Common room (university)
A common room is a group into which students and the academic body are organised in some universities in the United Kingdom and Ireland — particularly collegiate universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, as well as King's College London, Dublin University, Durham University, University of York, University of Kent and Lancaster University. At Cambridge, it is called a combination room. This terminology has, in addition, been taken up in some universities in other English-speaking nations. The terms JCR, MCR, and SCR are used by Harvard University, Yale University, Princeton University, and the University of Toronto.
These groups exist to represent their members in the organisation of college or residential hall life, to operate certain services within these institutions such as laundry or recreation, and to provide opportunities for socialising. There are variations based on institutional tradition and needs, but typically the following common rooms will exist in a college or hall:
- A junior common room (JCR) – for undergraduate junior members
- A middle common room (MCR) – for graduate junior members
- A senior common room (SCR) – for senior members (fellows, etc.).
In addition to this, each of the above terms may also refer to an actual common room designated for the use of these groups. At the University of Cambridge, the term combination room (e.g., "junior combination room") is also used, with the same abbreviations. As a generalisation, JCRs are associations of undergraduates and SCRs an association of tutors and academics associated with a college. Postgraduates are sometimes given their own MCR, or placed in with either of the other groups.
The terms JCR, MCR and SCR originated from the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. The terms are now used at ten British universities as well as Trinity College, Dublin in Ireland, Harvard College in the United States of America and at the University of Trinity College in the University of Toronto, Canada. Due to the way that the terms have evolved over time and the idiosyncratic nature of university structure, the use of the three terms varies considerably from institution to institution. The main variations involve terminology, mature students and postgraduate students.
At the University of Oxford, a typical college has a JCR for undergraduates, an MCR for graduates and an SCR for its fellows. JCRs and MCRs have a committee, with a president and so on, that represent their students to college authorities, the Oxford University Student Union (OUSU), etc., in addition to being an actual room for the use of members. SCRs typically have a president, an academic member of the body who deals with higher-level administrative matters pertaining to the SCR, such as inviting proposed visiting fellows to the body and identifying invited lecturers to any particular college event. SCRs are typically characterised by a copious provision of coffee, newspapers, and moderately informal space for academics to think and discuss ideas.
Wadham College is a notable exception: although it maintains an MCR, its entire student population is represented by a combined students' union (SU).
The JCR and MCR presidents of all affiliated Oxford common rooms, in addition to their OUSU reps, are automatically voting members of OUSU's governing council, which meets fortnightly during term to decide on virtually all aspects of OUSU's policy. the OUSU council meetings take place in odd-numbered weeks of the university term. JCR presidents also get together in even-numbered weeks for meetings of the presidents' committee (popularly known as prescom). MCR presidents also get together up to three times a term for meetings of the MCR presidents' committee (popularly known as MCR-prescom).
Alternative names are sometimes used for college MCRs. Brasenose College has the "Hulme Common Room" (HCR), and University College has the "Weir Common Room", named in honour of college alumni. At Christ Church, St Antony's and Templeton the representative bodies for postgraduate students are called "graduate common rooms" or "GCRs". At some graduate colleges such as Wolfson, St. Cross and Linacre College, students and fellows share a single, egalitarian common room.
In addition, colleges sometimes have additional common rooms, such as the "Summer Common Room" at Magdalen College, or the "Alumni Common Room" at St John's College. These are sometimes, but not always, associated with a particular section of the student or academic body.
At the University of Cambridge, most colleges have either common rooms or combination rooms, a tradition dating from the seventeenth century. The same abbreviations, JCR, MCR, and SCR are used for combination rooms. The JCR represents undergraduates, with postgraduate students being members of the middle combination room. In some colleges, postgraduates are members of both the MCR and JCR: for example, at St John's, where the MCR is known as the Samuel Butler Room or at Peterhouse. Most colleges also have an SCR. At Pembroke College the common rooms are called "parlours", such as the Junior Parlour and Graduate Parlour. At Jesus College, Cambridge, the JCR is known as "The Jesus College Students' Union", with its physical space being the Marshall Room.
