2017 General Meeting

Date of Meeting

    2017 General Meeting

    Date: Sunday 6th week, Hilary 2017 (2017-02-19)


    Hilary Term 6th Week GM Agenda


    1. Matters Arising

      1. Rent (Richard Ware and Julia Davis)

    2. Amendments to Governing Documents

    3. Motions Relating to Financial Matters

      1. Fairtrade Coffee in Pantry (Josh Jones)

      2. Punting (Zack Leather)

      3. Sponsor a Child (Zack Leather)

      4. Funding for Panoptica Magazine (Simran Uppal)

    4. Any Other Motions

      1. Main site tumble dryers (Alice Camilleri and Flora Spiel)

    5. Appendices

      1. Appendix 1

      2. Appendix 2



    1. Matters Arising
      1. Rent
        1. This JCR Notes

          1. The current Dynamic Rent Pricing System (see appendix 1)

          2. That, due to this system, there are currently more than 100 different room prices

          3. That under the current system, rooms which are not chosen do not change in price, while half of the rooms which are chosen do go down in price

          4. That the most expensive rooms in college are currently twice the price of the cheapest rooms in college

          5. That if we keep DRPS then this difference will get more pronounced

          6. That Richard’s previously proposed alteration to DRPS does not, even in principle, work

          7. The newly proposed system, DRPS 2.0 (see appendix 2)

        2. This JCR Believes

          1. That there should be fewer room prices

          2. That rooms which are not chosen are in reality ‘chosen’ last

          3. That the rent pricing system should reflect this fact

          4. That it doesn’t matter very much if some rooms are much more expensive than others

          5. That DRPS 2.0 achieves these aims


        1. This JCR Resolves

          1. To implement DRPS 2.0

        1. Amendment

          1. Remove ‘Believes’ 2., 3., 4., & 5., and replace with:

            1. That it does matter if some rooms are much more expensive than others.

            2. That DRPS is too complicated for its own good, and that we should abandon ship

          2. Remove ‘Resolves’ 1., and replace with:

            1. To suspend DRPS permanently

            2. To round each room’s price to the nearest £100

            3. To mandate the Housing Officer to use some system, possibly modelled on DRPS, to keep track of room popularity

            4. To mandate the Housing Officer to assess the pricing of rooms before each year’s rent negotiations and to propose new pricing when appropriate

    Amendment (friendly) passes!!

    Strikes resolves 1 and replaces with: To mandate Julia to consider and consult the JCR on the most appropriate level of inequality between least and most expensive rooms and to devise a price rescaling system to be proposed at a future GM.


    1. Amendments to Governing Documents
    2. Motions Relating to Financial Matters
      1. Fairtrade Coffee in Pantry (Josh Jones)
        1. This JCR notes

          1. That currently pantry buys in rainforest alliance certified tea but it's coffee is unregulated

          2. Currently the pantry spends £23 on each order of coffee, having to make an order every 1 and a half weeks. That is a grand total of £414 per year if pantry is open for 9 weeks a year.

          3. We can buy fairtrade coffee for £40 per order, that is a grand total of £720 per year using the same timeframe and an increase of £306. This is just an additional 46p per cup of coffee.

          4. Pantry naturally dislikes raising prices and would require support to make our coffee fairtrade.

        2. This JCR believes

          1. That fairtrade goods are an uncompromisable ethical standard that give people a fair wage and therefore has far reaching consequences in terms of education, medical care and the environment.

        3. The JCR resolves

          1. To pass over to pantry £306 every year to pantry to allow the purchase of fairtrade coffee without an upfront price rise in pantry.



    Year = term in i.2


    Amendment (friendly) passes

    Strike resolves 1 and replace with: To mandate foodies to have fairtrade instant coffee.


      1. Punting (Zack Leather) passes
        1. This JCR Notes:

          1. The JCR has historically purchased a punt to be used in Trinity Term.

          2. That all JCR members are batteled equally for this punt, and then may sign up at the lodge to use the punt (free of charge) throughout the term, with a time limit of two hours per booking.

          3. That punts normally cost about £5 per person per hour.

          4. That each JCR member would be charged £3.50 to hire a punt for a term.

          5. That early booking will allow us to use the punt from 0th to 9th week, with the normal 0th week cost being waived. This is what was done last year.

          6. That the JCR treasurer received two quotes for punts this year. One of them was for a boathouse a long way away, which charges £600 more than the boathouse that we’ve normally used, which is by Magdalen Bridge and therefore quite close.

