The JCR is no longer cool. To many, this issue may not seem a problem; however, given the current caliber of candidates applying to be a member of the JCR executive, it seems that this is in fact a problem. Things were not always this way – the exec used to be exclusive, idolised, a symbol of power, faces of the college and above all, envied.
I am not a naïve fresher, nor am I a passive, lethargic college member – far from it. I have been on the JCR; I have been involved in the union, in the organisational side of university events and above all I am a normal student. Although, now nearing the end of my education, and, seeing the current state of affairs, I have formed a critical and hopefully inspiring debate for your consideration.
Firstly, let’s rewind to 2008. I can remember standing in the queue to Sugarhouse on a grim Friday night. Despite it being 11.30pm, the queue was already backed up to the entrance by the smoking area. With arms crossed to help with the shivering, I hear voices and a blur of green shirts streak down the left-hand side – the JCR. Direct from their large taxi they strut straight past the queue, laughing all the while, and continue into the club.
“Pricks” my friend commented. I added: “If I ever became JCR, I would never abuse the power. Or wear the shirt out. Everyone thinks they’re just dicks.” It seems this mentality was shared across campus, sparking the ‘t-shirt tyrant’ debate in the first place. The following Tuesday, I’m paying £3 at the Cuba front desk. As we walk into the club, the area on the left has a velvet rope across the sofas along the wall. Inside the VIP area is bucketed champagne guarded by a bouncer, with everyone inside wearing a primary coloured polo shirt. Everyone looks incredibly attractive – power has that effect. An extremely similar conversation to before is played out by many that night: “Just because they organize the night, doesn’t mean they’re above us”.
Now the rotation has gone full circle, now those moany freshers are final year students, and sticking to their guns, not wearing their shirts, just doing their jobs properly – the exclusivity of the JCR has died. Despite how much they were hated for being the self-appointed bourgeoisie of Lancaster, this created an arguably necessary clique. It was because you could strut straight into a club; that you could organize a roped-off alcohol-filled area; that you could only mingle with one another; the authority those poorly nicknamed t-shirts contained – that’s why you wanted to be in the JCR.
I do not believe that a student would hust and campaign just to sit in an empty office for an hour a week to discuss welfare with no one. EWD officers are imperative, but few JCR members went for these sorts of roles with the raw intention to fulfill that position. The same goes for Chairs: they do not want to take minutes, they want to be in a position of power. People want to be that person in the bar that sighs at the ever ongoing disasters.
Two years ago the Comment Editor of SCAN wrote an article on these T-shirt Tyrants which noted: “Every JCR on campus contains CV hunting, power hungry ego merchants who don’t know their arse from their elbow.” This is what we need in healthy doses, we just didn’t know it then. By being exclusive, with the shirt being an icon of this ego, it became something you want to be.
Each generation of JCR has been drilled into not being a dickhead, and have consequently steered clear of this. But by doing this, the new freshmen of 2010 have no desire to want to be a part of a stressful, low-key and unglamorous executive. The clique is what gels the members, what reduces the bickering and what strengthens the new concepts.
Over the years, the JCR has been set on a loop. It goes from the cool and the beautiful who made the role appealing in 2007. The following year sees the rise of the t-shirt tyrants; all power, all talk and nothing done. 2009 saw the peak in the tyrants, the popularity contest at its climax. Next year and a majority of these characters have now left, paving the way for that shivering fresher who wants to do it by the book. Freshers do not see the perks in the JCR and go for a position just for something good to do, a chore. Fewer strong characters join, leading to less cohesion as a unit – even less gets done.
We then come to 2010 where JCRs hit rock bottom, and theres no competition for a position, so the “I might as well go for that if no one else is” mentality occurs. So freshers get voted in, they get arrogant, they get an ego and this cycle resets.
Take Pendle for example. A fresher president combined with only one continuing member of the JCR is quite possibly the strongest piece of evidence for all of this.
I am not suggesting that the tyrants were in the right. I am simply implying that it was for this reason that in previous years there has been a higher caliber of candidates. Bring back the tyrants. Well, some of them.
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