Similarly, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, has both a JCR, MCR, and SCR along with a Sidney Sussex College Students Union of which all students are members.
JCRs and MCRs have elected committees to represent their interests within their colleges and in the central students' union. The committees are almost universally led by a president and a range of other elected positions to cover specific areas or interest or functions (e.g. secretary, treasurer, entertainment). There is a great deal of variety between the colleges in terms of the roles that the JCRs and MCRs undertake, how much influence they have in college affairs and how many functions they provide. Nearly all are responsible for organising Freshers Week and frequent entertainments.
JCR presidents and external officers in Cambridge are ex officio council members of the Cambridge University Students' Union (CUSU). Before the CUSU was established, individual JCRs were direct members of the NUS. This meant that Churchill JCR was able to lead the NUS in its campaign for student representation. Unlike most universities, the CUSU serves the common rooms and common rooms may choose to disaffiliate. The CUSU is funded by the common rooms rather than funding them.
Halls of the University of Bristol cater mostly for first year undergraduate students, though there is a sizable undergraduate and postgraduate community who choose to stay on, either in the capacity as senior residents or ordinary residents. The term JCR refers to the entire undergraduate population, but more specifically and commonly to the elected committee of students who run the JCR for one academic year. Though most Bristol Hall JCRs are made up of first years, it is custom in Clifton Hill House, Goldney Hall, Wills Hall and Manor Hall to elect returning students to the majority of positions, including JCR president.
There is no MCR, but the SCR includes the warden, the vice/deputy warden, the senior residents and honourable guests at Formal Hall.
The JCR refers also to a physical common room (for undergraduate students), with a separate and publicly inaccessible SCR room reserved elsewhere in the hall.
- A JCR for undergraduate students
- An MCR for postgraduate students
- An SCR for academics who are members of the college
In addition, there may be one or more rooms set aside for the use of these bodies referred to as "the JCR" or "the MCR" etc. The committees that run the JCR and MCR are called the "executive committees" or "exec". Membership of the JCR and MCR is not obligatory to students.
There are some exceptions to this. The College of St Hild and St Bede has a "Students Representative Council", which includes both undergraduates and postgraduates at the college, with a special postgraduate committee. St.Aidan's College combines the MCR and SCR into one SCR whereby the postgraduates and senior members belong to one common room as a whole, while St Cuthbert's Society combines the JCR and MCR into one JCR. Following a referendum in 2011, students of St. John's College are represented by the "St. John's Common Room" (SJCR) a composite body representing undergraduates, the MCR (postgraduates) and the Cranmer Common Room (representing the students of Cranmer Hall) (pre-2011 the body was the joint junior common room JJCR). Ustinov College, which does not take undergraduates, has a graduate common room (GCR) for its students.
Although the Durham Students' Union is independent from the college common rooms, each college has a representative to the union.
At the University of Exeter, a number of residential halls for first year undergraduates retain traditional common room structures. Lopes, Hope and Mardon halls are all home to extensive common room set ups, which form a central part of student life there. In such halls, committees are elected to represent the student body via the common room, and it is their job to liaise with the resident tutors who reside within the hall. Although somewhat under threat by mergers of Halls and changes to internal administration, the common rooms still play an active and important role within the university, by both providing welfare and recourse to higher authorities for the students, and by organising social events such as balls, formals and more casual activities.
At Kent each of the colleges was initially built with one or more "senior common room" social spaces. However, over the passage of time a number of the common rooms have been transformed into eateries and more formalised social areas. Each college has a "management committee" (formerly "junior college committee" and before that, "junior common room committee") which acts to represent the students of each college at the students' union and organise cultural events.
The rooms and committees have traditionally been open to both undergraduates and postgraduates, with the senior common rooms provided for staff.
