Committee Meeting 20160118

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1 Attendance

1.1 Present

Charlotte Attwood (CA, chair), Charles Board (CB), Philip Brown
(PB), Madeline Grimm (MG), Xanthe Gilmore (XG), Will Miller (WM),
Peppar Cyr (PC), Daniel Zimmerman (DZ), Mich Liebst (ML), Matt
Samson (MS), Dan Bowen (DB), Rob Gard (RG), Victor Chu & Verity
Smith (VC & VS, or Team V), Alina Kozlovski (AlKo), Chris Wilson
(CW), Johan Hendrikkson (JH), Spencer Brennan (SB),

1.2 Apologies

Gareth Mattey (GM), Jordan Hatter (JH), Isabel Estevez (IE),
Allison Kindig (AlKi)

2 Quorum

Quorum is 50 % + 1 of the number of members of the MCR Committee.
This correspond to 13 people; 18 were present, so quorum was
reached.

3 Minutes of last meeting

The minutes of the Commitee meeting on 30th November 2015 were
voted on.

Vote: For: 16. Against: 0. Abstained: 2 (members absent at this
time). Minutes passed.

4 Matters arising

4.1 Changes in Committee membership

CA raised two changes in MCR Committee membership. Nard Choi has
resigned from the Committee, citing a clash with other
commitments. Kim Harrisberg is keen to join as Women’s Officer,
to assist ML. The procedure for a second officer to join an
existing position midway through the year is a little nebulous –
the Constitution only explicitly covers appointment of an MCR
member to a role which is currently unoccupied. The procedure
usually is observed is for the President to appoint the new
Committee member, pending ratification at the next Open Meeting.
That procedure will be followed this time; Kim Harrisberg’s
request to join as Women’s Officer was approved pending support
at the February Open Meeting.

Action: Nard Choi has left the Committee. Kim Harrisberg’s
request to join ML as Women’s Officer will be put to a vote at
the next Open Meeting.

4.2 Protocol for dinners

CA drew attention to the current confusion over Burns Night
Dinner regarding booking opening times. Booking for guests had
opened at the same time as for MCR members, leading to many
members being unable to procure a ticket. In addition there was
some confusion over the dress code, as this is a Wednesday
dinner. This confusion may be due to a lack of firm protocol on
the issue – these dinners happen every year, and are essentially
the same, so perhaps a protocol for each one should be
established.

XG expanded on the idea of a protocol. For each black tie dinner,
it should cover when booking opens for MCR members and for
guests, how many people can book (usually dictated by whether the
dinner is on a Wednesday or a Friday), the dress code (black tie,
fancy dress), whether a seating plan is used, and whether MCR
members can bring their own wine, or if wine is purchased from
College.

A general discussion ensued on a few of the aspects of this
protocol. XG stated that in general people seemed more keen for
bring your own (BYO) wine, rather than wine provided by College
at around £10 per person. BYO is more flexible (you can choose
the wine you get and the money you spend), it allows more control
of your drinking (you can share a single bottle with a friend if
you want, rather than continually having your glass topped up),
and it prevents people being priced out of black tie dinners,
which approach £30 with wine. There was general assent.

The issue of seating plans was hotly debated. XG and CA were in
general opposed to the use of a seating plan. They add a
significant organisational effort on the part of the Stewards and
the Computing Officer, and an additional frantic rush to book
seats the second they open, which can unfairly penalise some MCR
members who e.g. can’t continually watch a website page at midday
because they have to do actual work. However, CB, MS and Pauline
Kiesow (PK) were in general in favour of a seating plan for all
black tie dinners. MS stated that this issue had been discussed
last year. It was felt that the role of the seating plan was to
allow people to enjoy pre-dinner drinks without having to leave
early in an attempt to procure a seat with friends. This makes
pre-dinner drinks much more enjoyable without a constant need to
be ready to leave. PK added that this had been a bit of a problem
at the Harry Potter Super Hall.

PB suggested this could be raised at the next Open Meeting. CA
reluctantly agreed.

PK asked how we should deal with guests (such as the Master) in
the absence of College wine being provided. RG stated that this
had been done last year – typically 1-2 bottles of £10-£15 wine
would be purchased for them.

XG asked about policy on gowns. CA explained the general rule:
gowns at Grad Halls on Wednesday, but not at anything else unless
explicitly required.

