Why I wanted to stay in Trinity Hall for a second year

Social media pages, door-to-door canvassing, hustings and interviews all crammed into three days; what is it like to run for the Trinity Hall JCR, and is it really worth it?

The elections for the 2017/18 Junior Common Room (JCR)  committee concluded on Wednesday night in Rathmines pub Mother Reilly’s, where votes were counted following three days of intense campaigning. The JCR is the student committee responsible for looking after the 1000 residents of Trinity Halls, the vast majority of whom are first year students.

The JCR race this year was highly contested, with 48 candidates running for 11 positions. I took on the challenge of running for JCR Welfare Officer which, much like the SU Welfare Officer, is generally a highly popular role to run for. The Welfare Officer is one of the most important positions on the JCR, with responsibilities including handling casework, supplying condoms and creating and managing a capable Welfare Team. 

Writing the manifesto was a crucial aspect of preparing for the campaign. I found it particularly difficult to cover all Welfare topics within the meagre 1000-word limit, and I also had to ensure that all my ideas were thought-out and achievable. Following submission of my manifesto, I had a brief interview with JCR President Sara Ní Lochlainn, JCR Welfare Officer James Cunningham and SU President-elect Kevin Keane to make sure that I had the necessary attitude and knowledge to run for such an important position. This aspect of the election process was very informal with the interview taking place in the SU café, so I didn’t have much anxiety about it.

“I took on the challenge of running for JCR Welfare Officer which, much like the SU Welfare Officer, is generally a highly popular role to run for.”

Hustings was a particularly stressful aspect of the campaign. Having to stand in front of my fellow residents, as well as the current JCR, and discuss my ideas for 90 seconds was incredibly nerve-wracking. On top of that, I had to face questions and critiques from the audience regarding my manifesto, forcing me to stand my ground and justify my proposals. Once Hustings was over, it felt as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and I could finally focus more on social media and door-to-door canvassing.

One major difference between SU elections and JCR elections is that the JCR candidates are not allowed posters, leaflets, t-shirts – essentially anything that costs money. This meant that I had to pay particular attention to social media as a major campaigning tool. I developed my own graphics in the weeks coming up to the elections, and had help with taking photos and shooting my video just days before campaigning began. Unlike other candidates, I did not solely rely on Facebook to reach potential voters – I also utilised Snapchat and Instagram, though this was only marginally successful. In retrospect, I wish I had tried to make my campaign less serious and more light-hearted, as memes seemed to go down particularly well online.

Canvassing door-to-door wasn’t as time-consuming as I had originally imagined, though giving the same manifesto spiel over and over became both mentally and physically draining. The vast majority of students who answered the door were receptive to hearing my ideas, though I did encounter several who flat-out shut the door in my face. This became more frequent as campaigning dragged on, which even I have to admit is not very surprising. However, I think that canvassing is definitely vital for gaining support on voting night.

“Having to stand in front of my fellow residents, as well as the current JCR, and discuss my ideas for 90 seconds was incredibly nerve-wracking.”

Voting polls and counting was handled by Trinity’s Electoral Commission, the same body that handles the SU election as well as facilitating registration and voting for SU Council. I did my best to drag my friends out to vote, though I found it a little frustrating that voting was restricted to one hour. Many of my friends were unable to vote because they couldn’t get back to Halls in time, or had missed out on registering to vote online. Ideally, all Halls residents would be able to vote online, so I would like to see this happen in the future.

The vote counting and results were held in Mother Reilly’s pub in Rathmines. There was a painfully long wait for some results, especially for the Welfare race, though this was understandable given the number of candidates. Unfortunately, I was not successful in securing the position of JCR Welfare Officer, losing out to Aoife Grimes. Disappointed as I was, I had anticipated that result, so it was not a major shock.

Overall, I found running for JCR to be an enlightening experience. I’m very proud of what I achieved throughout my campaign, and I now have a better idea of what is required to run for a leadership position in Trinity. I have newfound respect for those who ran for JCR last year, but especially for this year’s SU candidates as their campaigns must have been unimaginably tiring to run. I would recommend that anyone with an interest in running for a position in JCR or elsewhere goes for it, as even if you’re unsuccessful, you’ll come away with great (CV-worthy) experience and a real sense of accomplishment.