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JCR elections are once again upon us, and with them comes the whole debate over whether anyone cares about Lancaster’s collegiate system. Then comes the mindless voting from the majority of students, who probably didn’t go to the hustings and as such have no idea who each candidate is, let alone what they stand for. I was guilty of this too.
It may have taken me a year and a change in college to realise it, but your JCR does actually matter. They are the people responsible for making Freshers’ and extrav week what it is, organising your weekly pub quiz as well as providing lots of support, be it academic or welfare support. They are often a team of dedicated people who can make your time at Lancaster exactly what it is, amazing.
Why is it, then, that when it comes to JCR elections hardly anybody seems to vote let alone stand for candidacy? Unfortunately, perhaps the perception is that outside of Freshers’ week and Extrav which college you’re in doesn’t matter. Yet I would argue that this needs to be dispelled. Lancaster’s colleges give you the comforting feeling of home and a sense of community, even if that only extends to wearing your college T-shirt with pride. My own experience at the beginning of this year has confirmed this. Last year I was in Bowland College, but my close friends were virtually all in Fylde. So, in order to live with them again on campus next year, I was fortunate enough to be able to switch colleges and already I’m feeling the benefit of having a college that knits together all my friends. We’re already planning for the Fylde Winter Ball, and I can’t wait for Extrav.
The point is that colleges are more than just your accommodation. Being a part of a particular college unites people a lot more closely than you might think. I may have 12 hours a week of lectures, but I certainly don’t form as close a bond to my peers as I do to those in my college. They’re the people you socialise with and most likely the ones that you see constantly. So who can say that the collegiate system doesn’t matter? Without the collegiate system we’d all be lost in a quagmire of 12,000 students. It’s an integral part of Lancaster University, not least when you meet someone new. No doubt after the questions ‘what’s your name’, ‘what do you study’ and ‘where do you come from’, the next question will almost certainly be ‘which college are you in’.
That’ s why it’s so vital to participate in the JCR elections – whether you’re standing for election or not. This is the point in the academic year where you have your say about how your college works. Don’t listen to Russell Brand; every vote does count and your vote could be the difference between having a valuable JCR team and an incompetent one.
In order for your vote to count going down to your college’s hustings is a must. They’re not as dull as you might think – they’re held in your college bar so you can have a drink and relax with your friends, and it’s your opportunity to quiz your potential JCR members on how they’re going to improve your college. This way you’ll get a sense of exactly who is standing for election and what they’re standing for. Surely this is necessary in order for you to be able to cast a meaningful vote, rather than just voting for the candidate with the funniest picture.
Even if you’re a bit in the dark when it comes to JCR elections, particularly if you’re a fresher, going along to hustings and casting your vote makes you as a real part of your student body. You might have issues with the University or with your college that you rant about to your friends, but instead of just complaining why not actually try to change it yourself? Whether it’s by standing for election or voting with conscious thought, it’s time for every single student to stand up and be counted. Let’s improve our university experience, and the first step on that road to improvement is going to your college’s hustings and voting for the right people to do the job.