Action: Clear protocol on the various aspects of black tie
dinners to be added to Internal Ents handover notes. The issue of
seating plans and BYO to be raised at the next Open Meeting.

4.3 Committee reports

DB has been involved in the general smooth running of the Exec,
helped to buy alcohol, and attended the recent CUSU Conference.
The Conference had some interesting talks, but there’s no need to
discuss it with the whole Committee.

PB has also attended CUSU Conference, in between delivering on
his manifesto promises. An Archive page has been added to the MCR
website (behind a Raven login), containing documents such as the
Fresher’s Week poster and the MCR’s position statements on rent
and street lighting. This should both help to improve the MCR
Committee’s transparency (the wider MCR can see what we’ve
written on their behalf), and preserve these documents for the
use of future Committees. In addition, as agreed at the last
Committee Meeting, meeting minutes will now be posted on a web
page open to the wider internet (and hence to Google etc.), as
well as being uploaded as a .pdf. PB rather optimistically
suggested that the easiest way to do this would be just to remove
Raven protection from the current minutes system. The tender,
juicy prey of this idea was immediately torn to shreds by a rabid
dog pack composed of CB, CA and many others. They argued that
those minutes had been uploaded on the understanding they would
be private, and we should not retroactively expose them. PB
reluctantly agreed to make a new web page system to upload public
minutes to.

WM and XG stated that Internal Ents had been up to their usual
tricks. Super Hall themes had been decided on, and a busy
termcard for Lent organised. They are looking at music for the
Garden Party and Annual Dinner; one act has already been booked.
WM raised the possibility of having a Trinity Hall singer perform
at the Garden Party; this was generally felt to be a good idea.
Internal Ents will discuss this with the JCR, who are perhaps
more likely to be able to provide acts. Internal Ents are also
looking for a DJ to perform after this term’s Super Hall. XG
added that, as well as working to organise these events, she had
been involved in liasing with the Conference Office over issues
with Burns Night Dinner booking. Apparently this had been a
complex task, but hopefully everything was sorted now. MS
suggested that often the easiest way to get results was to go in
person to the Conference Officer.

ML has had a meeting with the Master regarding events celebrating
the 40th anniversary of women being admitted to Trinity Hall.
College are in general keen to do a small number of large events,
working primarily with alumni. There was disappointingly little
interaction planned with the MCR; likely we could provide a few
guests to a large dinner event. To make up for this, ML suggested
expanding the Women in Academia event run by the MCR, in
particular making this a lunchtime event and trying to improve
attendance. This was generally agreed to be a good idea, pending
budgetary approval.

Fiscal overlord CB stated that the accounts had finally been
submitted to College, for the first time in six years – thanks to
Tobias Wenzel for all his work on this. As a reward College has
just paid us £12,000, so an MCR Committee Holiday to e.g. Spain
or Italy is now feasible. CB is in the process of sorting the
budget for this year; most Committee roles have now submitted
requests, but a few are still outstanding.

MG and RG have been involved in sorting details for the upcoming
Burns Night dinner, e.g. procuring whisky.

MS and SB have been working on securing a high-quality speaker
for the Annual Dinner, as well as taking over running of the Vice
Vivam award, and starting the initiative of interviewing MCR
members in a range of subjects to post on the website. MS also
mentioned that MCR members should consider taking part in the
Alumni Office’s Calling Campaign. This will help College and
improve the MCR rapport with alumni.

AlKo and CW have looked at running study groups at a range of
different times. By far the most successful has been the one
outside term time. They may look at discontinuing study groups
during the term in favour of more over the holidays. They have
also been working on organisation for the McLuhan Symposium, and
attempting to run a ‘Meet the Postdocs’ event, though this is
reliant on the postdocs responding.

JH has initiated a few events. Firstly, the Green New Year’s
Resolutions on the MCR noticeboard has a few resolutions, though
not all of them are green. There are plans for a Sustainable
Bakeoff, likely in early February. In addition, to maintain Fair
Trade status the MCR needs to run a few Fair Trade events. One of
these could be a film night, for which a small budget of £50 was
requested. CB stated that he could likely relinquish his iron
grip on the MCR’s funds for this.

PC had been involved in running Welfare Tea, and thanked XG for
doing the dishes, a sentiment echoed by the rest of the
Committee. PC had also attended the CUSU Conference, adding that
other colleges had commented on the good attendance and general
likeability of the Trinity Hall MCR Committee delegates to the
conference. PC was also planning a couple of talks this term, on
topics such as impostor syndrome.

