St Benet’s JCR rejoined OUSU this week after five years of disaffiliation.
This decision comes on the heels of a policy change made in Hilary term this year which lifted the fees common rooms pay to affiliate to OUSU.
St Benet’s is the first JCR to reaffiliate following the fee waiver. Trinity and Oriel JCRs remain unaffiliated, but Trinity is set to vote on reaffiliation in Michaelmas term.
The motion to reaffiliate passed the St Benet’s JCR without opposition on Sunday.
JCR president Christopher O’Connor said, “It was a key target of mine when I entered office this term, I really want to see Benet’s, and indeed the PPH’s as a whole taking a real interest in the affairs of OUSU and becoming legitimate players on a university level, something I don’t think you can do without being affiliated.”
St Benet’s disaffiliated in 2004 after disagreeing ethically with subsidised condoms being provided by OUSU. The sensibilities of the college have since changed, O’Connor said, and there is hope that the voice of St Benet’s will be stronger within OUSU affairs now that the College is officially connected with it.
O’Connor said that while the removal of fees was a big encouragement for St Benet’s––a small PPH with limited funding––to reaffiliate, he had hoped to push ahead with reaffiliation anyway.
He said that a key motive in the decision is a desire to change the perception of St Benet’s within the student population.
“The main benefit I am hoping for at Benet’s is the beginning of a change of attitude towards ourselves and the perceived image we have. People I think see us as a strange, all-male, Catholic institution, when nothing could be further from the truth. Individuals at Benet’s already play a leading role in various sports and societies around the university, I’m hoping to take the JCR as a whole in the same direction, with reaffiliation seen as the first step along that road,” he said.
O’Connor said St Benet’s has already witnessed the advantage of affiliation with OUSU, as the JCR treasurer attended rent negotiation sessions held by OUSU last week.
Common rooms have always had to decide whether or not to affiliate with OUSU, but in the past, common rooms which had not paid the fee were not entitled to take part in OUSU voting systems.
Affiliation is still necessary in order for a common room to have voting rights in OUSU council. But since the fee has been dropped, all common rooms are entitled to other benefits such as OUSU publications and free Freshers’ Fair tickets, whether affiliated or not.