Sidney's JCR President, Tom Bryan, has been letting us know more about his role and how he's been getting on living and studying away from Sidney this term.

Tom was elected as Sidney's JCR President earlier this year and he's here to fill us in on what he hopes to achieve in the role, what it's been like living away from Sidney this term, and what he's most looking forward to doing when he returns!

Why did you want to become JCR President?

This is an interesting one because I never wanted to be JCR President. I actually never wanted to come to university at all. My parents never went to university and I always envisaged myself just leaving school straight for work. I went to a normal state-comprehensive school that had never sent anyone to Cambridge before. However, my school was on the receiving end of some outreach work by Oxbridge Colleges through the area link scheme and they slowly won me over and convinced me to apply.

As a result, I’d always intended on getting involved with Access and Outreach if I were to get in so that I could hopefully inspire someone else like me to apply to university. That’s how I ended up running for Access Officer on the JCR. In my role as Access Officer I sat on the JCR’s Executive Committee and found myself taking an active role in the discussions it held. As part of my role I often found myself in conversation with senior College staff and it was only once I’d had a few of those conversations that I first realised I could be President. It took a lot of convincing from my friends (probably too much) but I eventually decided to run for it and I’ve really enjoyed it so far!

What are you hoping to achieve in your role as JCR President?

I think one of the most important things with a body that is designed to represent students is that students know how to engage with it and feel confident in doing so. When I first arrived at Sidney some aspects of the way the JCR worked were somewhat mysterious to me, like conduct at an open meeting and what all the different roles did. One of the things I’m hoping to achieve in my time as President is writing a ‘Guide to the JCR’ aimed at new undergraduates that explains how everything works and allows everyone who wants to get involved to do so with confidence.

I’m also hoping to increase our student welfare spending. We have three officers dedicated to student welfare; two social welfare officers and an academic welfare officer. Throughout the years, our Welfare Officers have always made exceptional use of their whole budget to deliver an event every couple of weeks during term (text-a-donut, cookie decorating, film nights) and put on the annual Sidney Bouncy Castle day in Easter Term. Sometimes other societies or officers don’t need to use their whole allocated budget in a year, I’d like to re-allocate some of this money towards the Welfare team who have shown that they will make good use of it.

How has it been living and studying away from College and how has this affected SSCSU’s activities?

It’s a real shame to be away from College at the moment. Sidney is at its prettiest during Easter Term with the sun shining and the gardens truly coming into their own. Some of my fondest memories from my first year were in Easter Term and I was really looking forward to spending another summer term in Sidney. On top of this, I was due to move into the room reserved for the JCR President on G staircase. The room is a large set and has views over Chapel Court - it’s a definite highlight of the role!

It’s been difficult studying away from Cambridge; there is something about moving away for university that allows you to really get into the mindset for study. As distracting as it can be to be surrounded on all sides by your friends in College, there is priceless value in their company. It’s also so easy to get help with your work in College, especially in a large subject like Natural Sciences. It would only take a few steps in the library in Easter Term to find someone working on the same subject as you. There’s absolutely no doubt that I’m not as productive at home as I am at university, but my Director of Studies and supervisors have been very understanding and there is no expectation that I’ll be hitting peak productivity at home. It’s also been nice to have JCR work to distract myself with every now and then to keep myself busy and occupied.

While Easter isn’t usually a very busy term for SSCSU, there are a few things that we always do and it’s a real shame to miss out on these this year. We’d normally welcome people back with a start of term bop in the bar and the Welfare team would put on their usual events in addition to the bouncy castle day.

Along with everyone else, we’ve been thrown online this term. We have done our best to replicate our usual activities though, and while we’d be pretty hard done by to come up with a virtual replacement for a bouncy castle, we have come up with alternative arrangements including: substituting the start of term bop for various live-streamed DJ sets by Sidney student DJs, running welfare events online when we can, and holding virtual meetings of the executive committee.

What are you most looking forward to doing when you return to Sidney?

Ah this is a really tricky one - so many things! I’m definitely looking forward to moving into my new room. I’ve always taken the time to carefully decorate my College rooms and really make them feel like home. I’m often the person to host gatherings of people in my room too (as the porters know!) and it’ll be great to do that in G1 and make proper use of the sofas. It’s also important to work out exactly how long it takes you to get from your College room to Sainsbury’s and this should be my shortest time yet, probably less than a minute!

Outside of moving into the new room and seeing friends again, I think the thing I’m most looking forward to is the inevitable Sidney Silent Disco, whenever it ends up happening. There are normally three Sidney Silent Discos a year and they are always one of the best nights of each term. Sidney knows how to do a Silent Disco properly and we have so many talented student DJs/playlist curators.

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