In Durham, confusingly, a common room is both a group of people and a physical space.
The MCR is one of four “common rooms” in St John’s. The first two are separate: the Senior Common Room (SCR) and the St John’s Common Room (SJCR). The SCR is made up of senior college members, such as the Principal and Senior Tutor. The SJCR is the student-organised charity that runs events, organises sports and societies, and represents the student body (all students of St John’s College). The other two common rooms are technically subsidiary common rooms of the SJCR: the Cranmer Common Room (CCR) and Middle Common Room (MCR). They each send a representative to the SJCR Executive but they also run their own internal affairs,* to provide the most relevant support that they possibly can for their members. Being a subsidiary allows us to use SJCR facilities and get involved in all SJCR-organised activities.
The purpose of the Middle Common Room is to meet the specific needs of postgraduate, fourth year undergraduate and mature students, through the establishment of a thriving intellectual and social community, and directed representation and welfare provision.
The MCR is an opt-in organisation, joined by payment of the £40 membership fee (this is included in the college fee charged at the beginning of the year and passed on to the MCR). We think membership is absolutely worth it, and the majority of new postgraduates join the MCR.
The benefits of MCR membership include:
- The Postgraduate Centre
The physical place known ordinarily as “the MCR” is officially called the “Postgraduate Centre”. This space is on the college site, and MCR members can use its facilities at any time. Facilities include: a (free!) printer and computer room, full kitchen facilities (including a supply of tea, coffee and biscuits), a large workspace and dining area, a sociable living room, a lending library, a DVD collection, art materials… the list goes on! As the PG Centre is directly maintained by MCR membership fees, you should join the MCR if you would like to use this space.
The MCR runs a series of events throughout the year, including its own formal dinners, film nights, cocktail nights, local walks, BBQs, breakfasts, research forums and pub trips. The MCR is an inclusive and diverse community, and we hope to offer something for everybody, whatever your stage of life or academic qualification. As a member of the MCR, you will be entitled to attend all SJCR-run events. We also run some specific events for those living out of college – don’t be put off joining if you aren’t living in college this year, because the MCR is for you too!
University-wide Postgraduate Community
Membership of the MCR also entitles you to attend Inter-MCR events where you can meet postgraduate students in other colleges. These are run centrally throughout the year, including during the summer.
Welfare and Representation
Hopefully you won’t have any problems during your time at St John’s, but if you need academic, welfare or personal support, the MCR is able to provide you with the contacts, information and representation to help resolve the problem quickly and effectively. Membership of the MCR also includes membership of the SJCR, and affords you all the benefits that this entails.
* The MCR is democratic organisation and this also entails that there are many opportunities to get involved by taking on an elected role. President, Vice-President and Welfare Officer, Secretary, Treasurer, Social Secretary, Chair, Livers-Out Officer and MCR Assistant will be elected at the start of the year. Start thinking now if any of them sound appealing!
MCR Meetings and Positions
MCR meetings are usually short and informal gatherings of the postgraduate and 4th-year undergraduate students of St. John’s College, in which we: elect officers (who carry out different roles within the MCR); discuss issues affecting postgraduates; announce upcoming events; present information on MCR spending; and generally socialise!
The different officer positions in the MCR are very important – they effectively ensure that the MCR, as a democratic body, continues to function socially and academically, and is properly represented in the SJCR, College, and University. MCR meetings give the members of the MCR a chance to ensure they are being represented properly; pass motions to helps improve the MCR and how it is run; and to also elect members into the different MCR officer positions (see below).
MCR meetings are run by the Chair after being called by the MCR President, and normally happen 1-2 times a term. There is an opportunity for MCR members to ask questions of the Executive and other MCR Officers. The meeting structure and proceedings will be explained in more detail in your first meeting (and feel free to ask questions)!
Standing for a Position in an MCR Meeting
Most MCR positions (see below descriptions) come up for election once a year, at the beginning of the academic year- Michaelmas Meeting 1 (usually in October).
If you are interested in standing for a particular position, you should do the following:
- When the position is announced/raised at the meeting, raise your hand.
- You will have to stand and give a 1-2 minute speech on why you would like to hold the position and why you think you would be good at it.
- Following this you will have to answer questions from the floor – these have to be applicable to ALL candidates. If there is more than one human candidate, all will give a brief speech and answer the same questions.
Note: “Re-Open Nominations”, more affectionately known as RON, always stands – giving voters an opportunity to make it clear they do not believe the other candidates that have stood are suitable for the position.
Votes will usually be cast by paper ballot and results will be announced after a few days (the Chair will specify how long voting is open for)
Positions in the MCR
Is ultimately responsible for the running of the MCR, its finances, and ensuring accurate and appropriate representation within College and externally. Typically (strongly recommended) also stands for, and holds, the position of SJCR Vice-President (Postgraduate). Attends a number of meetings: with College Officers, MCR PresComm (Presidents’ Committee), and the SJCR Executive/Tier 1/Trustees. Is, if also SJCR VP, a Trustee of the St John’s Common Room charity, and is legally responsible for the Common Room and its activities. Attends some other meetings with important people in the University, like the Vice Chancellor.
- Vice-President (& Welfare)*
Responsible for representing the MCR at important weekly college meetings, and covering for the President if they are unable to attend meetings/events. Also the key Welfare contact for the MCR, involving communicating with the SJCR Welfare officer and coordinating welfare supplies and support (through the SJCR/College).