Team V had been busy. Construction on the MCR jacuzzi is likely
to begin at the end of this month. Three swaps have been
organised for this term, and two for next term. There will be a
swap next term with University College in Oxford. MS asked Univ
to please stop stealing our stuff; Team V explained that this
year we’d be going to Oxford so would have a chance to indulge in
some reciprocal larceny, a prospect met with general approval by
the MCR Committee. In addition, Team V were looking at organising
a trip to the Globe Theatre. There was a discussion over the
merits of sitting vs. standing tickets. Finally, Team V suggested
that, as they’d been running at a profit over the last year, and
the MCR finances were generally good, we could consider the
possibility of an MCR foreign trip, perhaps subsidised by the
Committee. This was an intriguing idea, and it was generally felt
a subsidy might be possible but further details of the trip would
need to be established.

DZ has been involved in organising a Pembroke swap, and an LGBT+
film night. Attendance for the film night was rather low, so for
future film nights it would be emphasised that all MCR members
are welcome to attend, not just those identifying as LGBT+.
February is LGBT+ History month, and some colleges will be
raising the rainbow flag on the first day of the month. DZ had
suggested this to Trinity Hall, but it may be difficult as
College doesn’t have a flag and would probably be reluctant to
buy one.

CA has been involved in general presidential activity. The plan
to get an MCR dishwasher has been torpedoed by College; we should
be grateful for the opportunity to retain the community spirit
and charitable attitude that washing other people’s dishes by
hand engenders. Many meetings have been had with a menagerie of
College fellows. The discussions on accommodation will be
elaborated on later.

4.4 CARA petition

Lilia Giugna presented a petition presented to the MCR and
University regarding CARA, the Campaign for at-risk Academics, in
the light of the ongoing Syrian crisis. Many students have been
considering what they can do regarding the current crisis; the
petition supporters felt that the most effective action would be
to team up with an established charity. CARA is an existing
charity which supports persecuted academics and provides support
for them at British universities.

A petition in support of CARA in Cambridge has already been
presented circulated on the MCR Facebook page. It approximately
states that the University should recognise the importance of
CARA, support CARA in Cambridge by allowing Cambridge to become
an organisational hub for the charity, and host at-risk
academics, providing financial support, housing etc. The petition
is also encouraging students to crowdfund a single graduate
student bursary, attempting to raise £30k to cover tuition fees.

Trinity Hall MCR was requested to sign the petition as an
institution (this has already been done by Fitzwilliam and
Magdelene colleges), encourage its members to sign as
individuals, and support CARA fundraising efforts, e.g. allowing
a donations box or a raffle at black-tie dinners. The text of the
petition was read. There was general assent that fundraising on
behalf of CARA could go ahead, and that this issue should be
raised at the next Open Meeting where we could vote on whether
the MCR should sign as an institution.

Debate ensued on whether the Trinity Hall MCR Committee should
sign the petition as a Committee, then present the issue to the
wider MCR. Some felt that the Committee could sign the petition
without this binding the whole MCR to its support; others
believed that providing a Committee signature would imply support
of the MCR on an issue which hasn’t yet been put to all the
members, and thus be unrepresentative. The question of whether
the MCR Committee should sign was put to a vote.

Vote: For: 7. Against: 7. Abstained: 1. Motion failed.

Action: CARA petition to go to next Open Meeting; MCR can vote to
sign it there. Circulation on MCR pages looking for personal
signatures, and fundraising efforts, approved.

4.5 Accommodation update

CA stated that the venerable Bateman Street accommodation will be
retired from this September. The shortfall in graduate housing
will be made up for by additional rooms for grads in Wychfield,
primarily New Build. CA has already raised the issue of the
obvious price differences (Bateman was among the cheapest MCR
accommodation, New Build is the most expensive). College stated
that they could increase the availability of bursaries to assist
anyone struggling financially. CA would meet with the Junior
Bursar in the next week, and raise these conerns regarding the
rapid increase in cheap rooms (particularly with the pending 10 %
rent rise next October for LF and WC).

DZ stated that College needed to make it much clearer about the
availability of bursaries, to general agreement. Often the
application process for bursaries is rather opaque, and many
students are likely not aware of their existence. CA added that
College thought the MCR takeup of available bursaries was rather
low; more should be done to advertise these.

