Samuel Butler Room Society

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The Samuel Butler Room Society
Institution St John's College, Cambridge
Location I1 First Court, St John's College
Established 1960
Members 330
Affiliations Graduate Union (GU), Cambridge University Students' Union (CUSU)
Coordinates (52°12′30″N 0°07′01″E / 52.20833°N 0.11694°E / 52.20833; 0.11694)

The Samuel Butler Room Society (SBR) is the Middle Combination Room (MCR) of St John's College at the University of Cambridge. The objects of the Society are the representation of the interests of the graduate student members of the College, the internal management of the Samuel Butler Room and the "provision of such entertainment and amenities as are thought fit".[1]

The Society traces its foundation to 1960, when graduate student members submitted an application to College Council for official separation from the Junior Combination Room (JCR). The name of the Society refers to the physical rooms which are used by members of the Society. The rooms were named after the noted Johnian author and polymath Samuel Butler.

The modern Society has representation at all levels of the College administrative structure; graduate students are overseen by a Tutor for Graduate Affairs (a position established in 1978 and held since 1997 by Dr. Sue Colwell); an SBR Committee is elected annually to serve the graduates’ needs; the newest College court, Corfield Court, is dedicated to the housing of graduate students;[2] and there is an ongoing campaign to ensure that graduate students have access to a graduate study room.

Entrance to the SBR, I1 First Court


Doorway to the SBR

The membership of the Society comprises all junior members of the College who are graduate students (including affiliated students), and all members of the College of the status of MA who are required to pay the Student Union Approved Fee or the Continuation Fee (GU and CUSU fees).[3]

History of the Society[edit]

The Peter Nicholls Room of the SBR set.

The Cambridge PhD was only introduced in 1921, and the first Johnian to be awarded a PhD was Leslie John Comrie, a student from New Zealand, in May 1924. Among the earliest cohort of post-graduate Johnians was noted physicist Paul Dirac. Dirac was awarded his doctorate in Physics in June 1926 and won the Nobel Prize in Physics nine years later, in 1933. His portrait adorns the Hall today. The first woman associated with this college in any capacity was a post-graduate student at Sheffield University, who was elected to a Meres Studentship in 1971. In 1981, nine research students were the first women to be formally admitted as members of the college, one year prior to the admission of female undergraduates (44 students in 1982).

In October 1957, the graduate students started demanding the exclusive use of a room “in which to drink coffee”. By 1958, these pioneering students formed a cohesive unit and were eager to have their own representation in College. The set in I1 First Court was declared a junior common room in 1957 and, in 1958, named in honour of the Johnian author and polymath, Samuel Butler, on the centenary of his graduation from St John's.[4] This room was colonised by graduates from its beginning,[5] and in 1959 and 1960 they made applications to the JCR and the College Council, respectively, for approval of their de facto occupation of the space, separate from the JCR. Although this was at first resisted, eventually, the College Council accepted this new state of affairs,[6] with the first constitution of the Samuel Butler Room submitted in 1968[7] and accepted in June 1973.[8] Today, this constitution forms part of the standing orders of the College and the Society is an integral part of the College community.

The Modern Society[edit]

The physical rooms of the Society provide a place to socialise, drink coffee, eat brunch, read newspapers and magazines, watch TV, play pool, and engage in discussion and debate with colleagues. On two evenings a week the rooms are used to host port and sherry before and after a special BA Table in Hall, and there are regular events and parties held at the Committee’s instigation. Some of the highlights include Freshers’ Fortnight, welcome dinners, the Christmas Dinner, an exchange dinner with Balliol College, Oxford, termly Graduate Talks, sporting events, and the SBR Garden Party.

The SBR Committee[edit]

The SBR Constitution provides: "There shall be a single major office in the Society of President." The governing body of the Society is the Samuel Butler Room Committee, which consists of a Senior Treasurer, the President, six elected members, up to five co-opted members, and associate members. Each member of the committee must be in statu pupillari engaged in (and not intermitting from) a course of study in the University. A Secretary and Junior Treasurer are normally selected by the Committee from amongst elected members.

Election Process[edit]

Two elections are held per year. The main election takes place in the second half of Lent Term when the President and four elected members are elected. These individuals serve from the beginning of the subsequent Easter term for a calendar year and traditionally include the Secretary and Junior Treasurer. A secondary election takes place in the first half of Michaelmas Term for two more elected members. These individuals serve from immediately after their election until the beginning of the next Michaelmas Term. Up to five additional members may be co-opted onto the Committee, and an unlimited number may be made non-voting associate members.

Committee Members[edit]

The current president of the Samuel Butler Room committee is:

  • 2014/15 -- Daniel Ryan (PhD, Theology)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Constitution of St John's College Samuel Butler Room Society", Section 2, in Appendix II of the Standing Orders of College, St John's College, Cambridge
  2. ^ Opening of Corfield Court, 17 January 2009,
  3. ^ "Constitution of St John's College Samuel Butler Room Society", Section 3(i), in Appendix II of the Standing Orders of College, St John's College, Cambridge
  4. ^ P.A. Linehan (ed.), St John’s College Cambridge: A History (The Boydell Press, 2011), 572-573.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Minutes of the Council, St John's College, 19 February 1960, CM2195/7.
  7. ^ Minutes of the Council, St John's College, 24 May 1968, CM2449/13.
  8. ^ Minutes of the Council, St John's College, 14 June 1973, CM2583/6.

External links[edit]