          7. The Treasurer is currently mandated to bring this motion the last GM of term.

        2. This JCR Believes:

          1. That Hilary Term is cold and dark (but still really great).

          2. That Trinity Term is warmer and lighter.

          3. That punting is fun.

          4. The JCR likes things that are close and cheap more than things that are expensive and far away.

          5. That the existing system is fair and also allows JCR members to use the punt fairly often.

          6. That the Treasurer is sometimes keen and/or there are financial benefits to ordering the punt earlier in Hilary Term.

        3. This JCR Resolves:

          1. To book a punt for use by JCR members in Trinity Term from weeks 0 to 9.

          2. To organise punt usage in the same manner as last year.

          3. To take this motion as a fulfillment of the treasurer's mandate to bring this to the final GM of term


    Amendment passes

    To mandate Zack in particular to bring the memorial David Bagg opposition to this motion since some people don’t like punting (while Zack is at this college)


      1. Sponsor a Child (Zack Leather) passes
        1. This JCR Notes

          1. That the JCR does not currently sponsor a child

          2. That the JCR decided not to sponsor a child because better charitable causes were available

          3. That the JCR is charged a termly sponsor a child levy

          4. That there is currently around £165 in the sponsor a child fund not being used to sponsor a child

          5. That we now use a rigorous method to decide which charities get our money

        2. This JCR believes

          1. That we have little reason to believe that circumstances have changed since the JCR’s past decision on sponsoring a child not being worth it.

        3. This JCR resolves

          1. To transfer all the money currently in the sponsor a child account into the charities account, and to close the sponsor a child account

          2. To subsume the sponsor a child compulsory levy into the JCR funds levy, not changing how much anyone is charged.


    Amendment passes

    Strike resolves 1 and replace with: Remind the charities officers to figure out where this money goes to keeping in mind its intention.


      1. Funding for Panoptica Magazine (Simran) passes
        1. This JCR notes:

          1. Balliol has a strong history of supporting arts, culture and feminist and similar causes.

          2. Panoptica Magazine is a new arts and politics magazine, focussed around liberation politics; PAN is a free, open space for intersectional art and discourse, and covers arts, culture, philosophy and politics as well as travel, food and drink.

          3. The PAN team has a significant Balliol presence, with Simran Uppal a co-founder and editor in chief, and Indigo Wilde as an advisor and designer. Many other members of the JCR are contributors. Many members of the team have professional or much student journalism experience, meaning that the magazine will be of a very high quality.

          4. PAN has already had huge success online since launching over the summer, with an online following comparable with or greater than much older start-ups, such as VERSA and Notes. The first print edition has been praised by the creative director of GQ and many other creatives and journalists.

          5. The JCR passed £200 pounds for PAN’s first edition last term (MT16) in return for a number of copies, as it has done regularly for similar publications.

          6. The JCR recently reduced its subscription to Cherwell to redirect funds from unread printed newspapers to other publications of interest to the JCR.

          7. PAN’s second edition is coming to print in Trinity next year. JCR funding is necessary to bring this magazine to an Oxford audience in print.

        2. This JCR believes:

          1. Balliol should continue to support arts, culture, continue to support discourse to tackle issues of gender, racial and other inequalities.

          2. PAN is filling a niche no other publication does. There is already a demonstrable and large audience for the magazine.

        3. This JCR proposes that:

          1. The JCR donates £200 towards PAN in exchange for 15 copies of PAN’s second edition.

    1. Any Other Motions
      1. Main site tumble dryers (Alice Camilleri and Flora Spiel) passes!
        1. This JCR notes:

          1. That the dryers in the main site laundry room are extremely old and barely functioning at best.

          2. That currently, only dryer 2 is successfully drying clothes and this is not consistent.

          3. That students on main site are regularly having to deal with wet clothes after a two-hour laundry stint.

        2. This JCR believes:

          1. That having access to working tumble dryers is a basic right in the JCR and right now this is not happening.

          2. That all three tumble dryers should be replaced with new, working ones

          3. That these dryers should not be overly expensive but decent enough models to provide a good investment for the JCR (will cost around £1000 each).

        3. This JCR resolves:

          1. Mandate Zack to look over our current contract with JLA and see if it is possible to maintain said contract and order three replacement dryers from them using JCR funds.

          2. To basically provide everyone with dry clothes because frankly who wants wet laundry – no one.


    Amendment (friendly)

    Strike resolves 1 and 2 and replace with: To mandate Zack to ring JLA and try his bestest to get dryers and washers fixed, and to initiate negotiations with colleges to take over.


