JCRs across the University appear to be suffering from widespread student apathy as they struggle to fill elected and semi-elected positions.
At least five different colleges have faced shortages of candidates for their JCR committee whilst many others have had to run elections with positions unopposed. This comes after a six per cent slump in voting in last week’s OUSU election, which saw Becky Howe win with 1,343 votes.
Teddy Hall suffered from an acute lack of candidates in their JCR elections on Monday of 6th Week, as Cherwell reported in last week’s issue. The President, Secretary and Charities Officer positions were uncontested, whilst Academic Affairs, and the Gender and Sexual Diversities Officer had no candidates. Many of these elections will have to be reopened, with by-elections planned for 8th Week.
However, this appears to be a Universitywide phenomenon. One Trinity student told Cherwell, “JCR participation here has been in steady decline for the past few years”, with another suggesting that a “pernicious culture” exists, undermining JCR democracy.
Last summer’s Trinity JCR presidential election was uncontested, while on Sunday November 16th, most of the JCR non-executive positions were up for election, but only three positions had candidates. Elections for Men’s Welfare, Access and Bursaries, Careers, External Affairs, Academic Affairs and Equalities all had to be re-run in 7th Week.
At Oriel every JCR position had a candidate, but only the Freshers’ Rep position was contested. At Teddy Hall however, where only 20 students attended hustings, about half the JCR turned up to hear the candidates’ pleas.
St Anne’s have also struggled to fill their non-executive positions, notably failing to find a Black and Minority Ethnicities Representative. JCR president Abhi Kamat told Cherwell, “The struggle is in finding reps for roles with a more reactionary and less proactive nature, but it’s important to keep such positions available, so that if such incidents arise we have a designated officer who has the know how to deal with it in a sensitive manner.”
However, one St Anne’s fresher commented, “It seems no one’s interested for a reason — we need to find a way of reinvigorating these elections.”
Pembroke has also had diffulties filling the positions of RAG Rep, Art Rep and Entertainment Helpers, with one student telling Cherwell, “We’ve been receiving a fair few emails to encourage more of us to apply. Generally, there seems to be a lack of enthusiasm for these specific roles.”
Last week’s OUSU elections appeared to suffer from a similar problem — eight positions had no candidates running and 19 were uncontested. Only 14 per cent of students voted, compared to over 20 per cent in 2013.