Teddy Hall’s JCR have flatly rejected a motion proposing reform to the room ballot system in the same week that a similar motion at St Hilda’s was narrowly passed.
At the first meeting of term on Sunday, Teddy Hall voted 32-2 against a motion to change the system so that “people enter the ballot in groups (of up to 4) guaranteeing they can live with friends”. The new system was initially proposed by the College’s Accommodation Officer, Leanne Jones after complaints about the current method of balloting.
In a survey carried out by the JCR President before the meeting, 92 percent of Freshers said they supported the change whilst only 63 percent of other students were in favour. However, only 110 students replied to the survey – less than a third of the undergraduate body – and the meeting was poorly attended by first years, who would be most affected by the changes.
The proposal faced criticism at the meeting for potentially “isolating people”, and the Exec admitted that “it would create more politics”. The opposition summed up that “Oxford is cliquey enough: these changes will perpetuate first year cliques.”
The room ballot allocates which students get priority choice over rooms in college and the external college-owned accommodation, which includes buildings on Iffley Road and Norham Gardens.
Next year, the college will lose approximately ten rooms on the main site, which are to be converted into offices.
Angela Dudley, the JCR President, emphasised before the meeting that the proposal “will not happen without great JCR and College collaboration and consultation.”
Camilla Scott, the JCR Accommodation Officer who proposed the motion, added: “The room ballot would remain totally random.”
Following the defeat, Dudley said that the JCR committee “fully supported” the JCR’s decision. She said it would be reviewed in the future if necessary but “it is unlikely we will act to change the ballot unless demand for a change […] becomes evident.”
Nick Surry, a first-year historian, said: “I thought the idea was a good one. It would make sense that groups of friends would try to live near one another. I don’t the issue of cliques would be significant at all.” He added that people had to form groups for private accommodation anyway, saying “it doesn’t make it cliquey, it’s just something that has to be done.”
On the same day, St. Hilda’s narrowly passed a motion proposing “to get rid of the rights of scholars and exhibitioners to have preferable treatment over other students” and “to put in a group balloting system”. Students can enter the ballot on their own or in groups of four to six.
Bernard Martin, College Affairs Officer at St. Hilda’s, said that “the first part was the most contentious”, since room priority for high achievers “incentivises students to work harder”. However, the opposition felt that “academic performance should not be rewarded at the expense of other students”, and noted the statistical differences in Firsts between different subjects.
The second part was “less contentious”, Martin said, and the JCR believed that “since second years live in houses anyway there will be no more cliques than normal.”
Despite fears that students who ballot individually might be isolated, Martin said: “I firmly believe that St Hilda’s students are inclusive in nature and will make them feel part of the college community.”
Sarah Molloy, a second year linguist who seconded the motion, refuted claims that students who need rooms in college for medical reasons will be at a disadvantage. “They will not be affected. Tutor requests will still be granted.”
Molloy continued: “At the moment there aren’t enough rooms in college, so many have to live out in the Cowley Road area. Some rooms in college are really nice, whilst others are much worse. And it seems unfair to give Exhibitioners and Scholars rooms, and effectively relegate all other students. This proposal seems like a much fairer way of sorting out the ballot.”
The meeting was controversial due to the changes most affecting freshers, who failed to turn up in large numbers. The JCR was also given less than 24 hours notice of the agenda, which resulted in the motions being resubmitted as Emergency Motions.