At Lancaster, undergraduates are members of one of eight colleges (with a further college for postgraduate students). Each undergraduate college is a quasi-autonomous body within the university, and each divides its members into junior and senior common rooms. These terms are more indicative of the collective student/staff bodies than actual space, although each college has actual common rooms set aside for junior members. Senior members are less fortunate due to a current policy by the university's estates department of removing senior common room space from college control – refurbishing these as teaching rooms or putting them on the central booking system, so SCR members cannot just "drop in". The term "JCR", although intended to refer to all junior members of a college, is often used to refer to elected members of each college's JCR executive. Each JCR executive organises a range of social and sporting activities for its college while also offering welfare support for its junior members. The president and vice president represent their college at the student union council and on a range of university committees, and many JCR executive members sit with SCR members on the college syndicate – the governing body of each college.
Within the graduate college, the graduate students' association (GSA) takes on the role of an "MCR". Lancaster has a students' union which co-ordinates activities between the different colleges, and the JCR and GSA executives are considered to be standing committees of the union council.
At Leicester the JCR is open to all members of the university, although its main focus is around the halls of residence of the university. The committee was responsible for running the various activities within the halls of residence and the represents students based at the halls. The term JCR also refers informally to the undergraduate population of the university as a whole . The committee of the JCR is main elected from its members within the halls of residence. The SCR for the university remains on its main campus. Membership of the common room is open to all full-time members of staff but not postgraduate students, although they may be entertained as guests of members in the bar. The common room itself and its activates are governed by a committee of elected academics and fellows.
At Nottingham, the majority of the halls of residence predominantly house undergraduates, with a small number of postgraduates living in hall as part of the pastoral and disciplinary system; in this instance, the JCR refers to the undergraduate members of the hall. Postgraduates, along with a warden, comprise the SCR. The hall warden is a member of university staff, often an academic, that might reside either in a special residence within the hall, or in a nearby house.
JCR activities include representation by elected students of their hallmates on accommodation issues, organised social events, and sports teams that compete in the athletic union's inter-mural sports competitions. Since most students move out of halls after their first year, it is common for students to retain a sense of affiliation to their hall while living off-campus. Many JCRs include former residents of the hall in their sports teams.
All of the JCRs are now part of the students' union.
Melton Hall houses only postgraduates, and the student organisation there forms the university's only MCR.
University of Reading JCRs are set up in a very similar way to their Oxford counterparts, as the University was founded as University College, Reading, as part of Christ Church, Oxford. The JCRs at Reading are some of the oldest outside Oxbridge with some such as Wantage JCR founded in 1908, St Patrick's Hall JCR in 1913 and Wessex JCR later in 1915. Today there are thirteen JCRs operating independently of each other, although they do work with the students' union. JCRs represent all students in a particular hall as well as having a large number of attached members living in houses.
Each year a new committee is elected in each halls.
The University of Reading Senior Common Room] began life in 1897 as the common room, but in 1908 a proposal was found to be necessary (and was carried) to have the title altered from staff common room to senior common room. The SCR functions as a "staff social club" of the university. The membership currently includes over 800 academic, administrative and technical staff within the various departments and offices from across the University. Postgraduates may become associated members.
At the University of St Andrews, each hall of residence has a common room for use by all the resident students. Each year, the residents of the hall elect a committee that is responsible for social events. A portion of the yearly residence fees are earmarked for use by the committee for such events. Each hall also has a warden, assisted by one or more subwardens, who is responsible for discipline in the hall (such as dealing with complaints of excessive noise), and who also acts as an advisor to the committee.
The hall common rooms may contain a television or hall library (some halls have dedicated rooms for these). The committee may also subscribe to newspapers and magazines, or buy books and DVDs, which are made available in the common room.
In addition St Mary's College has a JCR for the use of undergraduates and an SCR for the use of staff.
The previous principal of St Andrews, Brian Lang, was criticized and finally rebuked by the university court for requisitioning common rooms in certain halls for private parties, despite complaints by residents about noise and disruption to hall activities. His successor, Louise Richardson, has indicated that she will not continue this or any similar practice.
