In a General Meeting, Christ Church’s Junior Common Room (JCR) has voted by 48 votes to 7 in favour of a motion, colloquially referred to as ‘ChChexit’, to cease being a constituent organisation of Oxford University’s Student Union (SU).
In support of the motion, the proposer and seconders argued the SU “poorly represents the interests of its constituents” and that it “lacks the legitimacy” of a “democratically mandated student representative organisation.”
Aware of the already somewhat insular reputation of Christ Church, and drawing parallels to the Brexit vote, the proposers argued that the motion was not a “rabid right-wing” or “Nigel Farage”-style proposal. Instead, they asserted that it could be a temporary measure to pressure the SU into reform.
The proposers also took aim at the cost to the University’s common rooms of the SU, arguing that it “makes poor use of its funds, directing them towards the superfluous renumeration of sabbatical officers rather than the campaigns and interests that best serve its members”.
A minority of members of the Common Room opposed the motion, including the SU’s incumbent Returning Officer. They argued that the student body and its representatives had failed to effectively engage with the SU and were “criticising the Oxford Student Union for not representing concerns we have chosen not to communicate to them”.
They instead proposed that the JCR should focus on “making use of the opportunities for representation which are afforded by the Student Union,” rather than disaffiliating outright. By leaving the SU, Christ Church JCR would lose its “leverage” over the body’s policy-making, and that perceived faults were best resolved “from the inside”.
In accordance with the vote of an overwhelming majority in support of the motion by the Christ Church Junior Common Room, its executive will send a letter to the Oxford Student Union notifying it “that the JCR no longer wishes to be affiliated and accordingly ceases to be a ‘constituent organisation’ under the SU’s byelaws,” thus ending its affiliation with the Student Union.
The effects of this move are neither total nor unprecedented. While the college will no longer have votes on the student council, individual students will retain their link to the Student Union. This means that they could still propose motions to the Student Union in a personal capacity, for example. In a similar move, Oriel College’s JCR cut ties with the SU in 2001 before rejoining the body in 2010. In 2014 it passed a further motion that saw it temporarily disaffiliate from the SU for the remainder of the academic year.
The motion was passed at a busy meeting of the Christ Church Junior Common Room where six other motions were also considered. These included the quinquennial review of the Common Room’s constitution and standing orders, and a motion to repeal the College’s prohibition on serving meat on Mondays, which failed by 35 votes to 16, with one abstention.
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