St Catz JCR declares independence after conflict with college

College News News

St Catherine’s JCR has declared independence from the college following a financial dispute that has run since Hilary term.

The decision, made at an Extraordinary Open Meeting on Tuesday evening, was a direct response from the JCR after St Catherine’s College has declined to transfer payments worth £4,000 into the JCR account for Trinity term, saying that under a new system, funds would be transferred directly to committee members. According to a statement made by JCR President Jack Hampton, there had been no written explanation about the change from the college, with the only notification “a brief and informal chat in the SCR corridor with the Treasurer”.

In an email announcing the extraordinary general meeting, Hampton continued by describing this behavior as: “unreasonable, rude and threatening”. The College has previously reported the President as being “unwilling and uncooperative” following an initial meeting between the JCR and college held on Friday.

In the Tuesday evening meeting, the JCR motion declared the College’s apparent lack of communication with the JCR as “disrespectful”, and “demonstrating an apparent disregard of its opinions and concerns”. The JCR also resolved to organise direct action to protest the College’s actions.

Numerous other colleges have expressed sympathy for St Catherine’s plight. At its Sunday evening meeting, Corpus Christi JCR donated a loan of £500 to St Catherine’s, in a show of “solidarity” with the College.

Corpus Christi JCR President Bethany Currie commented: “It is of utmost importance that students of different colleges stand together when college authorities try to encroach on our autonomy. The decentralised nature of our college system can make it difficult to unite and help each other, but Corpus JCR believes in offering support and solidarity to all students of Oxford. Students should be able to count on each other and stand shoulder to shoulder and we are proud to support Catz in their exercise of autonomy.”

12 other JCRs have have expressed interest in offering financial assistance to the College, discussing numerous £500 interest-free loans.

In his email to the JCR, sent before the meeting, Hampton urged students to attend, describing the possible declaration of independence as the “biggest decision in the history of the JCR”.

He continued: “Every member of our community should come down to have their say. What is at stake is every service the JCR carries out, [including] our legal and charitable status. We also must decide how we will respond to the College’s treatment of us, which in my mind has been unreasonable, rude and threatening.”

Hampton went on to say: “I have tried my hardest to work with college on this and be totally transparent with the JCR. But neither I, nor the committee, can make this decision alone; we can only make this decision together so please make the effort to come down to the JCR on Tuesday.”

The decision was not perceived as so important by all students, however, with some JCR members taking part in a drinking game during the meeting.

St Catherine’s College has repeatedly declined to comment on the story.

Photo/Saleem Akhtar