JCRs at the University of Southampton exist in each of the different halls of residences; Archers Road, Mayflower, Bencraft, Chamberlain, Connaught Hall, Erasmus Park (At Winchester School Of Art), Glen Eyre, Highfield halls and Montefiore. The JCRs provide a welfare and support role to new students, and coordinate social and sports activities around the halls. Yearly elections are held in December, with members serving one or two yearly terms. In 2009 JCRs became part of Southampton University Students' Union representative structure and operate under the JCR executive officer, with a budget of nearly £92,000.
The day-to-day running of the colleges is managed by an elected committee of staff and student members chaired by the college's provost. Colleges have a JCR for undergraduate students, which is managed by the elected JCR committee (JCRC), and a GCR for post-graduate students, as well as an SCR, which is managed by elected representatives of the college's academic and administrative members. The only exceptions to this are Wentworth which as a post-graduate only college does not have a JCR, and Halifax and Constantine which are run by a student association that represents both undergraduates and postgraduates together. Langwith's JCR is branded as a "student association", however Langwith retains a GCR and an SCR and therefore its SA plays the same role as the JCRC in the other colleges.
The JCRs are run by a JCRC headed by an executive committee made up of a chair/president, vice chair/presidents, secretary, and treasurer who have signatory powers. Below the executive committee are the rest of the members of the committees who have responsibilities for welfare, activities, events and the general running of the committee. Annual elections are held in November with people coming forward to stand for the various positions. Each individual college's JCRC is slightly different in composition, however all are elected by the undergraduate population following a hustings. The successful candidates are then elected for a whole year, bar any extenuating circumstances e.g. a vote of no confidence. The JCRC's primary functions are to be representative of the specific needs of their undergraduate populations, and to provide welfare help to students in the form of welfare reps who can offer advice or give contact details of other groups to students through informal drop-in sessions. With York's collegiate system though, JCRCs are increasingly involved in fostering college spirit through organising the many major social events a college has, such as Christmas and summer formal balls.
At Harvard College, the term junior common room officially refers to the collection of undergraduates affiliated with one of Harvard's 12 houses. Every undergraduate is assigned to a house in the spring of his or her freshman year and thereafter is a member of that house's JCR, including students who have chosen to reside off campus.
In everyday usage, however, "junior common room" almost always refers to a large common room in an undergraduate house by the same name. JCRs are generally available for undergraduates to study or watch television, and student groups often reserve the space for meetings. This is in contrast to an SCR, which is for exclusive use of the houses' senior common room members, which includes the house masters, tutors, and other accomplished academics in the community.
The faculty of religious studies houses a JCR and SCR. The JCR is a center for social activity among students, and the SCR is often used as a setting in films due to its luxurious setting. The university residences also have areas which are designated as "common rooms".
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Paton College of Memorial University of Newfoundland has a JCR for undergraduates and all members of the university, and an SCR for use by academics.
Lady Eaton College, Trent University
Lady Eaton College continues several Oxbridge traditions present at the founding of Trent University in 1964. This includes a JCR for the use of students and an SCR for college fellows and staff. It is the only college on the main campus that presently maintains both a JCR and SCR.
St John's College, University of Manitoba
St John's College maintains an SCR for use by fellows and staff of the college. The Cross Common Room is a centre for social and academic events at the college and regularly hosts lectures, presentations, and other events for groups from the wider university.
University of Toronto
Most colleges at University of Toronto have a common room system. The University of Trinity College, has maintained many of the traditions of Oxbridge, including the wearing of academic gowns and several common rooms, including a JCR, divinity common room, and SCR, which are all communities within the college as well as physical rooms. All undergraduate students registered in the college are members of the JCR, which hosts a variety of lively social activities, as well as serving as a comfortable student lounge with newspapers from around the world. The divinity common room is available to students in Trinity's Faculty of Divinity, the oldest Anglican theological faculty in Canada. The SCR consists of college fellows with teaching appointments in the University of Toronto, teaching staff in the faculty of divinity, senior college administrators, postgraduate students who serve as academic dons, and divinity graduate students with fellowships. Other select members of the wider academic, social, and ecclesiastical community are also included. The SCR hosts a number of social and educational events and weekly high table dinners in Strachan Hall. The room, which overlooks the college quadrangle, is a faculty lounge hosting daily tea and weekly wine receptions. In University College, Toronto, the JCR is a popular hangout for students.
