By Kiara Davies
Almost every college Junior Common Room (JCR) levy has remained unchanged despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on student life.
A drastic fall in the number of in-person events this year has prompted calls for refunds for the fees, which are used to subsidise events, maintain the physical JCR space, and fund college societies. Only St. Chad’s college have lowered their fees, from £30 to £15 a year.
Ellie Fitzgerald-Tesh, a first-year undergraduate at St John’s College, said the lack of action was “frustrating”. “[I have] only been in Durham for four weeks this year due to the pandemic”, she explained, “with limited online-only events and no JCR-based societies that I’ve signed up to running.”
Hatfield College, the most expensive college JCR charging students £240 upfront for the duration of their studies, will not offer any compensation to its members.
Saskia Wotton-Cane, Chair of the JCR Presidents’ Committee, and St Cuthbert’s Society JCR President, spoke to Palatinate on behalf of all colleges who charged full levies: “We have all faced mass uncertainty this year. JCRs have been no different.
“I am confident that students will overall get their money’s worth from their levies. JCR levies are payments for your whole degree, not just one year.
“What is lost this year will be made up for in cheaper events, sports and societies, and bigger budgets next year, though this will vary from Common Room to Common Room.
“We also hope to invite finalists back for events, particularly around rescheduled graduations, where again value for money will be prioritised.”
However, Joseph Cheadle, SRC President at the College of St Hild and St Bede, told Palatinate that they would be reviewing the situation. “We have responded to concerns by proposing a review of events and value for money over this past academic year with the potential for partial refunds or subsidies as deemed appropriate”.
The Graduate Common Room at Ustinov College, Durham’s only fully postgraduate college, created a new tiered system this year in response to changing circumstances brought by the pandemic, ranging from a £1 digital-only membership to a £35 in-person event membership.
Image: Beatrice Law