The Common Room

This is a guide to introduce you to the concept of a Junior Common Room (JCR) at university. It will introduce you to student societies, relate them to a JCR, and explain how and why to get involved.

University is almost nothing like school
In school, teachers organised everything.
They decided what activities were available, how and when they’d be run.
You were a simple participant.

At university, students group together in a “society” to do an activity they like.
These societies are run by the students in them.
They decide what, how, and when they want to do things.

There are many student societies and groups at Durham
We have dozens of student theatre companies, plenty of music societies, groups which cover important socio-political issues, our student newspaper, and so much more! 

Generally these groups are run by an elected group of students called the Executive Committees or more commonly known as Execs.

Who are the Exec?
It varies from society to society, but almost all have at least:
– President: they lead the society
– Secretary : communicates with the society, minutes meetings and runs day-to-day happenings
– Treasurer: looks after the society’s funds
-Social Secretary: organises “socials”

These roles are elected annually by the students in the society at an Annual General Meeting or AGM.

The Durham SU provides help and support, and the university can provide grants, but what the society does and how it does it is left up to the exec.

The JCR – your “at home” college society
At most universities and colleges, the acronym JCR stands for Junior Common Room. At St. John’s, the SJCR stands for St. John’s Common Room. Pretty neat, right?

Although a physical communal room often does exist, don’t get confused – we are talking about a body of students, not a real room.

A JCR is essentially a student society for all members of the college.

Instead of focusing around a specific activity, the JCR provides welfare, communal spaces, summer balls, smaller college societies and so on.

At a Durham University college, the staff: 
– Liaise with your academic department
– Look after the buildings that the college resides in
– Provide pastoral support where needed
– Manage catering for the students who have meals
– And that’s it!

Everything else is organised and run by the members of the JCR.

What does the JCR executive do?
– President: runs the common room
– Vice-President: communicates with students and college staff
– Bar Officer: manages the bar
– Chair: chairs general JCR meetings and exec meetings
– Communications Officer: organises all forms of communication with the JCR: notices, emails, posters…
– Students’ Union Rep: liaises with the Durham SU
– Services Manager: manages games and vending machines, college stash, gowns, and many more responsibilities
– Social Secretary: organises any and all social events: summer ball, John’s Day, Christmas Feast…
– Sports & Societies Officer: works with college societies and sports teams
– Treasurer: manages the common room budget
– Welfare Officer: looks after the students, provides welfare supplies

It’s not just the exec though
There is also a small army of non-executive officers who keep the student experience running smoothly in college:
Formals Officer, Community Outreach Rep, Environment Rep, Toastie Bar Manager, the Welfare Team, the Loo News Editor, Freshers Reps, the Library Rep, the Yearbook Committee, and many more! 

All of these positions are elected annually just like the executive.

St. John’s is a bit different
Most colleges have a JCR (Junior Common Room) for undergraduates and an MCR (Middle Common Room) for postgraduates.

St. John’s on the other hand has an MCR but also a CCR (Cranmer Common Room) for students of Cranmer: the theological college attached to John’s.

The JCR in John’s is St. John’s Common Room. This contains every student – undergraduate, postgraduate, and Cranmer students alike.

Consequently, there are two more Vice-Presidents on the SJCR exec: the MCR Vice-President and the CCR Vice-President.

The SJCR and you
The SJCR is to its college is like a government is to its country.
Although it can operate in the background, it works much better when its members get involved, voice their opinions, or even take on a role.

There are two ways to participate in the SJCR:

There’s no need to jump up and get elbow deep in the SJCR. If you want to play rugby, go ballroom dancing, or work a little harder, then go for it! University is the best place to get out and try new things.

However, it’s still good to be aware of what’s going on in college. Have a quick glance through the weekly notices, come to the bi-termly SJCR meetings, vote online in officer elections.

If nothing else, you won’t be caught by surprise if the college changes anything.

Do jump in! Get your hands dirty! Just do it! 

Stand for a position in an SJCR meeting. Make sure you know what’s expected from you in that position – other people will be relying on you.

If you’re new to university, get your bearings first. Go to a few meetings, talk to people. Stand for a lighter job.

Once you feel like you know the SJCR, stand for something bigger, work up towards the exec!

I’ve just arrived. What can I do?
First of all, settle down in your department, work out what university societies you want to join, and then consider what college groups you want to take part in – the SJCR isn’t going anywhere.

Keep an eye out for emails from the SJCR; go to the SJCR Facebook page. Go to the first SJCR meeting of term (this will be well advertised to you).

Once you’ve acclimatised to Durham, see if you feel you want to get involved in college. Have a look at the list of non-executive positions on the Common Room Directory for anything you might want to do.