Newman College, University of Melbourne
Newman College has two common rooms:
- The JCR, for undergraduate students
- The SCR, for graduates, postgraduates, tutors and staff
Ormond College, University of Melbourne
The student population at Ormond College is split into four common rooms:
- The JCR, for undergraduate students
- The upper common room (UCR), for later year undergraduate students
- The MCR, for graduate students
- The SCR, for postgraduate students, tutors and staff
Trinity College, University of Melbourne
Trinity has three common rooms:
- The JCR, for undergraduate students
- The Cripps Middle Common Room, for graduate and postgraduate students
- The SCR, for tutors and staff
Women's College, University of Sydney
The Women's College, University of Sydney has three common rooms:
- An MCR – for all college members
- A menzies common room – for all college members
- An SCR – for academics, postgraduates and invited senior undergraduate students
St. Andrew's College, University of Sydney
The student population at St. Andrew's College, Sydney is organised around two common rooms, the JCR and the SCR.
- The JCR is the community of undergraduate members of the college. The JCR is the centre of undergraduate life and reflects the history of student self-governance at St Andrew's. Between 1896 and 1902, the undergraduate residents organised themselves into a fully representative body, the "students' club". By 1906, the students' club was in full operation with a formal constitution and a house committee elected annually. For well over a century, the house committee has been an independent advocate for student needs and the college, and still retains substantial organisational, budgetary and disciplinary responsibilities. For the first eighty-four years from 1876, the students' common room was housed in a large hall on the ground floor of the main building, now the reading room. At first, it also served as the dining hall, until the new Sulman Wing was added in 1893. When the college's third dining hall was built in a Jacobean style by the eminent architect, Ellice Nosworthy, in 1960, it also contained new accommodation for the JCR. Facilities include a lounge, widescreen television, table tennis and pool tables, as well as a fully licensed bar.
- The SCR is the egalitarian community of senior members of St Andrew's College, including academics, postgraduates and invited JCR members. Since 1960, the SCR has found a home in the former theological lecture hall in the Sulman Wing of the college. Its walls of honey-coloured Hawkesbury sandstone, leadlight windows and antique paintings give the room a distinguished air while its use as an informal shared space lends the SCR a homely feel. While there was no designated combination room for the SCR until 1950, resident scholars and senior members of the college had always gathered in each other's rooms after meals to fulfil the collegiate function of the common room. When George Arnold Wood, the first Challis Professor of History at Sydney University was in residence in 1896, he and the college's principal, Reverend John Kinross, would retire after dinner, either to the rooms of Kinross or Professor Wood, where they "would smoke and discuss everything from predestination to tobacco". Over the years, the SCR has had many distinguished members, including V. Gordon Childe, Raymond Dart, and H. V. Evatt. Today, members of the SCR meet before formal dinners to socialise before ascending via a spiral staircase to Ellice Nosworthy's Jacobean Dining Hall. Following formal dinners, members descend to hear a learned paper or an occasional concert.
St. Paul's College, University of Sydney
The student population at St. Paul's College, Sydney is split into two common rooms:
- A JCR – for the junior undergraduate population
- An SCR – for academics and postgraduates
Jane Franklin Hall, University of Tasmania
Jane Franklin Hall has three common rooms:
- The Horton Junior Common Room – for undergraduate students
- The Edwin Pitman Middle Common Room – for later year undergraduate students
- The SCR – for postgraduate students, staff and fellows
Christ College, University of Tasmania
Christ College has two common rooms:
- A JCR – for the general student population
- An SCR – for study
Trinity College, University of Western Australia
Trinity has two common rooms:
- The JCR, a smaller TV viewing room
- The Jean Randall Common Room, a general meeting place for everyone in the college. It contains comfortable lounges so everyone can relax. On the mezzanine floor overlooking the lounge area are two full size professional billiard tables.
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