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My first duty - and privilege – this week is to record my thanks to Charlotte Payne for her exceptional contribution to our college. Charlotte joined South as one of our very first Pioneer Scholars. She was involved in the preparations to launch South from the Spring of 2019 onwards. Charlotte’s contribution as a Pioneer Scholar, FREP and, of course, as successor to Richard Freeman as our JCR President has been truly exceptional.

She worked calmly, creatively and very hard to prepare a superb welcome for our 2021 Freshers. Her leadership during arrivals weekend was superb. I will miss Charlotte’s good humour and wisdom. I am sorry that she has resigned, but I understand entirely. Blessedly, and is often the case with highly effective leaders, Charlotte had assembled an excellent leadership team. JCR Vice-President Haf Serajee will lead the team until we have elected a new President. She will be ably assisted and supported by our chairman, Rawa Serwan. I am very grateful to Haf and Rawa. South JCR is in safe hands and will maintain the high standards that Charlotte and Richard worked so hard to establish.

Student democracy is at the heart of Durham’s wonderful collegiate system. So, please engage in the discussion with those who emerge as candidates to be our third JCR President. Above all, take part in the electoral process and encourage all who are eligible to attend the hustings and vote in the election. Democracy is not simply the best system of government in the world, it is intrinsic to the values we hold dear at South College. Your leaders are accountable to you because you elect them.  A vote that is not exercised is a vote wasted. Our ancestors gave their lives to secure the right to participate in the exercise of power. Whether in a general election, a referendum or a JCR election this right should be treated with the respect it deserves.

Another manifestation of student leadership is evident in the plethora of societies in existence at South and the new ones emerging.  I am delighted to see such enthusiasm for drama, sport, music, debating and myriad other activities. It has been great to see the Plaza, JCR and Nest alive with Southies. I hope the weather will remain good for a little longer and allow us all to make full use of our college’s wonderful public spaces indoor and outdoor. The nice weather appears to encourage our ducks too. I enjoy meeting them when I arrive every morning. Wise ducks know a fine college when they find one. Our ducks are clearly discerning.