice in the 2024 election.”

Chair of SU Student Council and former Corpus JCR president Isaac Chase-Rahman told Cherwell: “The SU has been a litany of failures over the past few years and things desperately need to change. Anti-SU sentiments have run deep in Corpus, with the JCR disaffiliating in 2018. I’m glad to see Corpus voices being heard and acknowledged.” In 2019, Corpus JCR voted to reaffiliate.

The motion states: “Disaffiliation is perhaps one of the strongest routes by which the JCR can express our desire for the SU to be run better, short of electing the candidate we believed could affect real change.” Corpus JCR previously endorsed Chase-Rahman for SU President.

After this week’s disaffiliation, all Corpus students will remain individual members of the SU – the motion clarifies “for those who are worried about such things” – and retain SU welfare provisions such as sexual health products. Per Corpus JCR SU delegate’s standing orders, the issue of reaffiliation will be raised every Trinity Term.

Corpus JCR SU delegate Samuel Cohen told Cherwell: “I didn’t feel that there was any substantial case to be made against it. The unanimity of support for the motion to leave goes to prove the complete apathy most people have when they think of the SU. Even as someone who was more engaged than most through the Student Council, it never felt inspiring or particularly important to have the college’s input there. I appreciate the work of many of the people at the SU and the services that it can provide but it’s obvious it feels completely detached from almost everyone I’ve spoken to.”

During the earlier SU elections, Corpus clashed with All Souls College over a £300 pizza prize promised by the SU to the college with the highest turnout. When All Souls ranked highest due to its small student body of merely eight members, an anonymous Corpus JCR member encouraged voting, posting “go and vote or eight sweaty nerds will steal all our pizza.” Corpus came in second, and SU awarded both colleges with a £300 voucher each. 

Noting this, Corpus’s disaffiliation will be “effective as of when the first bite of SU-funded pizza is consumed at our All Souls pizza party” according to the motion.

The motion wishes to “signal that Corpus JCR is a small and friendly island that should not be underestimated as a voting bloc and member of the SU… Above all, it will be funny if we disaffiliate and keep with our current reputation in the student press for causing havoc – think of the article someone can write in the Cherwell.”

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