Don’t underestimate the importance of your JCR

Jane Elinor O Connor 7 February 2018

Brace yourselves! Election season is coming, and it’s bringing with it a barrage of social media events, unachievable manifesto pledges, poor puns, and profile picture changes. All of which you’ll likely ignore and cast aside in favour of watching a cute cat video or tagging your friend in a niche meme about which type of hummus you are. But this time when JCR elections come around, take a moment to listen.

Junior Common Rooms remain an underappreciated asset to Cambridge life. In a our collegiate university system, CUSU can seem distant from the everyday needs of most students. As such, JCRs are often the first port of call for students for everything from college intermission policies and the cost of living, to the excessive use of coriander in the college buttery (Pembroke, I’m looking at you).

The role of JCRs is extensive. In terms of welfare, not only are they constantly organising chilled events that usually involve free food (and if you’re lucky, the opportunity to pet cute dogs!) but they also provide a listening friendly ear, with welfare officers acting as a lifeline for many students struggling with the intensity of Cambridge. In an environment in which you’re surrounded by friends who are all busy and stressed, having someone take the time to listen to you is an invaluable support system. And when serious issues arise, welfare officers act as a friendly point of entry for students to access college support.

Beyond welfare issues JCRs improve your daily college life in a variety of ways, often battling immense college bureaucracy on the behalf of students. And with the recent TCS revelations about immense college disparity in rent prices, and an increasing number of colleges adopting Cut The Rent Campaigns, JCRs are taking a fighting stance against colleges. It is therefore important, now more than ever, that JCRs are proactive and effective.

The quality of your JCR can therefore have a significant impact on your time in Cambridge. Yes, they sometimes get bogged down in the minor issues. Yes, they might seem like an irrelevancy post fresher’s week, and yes there will be JCR representatives that are there to inflate their CV. But as the elected student voice within college, they are in a unique position to act as the main lobbying power for students, and this power they have over college should be harnessed.

To do this JCRs need more support. A large part of that is the need to extend and build upon the current support CUSU provides JCR officers. But it also requires JCR positions to be filled with proactive and passionate students. If you want a JCR that will fight on student issues and provide pastoral support for those that need it, take the time to make sure you you need to elect the candidates who are capable of providing that.

So, this election season don’t just blank your emails and your Facebook notifications. Don’t just vote for the person who uses the best pun, or who happened to live on your staircase in first year. Instead take the time to make a considered vote on who will best protect your rights within college and, if you’re feeling brave, maybe even stand yourself!