Oriel JCR plans further liberation referenda

Oriel JCR is to hold three separate referenda on the introduction of new liberation group officers for its committee, as was determined at Sunday’s JCR General Meeting. 

This follows the JCR’s failed referendum on the creation of all three officerships through one single vote late last term. 

After a motion was put to the JCR, a resolution was passed to hold three further, separate elections to resolve this issue: one to establish a Women’s Officer, one to establish a BME Officer, and one to establish a Student Disabilities Officer. 

Although supported by more than 60 per cent of the voters, the previous referendum had failed to secure the required two-thirds supermajority. 

Oriel JCR currently has an Equalities Officer; most other colleges, however, have positions dedicated to the representation of women, minority ethnic students, and those with disabilities. 

As part of the motions, the JCR resolved to have the Returning Officer for the referenda issue “statements of conscience” requesting that only members who identify as part of the affected groups vote in the applicable referendum. Some students have expressed concern with discouraging full participation of all JCR members in establishing roles which will have voting rights on the JCR Committee. 

Molly Rogers, who recently proposed a successful motion in the Balliol JCR to change the name of her position from Disabled Students Officer to Student Disabilities Officer, said that she agrees in principle with the “statements of conscience” system, but pointed out that, “A person may develop a disability at any point and so may need to seek the support of someone they weren’t allowed to vote for.’’ 

“However, the democratic system implies that any decision made should be the one that is best for the group in question, so this shouldn’t pose too much of a difficulty.” She also said that anonymity of voting members was “something to bear in mind when restricting the right to vote to a minority group when there are issues with confidentiality.” 

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OUSU VP for Women Lucy Delaney told Cherwell, “I’m very pleased to hear that Oriel College is considering the introduction of BME, Womens, and Disabilities Officers. I also fully support the decision for non-affected groups to be asked to abstain from voting for these positions, as I firmly believe that liberation groups should be able to choose their own representatives — they have lived experience and know more than anyone else which issues affect them. This is the procedure when voting in the OUSU elections for the closed-franchise role of VP Women.

“Finally, I think it is important to recognize, however, that in an institution such as Oxford, where there is poor representation for certain groups such as BME students, liberation officers are often expected to push through changes in college and in the University on their own, with very little support, and often against huge opposition. They are expected to constantly use up energy educating others and the changes they push through are often sadly built off oppression they themselves have to fight on a daily basis. This, I believe, is wrong – we all need to take responsibility for making Oxford more inclusive; for speaking out against sexual violence, for decolonizing the curriculum and for making Oxford accessible for students with disabilities.

“So, whilst I am extremely glad these officer positions may be created, I also think it is vital that we recognise this as a starting point, and that, following their election, the officers receive support and allyship from the entire student body.”