The discussion moved to the topic of rent banding, and having a
range of differently-priced rooms. MS stated that the Bursary had
previously suggested the MCR could have more of a role in setting
rents, provided the total income for College remained the same.
For example, we could suggest increasing the price of New Build
but keeping LF and WC cheaper. PB added that this was a topic
which had been mentioned at the recent CUSU Conference: while
rent reductions are very unlikely, colleges in general are more
likely to be open to allowing price differentiation so students
with less money still have options for college accommodation. We
should therefore make some efforts to protect this in Trinity
Hall, which previously had done very well with a wide selection
of prices, from cheap (but poor-quality) Bateman Street to very
expensive (but excellent) New Build. Now there is a steady drift
towards more and more expensive accommodation. In addition, the
argument regarding bursaries is not entirely convincing, because
it’s very unlikely that the money given out in bursaries (of
which the number provided will presumably be very small) will
make up for all the additional income that will come from forcing
more grads to live in New Build. The net result for the MCR is a
dramatic increase in grad rental costs.

CA added that at the next Finance Committee meeting, the MCR was
planning to propose the establishment of a more formal approach
to rent setting by College, in light of the issues of the last
two years. This would involve the Bursary presenting their
proposal to the MCR well in advance of the meeting (e.g. one
month), to allow the MCR to prepare a counter proposal. This
would then be discussed at the Finance Committee.

DZ added that he had been asked by College to vacate his room for
a long period to allow checking of electrical devices etc. CB
replied that usually this process only takes an hour or so.

4.6 Budget discussions

CB introduced the topic of a budget for this year; presumably
such a document would be desirable. While the final budget is
still incomplete, the basic framework is outlined. It will likely
be similar to last year’s one, with a few minor changes.

DZ wanted money, and wanted to know what could be asked for.
Copies of last year’s budgeted and actual spending were passed
around.

CA said that the MCR has some excess money after the bitter
austerity of Tobias Wenzel’s regime. What should be done with
this money? CA’s suggestion was subsidising either Grad Halls or
Super Halls, as this was likely to reach the most members of the
MCR. There was the usual extended debate about which to
subsidise. The change to the Grad Hall subsidy would likely be
around £1, while for Super Halls (because there are fewer of
them) the subsidy could be higher. CB suggested that we should
think about the purpose of the subsidy in the first place – is it
to encourage attendance at dinners, or to make them cheaper? MS
added that Grad Hall was considered by College to be an important
focal point of MCR life, so increased attendance there would be
beneficial. In addition, this is likely the best way to reach a
lot of people. DZ added that Super Halls already sell out, so
there seems no need to subsidise them. However, DB noted that if
the subsidy were applied to Grad Hall, you would have to go to
more dinners to get the same saving – in fact such a subsidy
would end up costing you money. This caused a brief pause for
reflection.

External Ents suggested that the money could go towards a single
event; Super Halls are already fully booked (so there’s no need
to encourage attendance), and Grad Halls are already subsidised.
We could potentially benefit more members of the MCR by running
an event rather than slightly reducing the price of dinners. CB
suggested that External Ents should think about such events and
present more detailed plans to him.

CA noted that the JCR haven’t been paid for MCR use of their
societies. CB responded that they hadn’t asked to be; CA
suggested that this seemed rather unfair.

MS raised the issue of newspaper subscriptions. These have long
been a significant fraction of the MCR’s budget for seemingly
little actual benefit to its members. CB stated that the number
of newspapers provided by the MCR had been quite dramatically
cut, but some were still being purchased, to the general disgust
of PB. It was decided that we would continue the reduced newpaper
purchase and see if anyone either complained or actually read
them, pending further changes later in the year.

MS also raised the issue of GU subscriptions; CB replied that the
GU hadn’t asked for payment for the previous year. PB went on a
long rant about the large number of issues the GU has been
plagued with over the last few years, stating that we should not
under any circumstances pay them any money whatsoever until there
is convincing evidence they could be run effectively. CA and DB
replied that while perhaps this was true, they had been bought a
tasty free dinner by this year’s GU President so perhaps things
were being turned around.

CB stated that a few Committee roles had yet to submit budget
requests; the budget could not be finalised until this was done.

Action: All Committee roles to submit budget requests. CB to
finalise this year’s budget.

5 Any other business

Mercifully there was no other business.

6 Date of next meeting

TBC. The Open Meeting will likely be Feb. 1st.