Anonymous Voting: Democracy and JCRs

Photo Credit: International Office, Durham

Somehow, a general opinion piece in a student paper has become the focus of one college’s JCR. A student paper should be a platform for free speech, for ideas which run against the grain, for dissenting voices (if such a description can even be used here). A suggestion that there should be no further public contributions to this topic has recently been put forward at Butler. It was correct in asserting that the debate had become too personal, it was not correct in suggesting that it should be halted. This issue extends much further than the confines of Butler, and has never been intended as an affront to those who hold elected office.

I am writing this article to engage with the progressive spirit proposed by the Butler JCR, but without giving this pressing issue several weeks to stagnate and lose impetus. To that end I offer a proposal, which people are, in the spirit of free speech, welcome to engage with. I move that all future elections to JCR positions, to chair events and to subsequent committees be online only. Votes will be cast entirely on the basis of anonymous manifestos, and anyone who is found to be pushing their cause publicly will be removed from the ballot. Evidently, JCR roles require a great deal of commitment and effort, and all those who currently hold office must be respected for this. This is simply a suggestion (a more detailed version of which is available via the link below) for a way to a more inclusive JCR, for the benefit of the whole student community at any college sympathetic to this cause.

As a representative body, a charge of exclusion should strike at the heart of a JCR. All those who desire to stand should be evaluated based on ideas rather than on popularity. We should prefer the politics of concepts to the politics of personality. It is sad that so far, the public response, at least at Butler, has generally been one of a defensive and reactionary conservatism. If those who run our colleges truly have the best interests of the whole student population as their uppermost priority, they must back up their promises with meaningful change. They must not offer superficial solutions or justifications at the expense of proper engagement.

I find myself wondering, how many visionary ideas do our colleges miss out on at the moment? How many people are dissuaded from ‘getting involved’ because they work out within a few weeks at university that they will never be listened to, because they do not conform to the extrovert mould? The JCR community means that these people make meaningful contributions at other levels, within specific societies. This must be valued immensely, but it should not be used to mask the fact that the highest offices are usually reserved for a select few. If you would support a JCR which offers a more inclusive, democratic method of electing its representatives, please sign the petition below. Your views will be listened to.

All those who currently sit on execs must be valued and appreciated. You do your positions credit. This proposal would hopefully encourage even more people than ever before to get involved in college life, to not be put off by the apparent gap between those who can get elected and those who cannot. It is a way, in the name of democracy, to ensure that we get the best people we can, to have more choice, and to have better colleges. If it so happens that roles stay within the currently represented, we will have conclusive proof that the current system is truly the best way to run our student body.

Petition and more details:

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