Organises the money. Tries to stop the Social Secretary from spending too much money, whilst ensuring that other important parts of MCR-life have sufficient funds. Also very involved in organising formals, communicating with College staff, and will be legally responsible for the finances as a signatory. Manages the list of members at the beginning of the year, ensuring that those who have paid are included in mailing lists, etc.
- Social Secretary*
Organises and runs events in College for all members of the MCR: from termly formals, to more casual get togethers, and specific annual events like Thanksgiving, Chinese New Year, Eurovision, etc. The Social Secretary also communicates with other colleges to ensure we can go to other college’s inter-MCR formals. May also help with SJCR or even CCR events if needed (and available).
Acts as the communications officer for the MCR, sending out weekly email updates on events relevant to members of the MCR, other opportunities, and general information. Usually takes minutes at meetings (MCR and MCR executive meetings).
Runs (chairs) MCR and MCR executive meetings, and maintains the constitution. Gets to wield the mighty hammer (gavel) of the MCR, whilst seeking impartial justice and well formed arguments. Note: hammer is not a weapon.
- Academic Affairs Officer*
Organises and runs academic events for postgraduates, including Broaderlands (usually 3 per term), the Postgraduate Research Symposium, and the MCR/CCR Research Symposium. Also assists in organising the Undergraduate Research Symposium in the final term of the year (June). Passes on information about academic talks/workshops/events of relevance and interest to MCR members, such as those held by the Institute of Advanced Study (IAS), College, and University.
- MCR Integration, Nurturing, and Inpleo Operational Negotiator (M.I.N.I.O.N)
Keeps an eye on supplies (Biscuits, Tea, Coffee, Printer Paper) in the PG Centre and restocks when depleted. Also monitors mess (DOES NOT WASH UP AFTER EVERYONE), and reports to the exec if there are any issues.
- Livers’ Out Officer
Represents postgraduates who live out of College to the MCR. Organises livers’ out-specific events, and tries to encourage livers’ out attendance at MCR/College events.
- Welcome Week Coordinator
Organises and runs welcome week! Communicates with College and the JCR to ensure everything goes smoothly.
- Welfare Sub-Committee
Consists of four members: an LGBTQ+ rep, a Mature Students’ rep (26 years+), and two Mental Health reps (one male, one female). The reps will familiarise themselves with services and events across the college or university relevant to their role in order to signpost them to MCR members. They also help to maintain the Welfare noticeboard in the PG Centre and help the VP organise welfare-related events (games nights, film nights etc.). It is recommended that these reps attend welfare training sessions offered by the SJCR Welfare Officer, college, and DSU.
* (Executive positions): these officers meet regularly to discuss MCR specific issues, organise events etc., and talk anything MCR at MCR executive meetings. They must be held by postgraduate students!)
If you are interested in standing for any of the positions, have any questions about how the meetings are run, or would like more information on the positions, please get in touch at: firstname.lastname@example.org OR send a message through the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/johnscollegemcrdurham/.
For further information on what the MCR is, what the previous exec have done, there is the MCR constitution, which details the exact procedures that the MCR must adhere to, and can be found on the SJCR website under constitutional documents: https://johnsjcr.org.uk/jcr/documents
You can also keep up to date with what’s happening in the MCR via our social media accounts:
Facebook: St John’s College Durham MCR
The MCR organises plenty of free social events throughout the year. Previously these have included Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chinese New Year, Burns Night, Eurovision, film viewings, board games nights, Fourth of July, summer BBQs and picnics. Refreshments are supplied through the MCR’s budget.
The Livers’ Out Officer organises one or two Livers’ Out Brunches a term, where MCR members who live outside of college are invited to eat brunch in college.
Once a term we hold a small MCR formal dinner in the Tristram Room in college, consisting of a cava reception, three course dinner, followed by port and cheese and some entertainment. Tickets are normally
In addition to this, every college in Durham University holds an Inter-MCR formal each year, where MCR members in other colleges are invited to a dinner. These are a great opportunity to experience other colleges and meet postgraduates from across the university.
Don’t forget that all SJCR events and college’s weekly formal dinners are open to postgraduates too – but more about that later!
If you have any ideas for MCR social events, get in touch with the Social Secretary at email@example.com
Given that the MCR is mostly made up of individuals who have chosen to stay on in further education because they are passionate about their subject, we have many opportunities for members to showcase their research and share ideas with each other. There are two or three ‘Broaderlands’ seminars each term, organised by the MCR Academic Affairs Officer, where students hold a 20 minute presentation about an aspect of their research followed by a Q&A session. Refreshments are provided thanks to the Senior Tutor, Mark Ogden. In the summer months there are also the Postgraduate Research Symposium, the MCR/CCR Research Symposium (held jointly with Cranmer Common Room), the South Bailey Research Forum (organised jointly between John’s, Cuth’s and Chad’s colleges) and the Undergraduate Research Symposium, which postgraduates are welcome to attend.
St John’s College also hosts a number of lectures, talks and debates by members of staff, students, and visiting fellows and speakers throughout the year.
There are study spaces, including several computers and a printer, in the PG Centre. Lockers are available on a first come, first served basis for livers out who want to leave any books in college. The college library is open to all students at John’s and the college is in the process of building a new Learning Resource Centre to replace the old library and provide an increased number of study spaces for college members. This should be completed in 2018.
With its central location on the Bailey, John’s is conveniently situated less than 15 minutes’ walk from the university Science Site and main library, and even closer to many other departments.