Both proposed constitutional amendments to the Junior Common Room (JCR) Constitution were passed on Sunday night at the second JCR Open Forum of the academic year. The amendments will mainly affect the role of the JCR Technical Officer and the procedure for selecting the JCR Welfare Team.
All but two residents present voted to introduce a new procedure for selecting the JCR Welfare Team. The amendment will mean that, following the JCR Elections in March, the Welfare team will be chosen from the current population of Trinity Hall by way of an application and interview process. The team will then be selected by a panel of three individuals consisting of the JCR Welfare Officer-elect, the outgoing JCR Welfare Officer, and a third individual based on “availability and/or discretion, for example the SU Welfare Officer, an Assistant Warden, a student counsellor etc”.
The Warden of Trinity Hall will then discuss the reasoning and details of the selection process with the newly elected officer, and if a gross error of judgement has been made, in the Warden’s opinion, they will have the ability to veto a member of the newly selected team.
Speaking to Trinity News, David Ola, current JCR President, stated that the new amendment would alleviate stress on the new JCR Welfare Officer as the selection process occurs “in such a stressful period for the newly elected Welfare Officer”.
The JCR Constitution formerly meant that the Welfare Officer alone would elect a Welfare team “of their own peers”. Asked whether this lack of oversight has given rise, or potentially could give rise, to a situation where the Welfare Team would consist of the newly-elected Officer’s friends rather than of candidates selected on the basis of merit, Ola asserted that Aoife Grimes, this years Welfare Officer had done an “amazing job”. However, the JCR “could not guarantee that [the aforementioned situation] won’t become an issue. This could be seen as a preventive measure, but our primary reason was to reduce stress for the Welfare Officer”.
Trinity Hall residents also voted 79-1 to amend the role of the JCR Technical Officer under Section 10.11 of the constitution.
The Technical Officer will now be responsible for maintaining the “JCRchives” to promote continuity between JCR committees. In this regard, Ola highlights the quick turnover of officers, noting that the only real continuity between the respective committees was by means of the previous Warden, Brendan Tangney, who had been in charge since the formation of the JCR. This year’s JCR however saw Dr. Roja Fazaeli take over as Warden. “We decided to propose the JCRchives because we think that it would make the job of the entire JCR committee a lot easier to get used to,” Ola said. “It’s about increasing cohesion from committee to committee.”
In his email to residents announcing the Forum, Ola invited proposals for amendments from Halls residents, provided they were apolitical and in the appropriate format. While there were no proposals meeting the required criteria, Ola noted that it had created great discussion. “I personally think that enabling people to enact change shows them that anyone can run for JCR, SU etc., especially with this occurring during the SU election period.”
Immediately prior to the Forum, an event centred around the theme of “Women in Leadership” was hosted in Halls by Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) Education Officer, Alice MacPherson, and JCR Welfare Officer Aoife Grimes. Speaking to Trinity News, Grimes said that she decided to run the event because “I thought it would be nice to run a workshop for JCR positions and also for leadership positions generally. I contacted Alice MacPherson to help with this and she was amazing, she came to Halls and was co-host on the night. We were very happy with attendance and mainly talked about how to run for JCR positions, the importance of doing so, and the importance of bringing other women along as you do. The JCR has an amazing history of female leaders and I hope that events such as this will allow it to continue”.
The Forum was followed by an information session on the JCR, campaigning for which will begin on March 11. The 5% quorum (50 people) required for JCR Open Forums was met, with 80 residents voting to pass the two amendments. The JCR is a group of second year students elected onto the committee at the end of their first year.
Additional reporting by Gráinne Sexton