To say that JCRs are “irrelevant” is to underestimate the ability of students to support and represent each other within the JCR framework.
There are points to be made about the efficiency and failures of JCR committees. But it is fundamentally important to have a body that can work with (and sometimes against) the senior management to curate a student environment which is perceived to be fair, enjoyable and, most of all, reflective of what is important to the JCR members themselves.
An irrelevant JCR would be one that had no real impact on the lives of the people which it represents. Across the University, this is simply not the case. To use my own college as an example, this year we’ve got rid of 9th week exam rent for freshers and finalists, successfully argued for a college-wide access survey, and are taking action on the findings. We’ve continued to champion our new suspended students policy and succeeded in pushing for a new flag pole to be built in order to fly the Pride flag above our main entrance.
These efforts have real effects. Such efforts are decreasing the financial pressure of being at University, increasing the rights of suspended students to visit, and are doing more to publicly symbolise Peter’s pride in the LGBTQ+ community.
But none of these examples touch upon the endless support that our welfare team gives, nor the cross-college co-ordination efforts to improve the University, particularly from people who have Liberation roles on the committee.
If we are to think about possible “irrelevance”, we also have to consider absence. Without JCRs, what would happen to welfare? Who would push back against new policies they didn’t think were fair? What better method would we have of enacting change that wasn’t sporadic and most likely unsustainable?
I count myself lucky to be JCR President of a college like St Peter’s, where we have a student body that is progressive and involved, and, crucially, a receptive SCR.
However, even in a college like ours, a lack of student representation on the various committees and governing body would only lower the standard of student living and ultimately make our colleges less democratic.
To say that JCRs are irrelevant is to ignore the tangible effects and positive changes that those involved fight so hard for.