Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. There are others who fail completely and get RONned. In Michaelmas 2011, I ran to be JCR President of St John’s: this was the first in a string of four failed attempts to “make it” in college politics. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Having made all the mistakes for you, you can be safe in the guarantee of victory tucked under my Joe-Kennedy-esque wing as I guide you through the twists and turns of JCR politics.
Is this really what you want?
First thing to ask yourself is this: do you really want this job? Unlike Union President where you get to meet shiny famous people or OUSU boss where you actually get paid, the job of JCR President is really a thankless task. You simply get all the ire that college wishes to direct at their students and all the frustration the students feel towards college. If you’re lucky, you go to a college where you get the reward of a special room within college. Sadly, however, all surfaces in this room will be sticky with the desperate tears of your predecessors.
This is your chance to appeal to the public and introduce yourself in around 500 words or less. This is where being sad and lonely really pays off because you’ll be well practiced from rewriting your Match.com profile.
Be sure to list ALL of your hobbies and achievements. Can you play the sousaphone to a Grade 4 standard? Let them know! Own a Blue Peter badge? Tell them! Did you once throw a ball of paper into a bin and it bounced off two walls before landing in but sadly no one was there to see it, or the ensuing victory dance? This is exactly what voters decide candidates based on!
Unless you’re of the sharking persuasion, this is probably the first time the majority of freshers will have heard of you and so you must ensure you appeal to this “key demographic”. Try using words like “hip” and “trendy”: I know this seems like a foreign language to you and I but the younger generation really engages with this kind of stuff. Maybe throw in the odd bit of text speak: y § v0-t 4 aree lol. This roughly translates to “Why not vote for Harry, lots of love”. Wild hip-hop horses won’t be able to drag the “youth” from the polling booth.
Of course, one of the most important parts of your manifesto is your grand vision for the future, but what should this vision include. Obviously, you’re ahead of the curve. While to you it seems obvious that the college really needs to be completely repainted in Farrow and Ball Elephant’s Breath Estate Emulsion, others may be off put by the scope of such a concept. They are victims of a repressive regime who should be freed slowly and carefully. While you can sneak such policies through the JCR once in power (FOR THE GREATER GOOD) for now, limit your policies to simple, establishment ideas such as one of these classics of the genre:
- A better JCR: every single JCR is crap by virtue of not simultaneously being your home sitting room and the common room off of The Inbetweeners.
- A better, student run, bar: this is a dream that will never come true. Sure you’ll bring up Balliol as an example of some Utopia like Sweden but then people will point out that Balliol, like Sweden is filled with coldness, greyness and serial killers: you got Wallandered. Personally, I don’t understand why a bar which employs people who barely have time to sleep and who have a proven track record of consuming rather than dispensing alcohol is somehow hundreds of times better than one run by professional barfolk who actually know what they’re doing. Nevertheless, go for it: the Big Society’s in this season.
- Increase involvement in JCR politics: JCR meetings are about as well attended as a Jimmy Savile memorial service but really, is there anything you can do to change that? There’s a growing trend towards putting meetings online via YouTube or Facebook. This is the kind of easy, hard to argue with, promise you can make.
Bops on the other hand are a subject that must not be mentioned within a JCR manifesto. It’s a sad indictment of student life that they’re probably our equivalent of the NHS: leave well alone and just promise you’ll carry on organising them as normal.
Immediately after nominations close, it’s time for you to make yourself a voting page and then encourage everyone you know to like it, even people from outside college and university. For some reason, people will then look at the number of “likes” you possess, assume that all these people can’t be wrong and then vote for you. In theory.
However, you may feel guilty that you’re turning into a hack (a surprisingly broad ranging and meaningless term in Oxford which can be applied to everyone from Union President to lowly student journalist – maybe after years of ritual bullying in school this universal insult provides a way for all Oxford students to deal with their childhoods). If in doubt, remember WWOD: What would Obama do?
A more traditional method of campaigning is simply to plaster your lovely face around every spare inch of wall in college. I find that the best places to put posters are those where people will be staring at for long periods of time such as the inside of toilet doors or that spot above your tutor’s shoulder when you’re pretending to listen. In the future, I see a time when people wishing to target students can place advertising on the blank page of an unstarted essay so that the face of a JCR wannabe accompanies the blinking cursor in a display of failure.
But what to put on said posters? While you may wish to display your hard thought out policies here, this is a ridiculous move.
Obviously, one of your major tasks as JCR President will be to produce a steady stream of wordplay based humour and so naturally every candidate must demonstrate their abilities in the field by filling their posters with hilarious puns. Last year, I went for “Be Kind, Vote Harry” and “The Fresh Prince of Wel Fair” but really you should go for something that rhymes or sounds like your name. I’m afraid this is bad news for the Messrs and Misses Silva, Pint and Siren and perhaps explains the mysterious reason that singer Jason Orange has completely failed to make his mark in student politics despite his obvious credential as the member of Take That with the lowest vocal insurance premium.
The big day where you can address your adoring public for the first time will soon come around and you must be ready. It is a little known fact that Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech was actually just a rehashed version of his union hust and you should aim for no lower than such rhetoric. Yes, the choice people make in this election will have international repercussions and will go down in history: no soundbite is too ridiculous.
Ensure to spend a decent amount of time selling yourself as a candidate without sounding like those suit shaped turds from the first episode of The Apprentice. Words to avoid include “communication”, “team-player”, “committed”, “100+n% (where n>0)” and “holocaust”.
Next, will come the question and answer session. Be sure to make notes of your rival’s speech as this not only makes you look intelligent and interested but also as it allows you to criticise their policies whenever you get the chance. Alternatively, you can simply steal these policies if you’re asked a question on how you’d deal with a certain issue before simply citing the fact this show’s you’re willing to “cross party lines to help the college”.
The big day is finally here. Today, democracy will be done and the people will have their say. Except a large number of them probably won’t. It’s a long old way to that polling station and people have busy lives you know: that belly button won’t unfluff itself. What you need to do then is visit as many rooms as possible encouraging people to vote. Some people will want to engage you in political debate: you’ll put forward a reasoned argument as to why college should open the library 24 hours a day and they’ll counter with a fascinating case involving you leaving the area before your genitals become embedded in your rectum whereupon you will be forced to eat your own feet. It’s what you got into the business for.
However, this may not be your lucky night. As the votes come in, start preparing for the worst. Convince yourself that actually this isn’t what you wanted in the first place by imagining the great things you could do with your free time ensuring your defeat comes as a welcoming relief. Inconveniently, unless RON rears his ugly ginger head, this means there might end up being a President who’d rather spend the next year learning Russian or teaching children how to play the guitar than listening to everyone’s annoying little problems.
Finally, clear your diary and dial 01865 270300. The advantage of being in such a well-endowed insitution of Higher Education is that there is great psychological counselling available: you will need this regardless of whether you win or lose.