Brasenose vote on scholar privileges

first_imgMembers of the academic committee at Brasenose have questioned the validity of a JCR motion which voted against room privileges for scholars. In two meetings last term, 90% of students in attendance voted to remove the right of scholars to be placed top in the room ballot. The motion, proposed by JCR president, Arvind Singhal, would have seen students who gained distinctions in last years’ prelims competing with commoners for less desirable accommodation. However, Brasenose SCR ruled that the decision was not representative of the student body, since only 50 students out of around 360 were in attendance.The issue poses problems regarding the nature and effectiveness of JCR meetings, as Arvind Singhal said, “We do not normally have provisions for referenda [so] it could be a dangerous precedent to set.”Following the controversy, it was decided last week that Brasenose students would be asked to vote on the issue by online survey. The survey received 149 responses, around half of the total undergraduate body, of which 52% were against room privileges for scholars. Duncan Turnbull, outgoing Brasenose ball president said, “It is a highly boring debate which comes up every year because so many people are disappointed with coming near the bottom.”Currently, precedence is given to the top four JCR committee positions with scholars and exhibitioners coming next, and finally commoners.An examination of colleges who grant room privileges to first-class students shows that they are inversely associated with Norrington table rankings. With the exception of Christ Church, a number of colleges who award room privileges to scholars, including St Hilda’s and St Catz, have achieved consistently lower scores in the academic league table.“A room is not enough of an incentive for people to work, they will only work if they want to”, commented one Brasenose student. Colleges who allocate higher room draw positions to scholars are still in the minority, with the vast majority of colleges sticking with a random ballot system. Concerns have been raised about the fairness of the system in the light of a large discrepancy in the allocation of distinctions across subjects. Examiners’ reports covering 2008 and 2009 show that while the number of students awarded a distinction in Chemistry prelims might reach 33.5%, only 11.7% of those studying Law and 9.5% of Medicine students were awarded top marks. Hannah Cusworth, OULC co-chair elect and Brasenose student said, “Of course people who do well in exams should be rewarded by college but people are more likely to get firsts or distinctions in certain subjects than others.”It has been suggested that one way out of the question for Brasenose would be to award incentives to scholars which do not work at the expense of other students – one option might be to pay for scholars’ gowns. Brasenose scholars are currently awarded £200, whilst exhibitioners receive £150. No final decision has yet been made, but privileges will remain effective for scholars and relevant committee members taking part in the room ballot this Michaelmas. Questions remaining over the issue mean that Brasenose SCR is likely to reconsider both issues next year.last_img