2015-01-25 (Open)

An open meeting was held on 25th of January 2015 at 18.45 in the Terrace Room. The JCR President (Ellen Judson) welcomed everyone to the meeting.

There were no Objections to the agenda.

1) Question and Answer with Master and Senior Tutor

  • The Master and Senior Tutor answered a set of pre-arranged questions from the JCR. The first few of these were light hearted questions, asking for interesting facts about themselves, and asking about the favourite books.
  • The first question concerned issues students have had with accommodation and the tutorial system. Dr Jackson said she was sorry to hear about these concerns, and had tried to improve the tutor/tutee relationship. She noted that there had been improvements to tutor training, and was happy to receive further feedback. A further question was asked about a guarantee of fourth year accommodation. Dr Jackson said she was generally agnostic on the issue but noted the current lack of housing stock. She noted that there was often flexibility in the way fourth year accommodation is handled. The Master noted that everyone was generally accommodated, although he was concerned about using the word ‘guarantee’, as the number of fourth years is unpredictable. The Master noted that college’s priorities in terms of student welfare were broadly the same as the JCR’s, disagreements were over specifics.
  • A JCR Member noted that they felt that college was more concerned with conferencing than academic matters, and that Trinity Hall sometimes felt like a business. The Master and Senior Tutor were interested by this feedback. The Master noted that this issue is apparent across the university, and there are important financial considerations. The Student state that they were pleased to see the Master/Senior Tutor engaging with the JCR. JCR Treasurer Emily Bosley asked if the findings of the finance committee could be disseminated to students, the master felt this would not be appropriate. The Senior Tutor noted that problems with communications in the Tutorial office reflected staffing difficulties. The Senior Tutor stated that conferencing taking place in term time could be problematic and this would be considered in future.
  • It was asked if there could be a college pet. The Master noted that his ‘cat’ might take up residence in the Lodge.
  • A question was asked about increasing the availability of staff in the tutorial office. The senior tutor noted that most business with the tutorial office is conducted via email, and staff do out-of-hours work when contacted beforehand. She reiterated that the office had been understaffed. The JCR Treasurer stated that it would be useful if there was clearer information on who to contact for what in the Tutorial Office. The Senior Tutor agreed.
  • A question was asked about increasing the number of bike racks on central site. The Master said there was no current plan but he was willing to consider increasing capacity. The Senior Tutor noted that Trinity Hall central site is simply very small and cannot accommodate many bikes.
  • A question was asked about whether there was a plan to keep rents affordable. The Master stated that there was, and noted that Trinity Hall rents compare favourably to other colleges. He noted that the college didn’t base rent increases of the RPI but off a specific higher education price index, no longer published. The Master noted that rents would still go nowhere near commercial prices. He noted that the college does help with hardship. JCR/MCR member Zephyr Penoyre asked was quality of room the Masters claims about Trinity Hall’s rent applied to; this could not be confirmed. The Master noted that Bateman Street was a question to be resolved. Emily Bosley stated that rents would be going up around 10%, which is a lot, however the JCR Vice President, Solene Fercocq, noted that some rooms were under-price, and that the JCR had agreed to these increases.
  • A question was asked about changes to Vacation residence. The Senior Tutor noted that the transition to licenses had aimed to recognise the fact that most people only wanted term time accommodation. The Tutorial Office had tried to be flexible. JCR Women’s Officer Sandy Rushton stated that she felt the new system was less flexible, and the process unclear. A form would be preferable. Sandy noted that a license is not ideal as accommodation situations are not always foreseeable. The Senior Tutor stated she was willing to be flexible. The Senior Tutor requested that students sign their accommodation licenses on time. Students Louis Morris and Bruce Collie noted difficulties they had had with the system. The Senior Tutor noted that the figures for extra rooms available might be scaled upwards.
  • A question was asked about mental health problems in Cambridge. The Master noted the perceived rise in mental health problems across Cambridge, and stated that it was hard to know if this was an actual increase or just increased awareness. The college has a counsellor and subscribes to the UCS. The master noted that ultimately Tutors are Academics. The Senior Tutor noted that it was difficult to implement formal plans to deal with mental health issues, although there have been discussions regarding the future. The Senior Tutor stated that Tutors should really just be a triage service. President Ellen Judson noted that the college counsellor is very valued. The Senior Tutor mentioned other approaches being taken such as the mindfulness course on offer, there was some discussion as to the availability of mindfulness workshops, and their suitability for people with mental health.
  • A question was asked about the recent campaign by Cambridge Defend Education for a reading week. The Senior Tutor was unsure, feeling that longer terms would be stressful and have financial implications. JCR Women’s officer Sandy Rushton said that she felt CDE were a good organisation but hadn’t consulted enough on this issue. A student spoke in favour of the reading week saying it would reduce stress, help disabled students and that most colleges provide 9-10 week of term time accommodation anyway.
  • It was asked whether P seminar room was to be renamed the Stephen Hawking Room. The Master answered yes and stated that Stephen Hawking may come to College.
  • It was asked whether the finalist rent reduction system should be opt-out rather than by request. The Senior Tutor said that it seemed possible, and was not pursued currently as it was felt that the current system offered more flexibility.
  • A question was asked about fourth year accommodation. This had been brought up in a governing body meeting and the Master noted the need for business to go through the appropriate committees with procedure observed. A 4th year asked if a sabbatical JCR president position would remedy these difficulties; the master stated that where this happened at other Colleges the JCR paid for it. The JCR President noted that there were pros and cons to this idea. A 4th year student asked if there could be a guarantee to offset the cost of students have to use private accommodation The Senior Tutor said she would talk to 4th years, but also noted that some students opt to use private accommodation anyway. The Master noted that there was still the route of hardship funds.
  • The Q&A Concluded with some more light-hearted questions. There was a break, the Master and Senior Tutor left, and the normal open meeting began.

