Thursday, November 22, 2007

Not an MCR Meeting

Last term the GCR president at Jesus proposed changing our name from GCR (Graduate Common Room) to MCR (Middle Common Room), in keeping with most other colleges.

I notice, in an example of Wiki-politics, that (as I type) the Wikipedia entry given above says: "Alternative names are sometimes used for college MCRs. Brasenose College has the "Hulme Common Room" (HCR) and University College has the "Weir Common Room", named in honour of college alumni. At Christ Church and Templeton the representative bodies for postgraduate students are called "Graduate Common Rooms" or "GCRs"." (i.e. Jesus is conspicuously absent from these exceptions)

The motion was voted on in the first meeting of last term and thought to pass at the time. After some later re-reading of the Constitution, which somewhat ambiguously said something like 'two thirds of the votes of those present' were needed for constitutional amendment it was decided that the legitimacy of this change was disputable and so there was a re-vote in the second meeting (interestingly, no minutes on the website...) where the change won a majority but clearly not two-thirds.

This motion was re-introduced tonight, in the second meeting of Michaelmas. In some respects, it makes far more sense to make such a decision now, given that many of the people in the last vote were actually about to leave the college and not be affected by it.

As it happened, tonight's meeting failed to achieve a quorum so no business was possible, but I suspect that we'll see the motion again next term.

1.) Constitutional Amendment: Name Change

This GCR notes:

1. Changes in the GCR constitution over the past year have extended GCR membership to all 4th and 5th year undergraduates (rather than only some), mature students (defined as those over the age of 22 years old) and postdoctoral students. This year, there are 46 undergraduate and 5 postdoctoral members of the GCR.
2. In the case of undergraduates, these members of the GCR are nottechnically “Graduates”.
3. In the case of postdoctoral students, these members of the GCR are technically “Graduates” in that they have taken degrees, but are not properly graduate students in the traditional sense of seeking D.Phils or other post-BA degrees.
4. Of all the “Graduate” common rooms in Oxford, only Jesus, Christ-Church and St Anne’s call their common rooms GCR rather than MCR. Those colleges with other non-conforming names (e.g. Brasenose’s HGR or University’s WCR) are not comparable, as they are named for distinguished alumni, and “Hulme” or “Weir” do not imply a given level of study in the manner of “Graduate”.

This GCR therefore resolves to:
1. Change the name of the GCR (“Graduate Common Room”) to MCR (“Middle Common

I'm not sure what point 4 is doing. Part of the motivation is seemingly standardization with other colleges, in which case it seems quite relevant to point out that many other colleges don't have MCRs. Given the exceptions listed, and the fact that graduate colleges only have JCRs, it seems plausible that around half of Oxford graduates probably aren't members of something called an MCR. If it isn't relevant, why bring it up?

Presumably, what's doing the work is the idea that there's something objectionable about the term GCR and that's why most other colleges don't use it. I have to say I don't really buy that. I don't see a problem in people who aren't graduates still being members of something called a Graduate Common Room. Moreover, I'd object that MCR makes no more sense. 'Middle' suggests an in-between status, but it's not as if the other two are the Upper and Lower Common Rooms and, more importantly, graduates are members of the JCR (but not the SCR) so it seems implausible to claim that the GCR is somehow between the two, when it is in fact a subset of one of them... Since one current issue of concern in Jesus is access of graduates to JCR facilities, it seems unwise to make a move seemingly distancing ourselves from them.

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