JC faRce: Involvement In Student Politics Plummets
A survey of 20 colleges’ JCR elections by The Tab this week revealed students’ unwillingness to get involved in the dreary world of student politics.
A survey of 20 colleges’ JCR elections by The Tab this week has revealed students’ unwillingness to get involved in the dreary world of student politics.
The results showed that a shocking 32% of all JCR posts went uncontested this year, with a woeful average of only 1.8 people standing to be President of their JCR.
The JCR has sway over almost every aspect of college life.
And when the JCR elections come around they receive a relatively healthy voting turn-out. Over the 20 colleges investigated an average of 57% voted – significantly higher than the 13.1% who voted in the recent CUSU elections.
Whereas CUSU is often accused of being detached from what’s actually happening on the ground, JCRs are on the frontline; distributing STI and pregnancy tests, organising freshers’ week and ents, blagging cheaper rents and sports gear.
Nevertheless the number of people keen to actually join their JCR is at rock bottom.
Homerton excelled its website’s claim to be the "the most active JCR in Cambridge" with an embarrassing 3 candidates applying for the positions of president, vice-president x 2 (internal, external) and treasurer.
However, the role of Freshers’ rep seemed to be popular across the board.
Corpus had 8 candidates for the role, compared to just 3 for the presidency.
And at Jesus nominations for the elections in November had to be re-opened after 10 positions – including President, Secretary and Ents Officer – didn't recieve the necessary two or more nominations.
Jesus' position of Racial Equalites Officer failed to attract any candidates even after extending the nomination period. The JCR have now been forced to hold a by-election next term.
It was a similar story at Murray Edwards, where two JCR positions didn’t have candidates and only one position, Junior Treasurer, was contested.
There has also been a backlash against what many feel to be the outdated Women’s Officer.
Trinity Hall have recently abolished the role.
One second year land economist from Sidney, who wished to remain anonymous, went so far as to say that those who actually bothered were merely “egotistical and only interested in CV-boosting”.
The results will come as no surprise to the student politicians trying in vain to attract attention to their unpopular past-time.
David Lowry, who finished his term as Jesus' JCR President denied that 'CV boosting' has anything to do with it: "If I was interested in building up my CV I'd be doing placements at Goldman Sachs, not clearing up vomit from bops or arguing with academics."
He continued: "One of the reasons for the decline in the number of candidates has been that, by and large, left-wingers have stopped standing for JCR positions. It regularly used to be one moderate candidate and one Trotsky for each position, which is hardly more of a choice."
Lowry also cites Facebook as a reason for the sparsity of candidates: "Facebook etc. have meant that people's social circles have become more consolidated, meaning that people are now more willing to stand aside for friends than they used to be."
The Homerton website claims its student union is "the most active JCR in Cambridge" despite 3 candidates applying for the positions of president, vice-president (internal and external) and treasurer.
Charlie Bell, President-elect at Queens’, told The Tab: “Student politics is always given a bad name, both here at Cambridge and also more widely."
“Provided we realise we are not changing the world, but in fact working with the Fellows here to improve the student experience, both in terms of welfare and academic excellence, there is a role for us."
Last week's CUSU elections revealed how little we care about our university union.
Only 2,506 students cast a vote in favour of one of the presidential candidates and four out of the seven positions attracted only one candidate.
As one senior JCR member at Sidney put it, "We take apathy with CUSU for granted because everyone knows how little impact it has on our lives".
He continued: "The situation with JCR elections revealed by this investigation however is much more worrying. The fact that turnout averaged 57% in college elctions shows that students value what JCRs do for them. The problem is getting people involved.
"If this declining trend continues, the college's will have to take over a lot of the JCRs services themselves and that can only mean less student choice in things that affect them."