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Sam Fresco’s article, “Bring Back the T-Shirt Tyrants”, was intended to be a “hopefully inspiring debate”. The intention of this article is to huff and puff and blow his argument out of the water.
The fact that this article was liked on Facebook by over a hundred people on the day of its publication came as a shock, given that the complaints about “the current calibre of […] the JCR” were questionable to say the least . What evidence is presented to prove to us that the current JCR have proven themselves to be utterly useless in the whole month since their instatement? Well, the fact that Pendle College has “a fresher president’’ would appear to be “the strongest piece of evidence”. That’s me told, then.
He claims, through an admittedly impressive ability to predict the future, that having a “shivering fresher” join the JCR will result in said fresher becoming “arrogant”, getting “an ego, and this cycle resets.” By this, he means the return of ‘t-shirt tyrants’, so what’s the problem? After all, it is supposed that the JCR needs to be egotistical and cliquey in order to function, no?
I spoke to second year Law student Jemma Gaskell, President of County College. She was elected (in 2009) Vice-President as a “shivering fresher”. This “shivering fresher” was instrumental in winning the campaign for the bus route around north campus, a task failed at by previous JCRs. She also received praise for putting on what was considered to be one of the finest extravs Lancaster has ever seen. With the knowledge that the previous JCRs were privileged and lavished upon, presumably any fresher of that year would’ve contended to be in the clique? “I do it for the passion I have for the college and its members. I don’t do this for the credit or the popularity”, she said. Apparently not, then.
So, Jemma joined as a “shivering fresher” wanting to do it “by the book”, yet it would appear that she did a bloody good job of it. Furthermore, the hustings I attended for the County College elections was a marvelous exhibition of passion and capability, with equally impressive manifestos to boot. That we no longer have t-shirt tyrants means that the elections are now a democratic procedure in which prowess and good strength of character secures votes, not popularity . To say that weaker students are elected because votes are no longer cast based on peer acclaim is the biggest sack of trumpery moonshine I’ve read in many a long year, as is the assertion that the “freshmen of 2010” don’t want to be in the JCR anymore.” Last time I checked, there were 28 people running for 15 positions in the County elections alone. Four for Vice President, two for President, four for Magazine Editor. Lonsdale College had 10 candidates for the role of Social Secretary. Pendle had three people contending for President, so his belief that the freshman got the gig because no-one else wanted to run is worryingly narrow-minded.
I cannot fathom the idea that joining the JCR for perks is better than joining to play by the rules. While it’s not quite on the same scale, let’s use British politics as an example. It is widely believed that the reason there is no trust in politicians is that none of them radiate a conviction in their beliefs like they used to. Michael Foot and Humphrey Berkeley are two old-school politicians who, against ridicule and opposition, genuinely wanted to make a difference, regardless of their popularity. Popularity and perks are the teats that today’s politicians suckle on, which is obviously why British MPs are so revered these days. The more people who contend regardless of the privileges the job brings, the better.
The article declines to acknowledge the mitigating circumstances under which someone may run for an un-contended position. Robbie Love, fresher and General Secretary of County College, noted – “Unless you check the table right before the deadline, there’s no way of knowing if there’s competition. The two I was competing against pulled out, so I didn’t apply thinking I’d be the only candidate.” He added, “The only egotism involved in my membership is the pride I’ll take in knowing I’ve been a part of something that has benefited people. I see the same in other members around me”.
Regardless of year group or job perks, the JCR is gelled not by being a clique, but by the like mindedness of people who take pride in their work. Those in power should be equal to those they serve, not under the pretence that they are above. I believe that the one who recognizes this is a stronger character with a thicker wad of integrity than someone who doesn’t.
Bring back tossers so that people will want to be tossers? Let’s not.
Editorial clarification: Since this article was published a point was raised by County President, Jemma Gaskell. It should be noted that the whole of County JCR Executive Committee 2010 was instrumental in the north campus bus stop, not simply one officer.