    1. Appendices
      1. Appendix 1

    There are 217 rooms up for grabs each year. Of these, 82 are ‘traditionally fresher’ rooms (staircases 20 &22, and most of sc.15). These are almost never chosen by returning students. Of the remaining 135, about 80 get chosen each year, about 10 are allocated as welfare rooms, and the remaining 45 are (mostly) filled by freshers. Currently, almost every room has a different price. Each year, after room choosing, the price of each room is updated for the subsequent year depending on the position on the ballot in which it was chosen. The rule for updating is this:

    Some rooms in college are underpriced, some are overpriced. The idea behind the dynamic system is that this will be reflected in the position a room is chosen on the ballot: if a room is a bargain, generally it will be snapped up quickly; if it is too expensive then no one will choose it. To counteract this, rooms chosen early subsequently become more expensive, and vice versa. This system has two definite problems, and one possible problem.


        1. Definite:

          1. The 45ish non-fresher rooms which are not chosen do not change in price. This makes it look like they are better than those chosen 41-80 (since these rooms get cheaper). But the unchosen rooms are worse than 41-80, because everyone chose 41-80 above them. The system should reflect this fact. What’s more, these unchosen rooms then get palmed off on freshers, who get a bad deal.

          2. There are currently more than 100 different room prices. This is a pain in the arse for everyone.

        2. Possible:

          1. At present, the most expensive rooms in college (~£2,000/term) are just over twice the price of the cheapest rooms (~£1,000/term). There are plenty of JCR members with enough money that the price of a room doesn’t affect their choice, so the most expensive rooms keep getting chosen high up the ballot, so they keep getting more expensive. This will probably keep happening, so the most expensive rooms will keep getting more expensive.


    A positive aspect of this is that every time an expensive room gets more expensive, another (few) room(s) get cheaper, so it can be seen as the richer students subsidising the rest of the JCR.


    A negative aspect is that some rooms are completely unaffordable to plenty of JCR members. The JCR might think that any student who really prioritises having a nice room should be able to afford any room. This is not possible at present, and will get worse as DRPS goes on.


      1. Appendix 2

    Same number of rooms etc. as before.


    Step 1:

    Remove the ‘traditionally fresher’ rooms from the dynamic system, and round their price to the nearest £100. These then only change price by the fixed percentage agreed for all rooms at rent negotiations; if the Housing Officer proposes an adjustment to these prices (say to make the cheaper ones cheaper and the more expensive ones more expensive, or something else).


    Step 2

    Change the annual price updating rule to:

    Welfare rooms will automatically not change in price for the subsequent year.

    (You’ll notice that the total rent change for this table isn’t £0, as it should be since it’s just a re-ordering. This doesn’t matter because: the actual number of rooms chosen each year varies, and I’ve come up with a clever way to make Excel automatically adjust this slightly so that, in the end, total rent change is £0.)


    This resolves the problem of unchosen rooms ‘appearing’ to be chosen middle.


    Step 3

    Introduce a new step into the pricing process. Each room still has an individual ‘true’ price, which gets updated by this rule. This will be the figure which increases by the percentage agreed at rent negotiations. This will be one column in the spreadsheet.


    There will also be another column which is just each room’s ‘true’ price rounded to the nearest £100. This will be the price that everyone apart from the Housing Officer has to deal with, and is what you’ll pay in rent.


    Without this two-stage system, DRPS wouldn’t really work properly: if we rounded the prices first then we’d end up with loads of different prices pretty quickly again; or, if we rounded the prices each year, all but the +£50 change would make no difference.


    This resolves the ‘fuckton of different prices’ problem.



    The total amount of rent paid by the JCR won’t actually increase by the percentage agreed at rent negotiations: some rooms will pass a price barrier (£1050, £1150, or £1250) and so increase by £100 for the next year, others won’t pass that barrier and so will actually stay the same price. Gains and losses should, in the long run, cancel each other out, but it’s worth noting.

    Importantly, under this system the difference between most and least expensive rooms will likely get more pronounced, as more rooms will be dropping in price while the most expensive will be getting even more expensive.


    GM 6th Week Minutes


    Simran brings a procedural motion to go first, no one objects.


    £200 for Panopitca passed last term and this is similar to other publications the JCR supports. Will this motion be brought again? Yes. How often do they come out? Twice a year. How much do we pay for similar publications? £200 for Cuntry living, which comes out termly. The first edition have already been used! We don’t want all the copies to go to 15 people, Simran will top it up informally and we might get more like 30. Some could come to the library so they don’t go so quickly. No objections and the motion passes.