2) MML Ballot

  • Ellen Judson explained the current system of MML balloting, and noted that this was done to prevent MML students automatically going to the top of the ballot. The balloting system more generally was clarified after a query from a fresher.
  • Concerns about this system were then raised by 2nd Year MML student Katie Batchelor. She stated that it was bad that MML students couldn’t ballot together and might end up living alone, whilst they would not be able to ballot into Wyng Gardens.
  • Ellen Judson noted that she was mainly concerned with the logistics of any change, especially balloting from abroad.
    There was further discussion of the issue, with the question of pulling people up/down the ballot being raised. JCR LGBT+ officer suggested that MML students simply be offered the chance to reballot if Wyng Gardens is complete. This suggestion was met with general approval.

3) Jerwood Drinks Trial

  • The JCR Secretary, James Troup, informed the meeting that a trial allowing covered drinks in the Jerwood would begin on Mon 26th. He urged people to maintain tidiness.

4) 4th Years

  • Ellen Judson state that there were two current 4th year issues; one being the need to decide an exclusive MCR or JCR status. The college didn’t like the shared status due to financial reasons. Ellen explained the background of the confusion over the issue previously. Now the MCR and JCR have to negotiate with college.
  • Ellen noted that the committee is seeking self-determination for the JCR on the issue, and that there is further discussion to be had. Zephyr Penoyre clarified that the college fee is paid by undergrads in their rent.
  • Ellen noted that the KFC could be an issue. Ellen stated that she would do good handover notes. Ellen noted that it was important the 4th years were represented at the graduate union.
  • There was then extended further discussion of the issue of a fourth year accommodation guarantee. Solene Fercocq noted that joining the MCR was unlikely to change the postion of 4th years. It was noted that the JCR committee were to raise the issue with the Governing body of the college again.

There was no AOB
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The Open Meeting for Lent term was held on the 25th Jan 2015 and finished at 20:30 and was followed by Hustings for President, Treasurer and Ents President.
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James Troup
JCR Secretary
jgt28@cam.ac.uk