Plans to build a new bar in Somerville College have been rejected by the JCR this week amidst financial doubts and concerns that it would not be in the students’ best interests.
The College put forward a £260,000 project to add a “conservatory style extension” to an existing accommodation building overlooking Little Clarendon Street, a proposal that was supported in the manifesto of the current JCR president.
The motion was defeated by a majority of 23 against the motion, four for the motion and three who abstained.
While a financial committee report from the JCR president and vice-president stated that any monetary support would be given “as an investment and not as a gift,” there were concerns over whether the bar would definitely be student run.
JCR President Tom Allsup explained: “After original requests from the JCR to investigate a way solve the problem of the majorly under-used nature of Somerville’s college bar, a set of proposed plans for a new relocated bar were drawn up.
“I backed these plans on behalf of the JCR so far as I thought that it offered a real chance to create a brand new social space and opportunity to make the college bar a success. However, I did make sure that the college management was aware that there were some serious student concerns with these plans, most notably cost, disruption/timings and the level of student involvement in its running.
“Unfortunately the turnout for this meeting was disappointingly low and I believe only really represented those most opposed to the plans.”
Allsup stated that the plans “ultimately would be an attempt to solve all the issues with the existing bar in one go,” but the students at the meeting remained unconvinced.
Daniel Balderson, an opponent of the motion, said: “I think the mood among the students is that this is an expensive solution to none of the problems with the current college bar.
“It is unclear whether this move by the college staff is about making extra space for offices and conference facilities – something which they have good reason to do but would be nothing to do with the JCR and its funds, thus leaving us with persistent doubts that we would see any of the changes we have wanted for so long, such as making the bar student run. “
Both agreed that the issue is not the bar itself but rather the investment of JCR money. Balderson explained: “It is not that we are fundamentally opposed to the college proceeding with the plans for its own reasons if it is a necessary move, instead it comes down to the fact that we do not see why this is a benefit to student life at Somerville.”
Allsup echoed Balderson’s statement and indicated what the tone of future negotiations might be: “I have since been working hard to seek out the best end solution to their concerns. The bottom line is that both students and staff want the college bar to be a success but clearly there is much more work to be done before this can be achieved.”
The plans follow two recent Somerville developments, the Laing O’Rourke ROQ accommodation project and an extension to the Wolfson building, which cost £10.2 million and £2.5 million respectively.