    Richard: The moral question facing the JCR is: do we want unequal prices which means some rooms becoming cheaper or do we want all rooms the same price, so less inequality but higher minimum prices? Julia then explained the current system - see appendix 1. In the old days there were 6 price bands which changed with inflation. Under DRPS (dynamic rent pricing system) hopefully rooms drift closer to their true value. However there are enough people in the JCR who have enough money that room prices don’t affect them. So for example staircase 12 is getting very very expensive.


    This motion will fix the problem of unchosen rooms coming out as medium rather than terrible, and will fix the multiple very particular prices problem. It will not change the massive inequality in room prices, the JCR needs to decide if this is something we want to change. It may actually make this more pronounced. From year to year the difference between the most and least expensive term price could go up by hundreds of pounds.


    The other option is we could give this whole system up because it’s complicated, and we don’t like the increasing inequality. The Housing officer could be mandated to tinker with this on a room by room basis. Then Richard made a sick burn on Julia by accident it was great.


    Do rooms get changed often?

    Not very often and even when they do not very dramatically. Either option would deal with this eventually.


    Is there a reason why the best reason couldn’t keep increasing and increasing forever?

    Hopefully it would keep oscillating at the top or bottom without spiralling out of control. In general this would need to be reviewed, say in 5 years.


    What is the ‘true value’ of a room?

    It’s what people are willing to pay. Is that actually true value? Richard: Interesting q, ask an economist.


    How do you know when a room is at its ‘true value’?

    Richard: We don’t have very much data yet, but in a few years the housing officer should be able to make some nice graphs and find out.


    Hugo: Could we try squishing the prices together when they reach a certain point? We could use the DRPS but keep a handle on the outer bounds by dictating a certain level of inequality and forcing prices to stay within those bounds. We’d lose the rounded numbers though.


    How important are the round number prices?

    We could round afterwards anyway if we decide they’re important.


    Hubert summarises the two options facing the JCR.


    Richard approves of the ‘squishing’ option and feels it may be worth mandating the housing officer to do this after a certain point. Zack suggests a system which ranks rooms by quality and then compares this to their price and lines them up, in bands. Richard already came up with this but the prices didn’t scale together so the total rent paid by the JCR kept going down, which College objected to. More complicated options are undesirable because institutional memory is so poor and we need something that will last.


    Antonia thinks the difference between the top and the bottom is less important than the question of what kind of price will deter the top of the ballot from choosing a really good room? Difficult to measure, you would need a survey. Richard  agrees this is precisely what matters and what the hard cap tries to achieve. Other methods would be hard Richard says, as people may not be happy to divulge financial information and taking an average would still isolate half the JCR. He feels the bracketing option still better even though it would be arbitrary. We want *everyone* to be able to afford the nicest room, if that’s what they wanted to prioritise in their budget. Julia doesn’t understand. Then she does. Would anyone answer the online survey? Antonia thinks they would if it was anonymous.


    Hubert directs the conversation to ‘do we want inequality’?


    Julia wants to know about Hugo’s scaling procedure - the idea is to reduce the differences between the prices by slightly raising all the prices below the median and reducing the prices above the median, keeping the proportions between the prices the same.


    Support was voiced for the dynamic rents system, especially with the scaling amendment added. Although maybe with it structured for percentages, so it will continue to work after inflation.


    Zack - with this will it spiral out and then contract? Richard - maybe, but we mostly care about the middle so it doesn’t matter. Zack says that this problem is mostly there if people aren’t very price sensitive, which they probably are in a lot of cases. Richard emphasises that it’s mostly one staircase moving away from the pack, and everywhere else people seem to be having to weigh quality against price.


    Jonny suggests we scale every year - have the same difference between the top and least most expensive at all times rather than scaling at any point we decide it’s necessary.


    This was approved generally.


    Separately to the squishing Richard notes that with the rounding we sometimes pay more sometimes less, year on year, College is ok with this.


    Amrita is concerned that if there are less enthusiastic Housing officers then this will go wrong, Richard thinks the hard maths of the functions can be programmed into a spreadsheet to make it very easy.


    Hubert calls for a straw poll on: Do we want to scrap DRPS?


    Straw poll revealed everyone likes dynamic rents and Hubert summarises the following possible variations:

    1. Set hard top and bottom

    2. Set hard top

    3. Squish it (variable)

    4. Let it go on as it is.

    Richard thinks that only the last two are viable, but if we alter the first 2 in line with inflation then they could work.


    Hugo points out you can use the squishing thing to achieve the hard top and bottom issue.


    Ali asks if we could end up with everything ending up in the middle and people being priced out of all rooms entirely. Richard thinks not because there’s a spread of JCR preferences and spiralling out is more likely.


    Hugo says we could draw the line at a different point, say at the top 20%, say we don’t care about those rooms getting very expensive and subsidising the bottom as long as there are decent rooms available to everyone.


