Meet the President
Wave your flags and strike up the marching band: Pembroke’s Junior Parlour Committee has elected a new President.
Pembroke’s Junior Parlour (JP) is run by a committee of students who take responsibility for a range of areas including welfare, food and bar, access, entertainments and charities.
Overseeing this team is the President, a current student who is voted for by the student body. Last week, Steph Willis (2011) completed her year as President and handed over to the newly elected Will Popplewell (2013).
We got them together to speak about the highs and lows of taking on this important role.
Can you start by telling us what the role of JP President involves?
Will: The main task of the JP President is working with the rest of the JP committee. We have 18 other members, so you need to make sure that the entire committee runs smoothly and that everyone knows what is happening. You are then the person who communicates this to the committee, the College and also the students. You act as a mediator I suppose.
Steph: Absolutely. You are the face of the College to the students and, a lot of the time, the face of the students to the College.
Steph, how was your year as President overall?
Steph: It was great! I loved it; I’m really glad I did it. I think it’s been so nice just to get a better idea of what goes on in the background of College. You can be so stuck in your little rut that you don’t see what actually makes it all work. It is just really nice to get an idea of that, whether it is just the bureaucratic processes or knowing who actually makes the College work. Getting to know students in all of the different year groups has also been really good. While I was President I didn’t think it was a very time consuming role, but now I have handed over to Will I realise how much time I used to spend going through emails! I hadn’t really appreciated that. But it was well worth it.
Steph: Freshers’ week was really great. It was crazy – I was at almost every event, so I didn’t get started on any academic work until a good way into the term! But it went really well. We knew it was important to get it right and I feel like we really did. Also, one of the things I’ve been most surprised about this year overall is how good College are at taking student concerns and doing something about them. Sometimes it seems to us that things move at a rather glacial pace, but really if we go to them with a sensible suggestion they will take action. It’s amazing. That has one of the best things about it and I think, speaking to some of the presidents at other colleges, that we are very lucky at Pembroke in that way.
If something does go wrong with a student event, you are the first one who gets a call. Sometimes it is half seven in the morning and you have no idea what is happening, but you have to go and find out. A few times when it came to the morning after the bop*, mess was left in the gardens or something like that. I would have to go to the Senior Tutor’s office and try to persuade him that we really were in control of things! It’s difficult, but it is all part of the role. I always felt like, as far as the College were concerned, things should stop with me. Then it was up to me to go and find out who did something and why.
Will, how do you feel as you start your year as President?
Will: I’m not apprehensive… yet. I’m really looking forward to seeing the whole process through from the beginning to the end. In my manifesto I stressed that I wanted to work with other people and bring the students’ concerns to College. I do want to try and address some issues in the constitution that cause confusion, such as the ongoing issue with frying pans! And I’m particularly looking forward to organising freshers’ week, because it is a great excuse to get to know all the new students. I was on the committee last year as Men’s Officer and so I was able to watch Steph and see how everything works. It is also useful because I already have good relationships with lots of the other people on the committee.
Steph, do you have any advice for Will?
Steph: Delegate. Lots. I think he’s going to do a great job. The most important thing is just maintaining good relationships with College and with the student body, and I’m sure Will will do that very well.
* Bop: A themed fancy dress party organised by the students. At Pembroke these happen about five times each year and take place in the Junior Parlour and bar.