Before writing this piece, I processed some JCR payments for Freshers’ Week. For that seems to be most of what a treasurer does: logging into Barclays online, setting up a payment, processing the payment through a damned card reader, reprocessing the payment when you fuck it up, logging the payment in an Excel spread sheet and, well, doing the process again. It is not, to be honest, very exciting. Sometimes, if you are very lucky, you get to set a budget for something and that’s a real petty power rush to the head.
Despite only starting the job this term, I have already worked out the pressure points: doing the accounts up and organising levies. Being a historian, accounts aren’t really my thing — and as always, the devil is in the detail. If the numbers don’t add up, there are only two potential reasons: a) I have been secreting away money to fund my debauched lifestyle, or b) there is some minuscule error in the middle of the spreadsheet which will take hours of pointless cross-checking to find. Fun, eh?
The Treasurer occupies a very weird position on any JCR committee. Ostensibly they are one of the most involved members of it, yet they seem to have very little to do with anyone else on the committee except to pay their bills. Indeed, contact with ordinary members of the JCR is even more limited unless it suddenly occurs to one of them that what the JCR really needs is a pinball machine. At JCR meetings, it seems like my only function is to nod, like one of Trotter’s fellow pigs in Animal Farm, at everything the President says. Loyal lieutenant some might say, window-dressing others.
Yet, despite all this inanity, the one important thing the Treasurer does have is financial responsibility for the assets of the JCR. For, if it all goes bust on your watch, then the consequences go beyond you feeling a little guilty. Bops would stop, charities would go unfunded, and NUS demos unsponsored.
However, in many cases, such as mine, the problem is quite the reverse, and the JCR spends too little money, accumulating hoards of electronic gold. But built up capital, necessary to some extent in case of emergency, is useless in helping hard-working students in need.
So the question arises of what to do with the excess capital. The previous Treasurer and I have both had the pleasing task of attempting to ‘spend down’ the JCR’s savings (we had savings of £20,000 at one stage, and that was on top of money coming from college). We got rid of the punt levy and started paying for punting with JCR savings, which meant that all members of the JCR, no matter how broke, could engage in this quintessential Oxford experience.
But despite the promise of physical wealth implied by the title, being treasurer is a pretty dull job. The treasure in question is but an Excel spreadsheet and an online bank account, hardly the stuff dreams are made of. The key thing about the job is to make sure that there is enough money left for emergencies, but not so much that students are missing out because of it. But other than that, it is relatively small fry: nothing to write home about, or even to Cherwell…