    Cameron asks how many of these extreme rooms are there? Richard says there are only 8 at the moment, but there is a general trend otherwise. Hugo says the inequality scales with the amount it subsidises cheaper rooms. Richard disagrees. Jonny: If you do the hard cap, every time you push out you squish in, do you not mess up what the middle range prices are doing? If only the tops and bottom are spiralling then the middle rooms will not change as dynamically.


    Richard hadn’t thought about it, but thinks that the change will be damped, not eradicated. Dynamic pricing will happen, but not quickly.  


    Alex asked how different in size the rooms are? Five times ish but that’s not a good measure of the value of the rooms.


    -  Can we get on with it?


    Yes, Richard withdraws his amendment. (the one to scrap DRPS)


    A new amendment was brought to mandate Julia (and Hugo) devise an appropriate level of inequality and bring it to a GM again. Hubert asks if anyone objects. No one does. The motion passes with the amendment.


    Josh explains - jcr give money, we get fairtrade coffee, you experience no price increase.


    Alex explains that he doesn’t care about fairtrade coffee but the money will either come from the Jcr in this form, or in pantry making lower surpluses, or from increased prices.


    Zack disagrees as the bank account for pantry is the same as the bank account for the jcr generally, so this is just hiding pantry losses. He feels that the jcrs money could be better spent on charities that achieve this goal, coffee isn’t an effective way to do this. He also feels that some of the price increase goes to nicer coffee, that we shouldn’t spread the cost of.


    Josh points out that lots of other colleges and universities are fairtrade accredited and Balliol is well behind the times. Zack says this wasn’t his point - he doesn’t feel that being fairtrade is important.


    Felix feels that this is a very important change, other ways are also important obviously, but it’s important to change the way things are perceived. He feels that we can’t support businesses that cause the problems we’re trying to change by donating to charity as it’s contradictory.


    Alex points out that the filter coffee is already fairtrade, and the tea is rainforest alliance.


    Richard voices support, says he agrees we shouldn’t be ‘fighting against ourselves’ and that we might make less of a loss from the nicer coffee if it is actually nicer. We also don’t want to hide the cost to pantry by taking this money from elsewhere, particularly with institutional memory.


    An amendment to adjust handover packs amendment went in and then came straight out.


    Zack summarises that either we want to give lots with one hand and take a little with the other or just give less and take nothing.


    Alex says it would be fine because we give to charity all the time and this is just that.


    Zack says then why not just mandate pantry get fairtrade coffee so we don’t muddle the accounts.


    Hugo agrees why not just mandate pantry buy fairtrade coffee.


    Alex doesn’t want to have to face the trade off decision of maybe losing the fairtrade coffee when he’s mandated to not lose too much money.


    Hugo says the bar is already quite a long way below their current level so why would this be an issue, if they get close then they can re address the situation.


    Josh says could we extend the loss buffer for pantry so that they don’t face this issue.


    Richard agrees and Hugo proposes an amendment to scrap resolves one and just mandate that the Foodies buy fairtrade coffee. The buffer won’t be an issue because they would be mandated to buy fairtrade coffee anyway.


    The amendment passes. The Motion is voted on and passes.


    Punting. Some people don’t like punting. Much hilarity. The motion passes with a joke amendment.


    Sponsor a child -

    We no longer sponsor a child and we want to do something with the money and close the account.


    Richard feels that we need to give the money to charities specifically for educational purposes.


    Zack feels that it’s more democratic for the money to go to causes actually chosen in the general JCR process by the people who donated the money (ie the people who’ve been here the last few terms.


    Richard proposed an amendment to remind charities officers to do their jobs as specified last year and find a good charity. This passes and the motion as a whole has no opposition.


    Tumble dryers.


    Alice proposes we replace the dryers


    Felix asks what the contract is? We own the dryers and they are obligated to come and fix them when they break. They should be coming tomorrow. (Monday 20th Feb)


    Laura points out they are not doing a good job at fixing them, could we ask them to do more. Hubert says we are thinking about getting a new contract, Keeley is looking into it.


    How much is this?


    About £900 each, so 3 grand ish total.


    Ali  - would that cost cover breakage cover? No, we currently spend £1400 on a breakage cover. Go figure.


    Who is responsible to look after it? The treasurer is but not officially.


    Richard feels we should push to have college take over again, which wouldn’t cost much more but is much more effective, hopefully.


    Zack brought an amendment to get rid of the resolves and replace them with mandate Zack to negotiate a relationship with college and fix them in the meantime. This passed, and the motion faced no objections.