Oxford, Cut the Rent has published an updated set of demands in light of the introduction of a third UK lockdown and its expected impact on the upcoming university term.
In a statement on its Facebook page to launch new campaign graphics, Oxford, Cut the Rent said that “new demands specific to the situation are required to protect the wellbeing of students”. The campaign has also adapted its demands in response to feedback from students.
Its five demands are: Cut the Rent, Cut Unfair Fees, Protect Students, Protect Workers and End the Blame.
The campaign is calling for a permanent 30% reduction in rent across all colleges for the current academic year, with no penalties for rent strikers. It is also demanding a refund and free vacation residence for international students, many of whom have had to quarantine in Oxford after travelling from abroad.
The updated list of demands also calls for the provision of 2 free meals a day for students in quarantine, along with “adequate” mental health support for students throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
On the issue of staff pay, Oxford, Cut the Rent has said that it expects no redundancies or reductions in wages for college staff, including cleaners.
Lastly, the campaign is demanding an end to “the victimisation, blaming and scapegoating of students for COVID-19 infections and outbreaks” and “the culture of surveillance” which it says has been introduced in colleges.
The campaign was originally founded to lead a rent strike in Hilary term, which will now be delayed until Trinity 2021. The campaign has sought to reassure rent strikers anxious about the repercussions of withholding rent from colleges, pointing to the success of the University of Manchester rent strike in November.
Speaking to The Oxford Blue, a spokesperson for Oxford, Cut the Rent said: “it’s been really lovely to see the rent strike movement growing, both in Oxford and nationally across universities. We’re currently at 260 signups and counting for people that are onboard to withhold rent for Trinity term.”
The University’s Conference of Colleges told The Blue: “Students’ accommodation arrangements vary significantly. Contracts for college accommodation are a matter for individual colleges.”
“The recent government and University announcements mean that some students will not be able to return yet. This means a rebate will apply but the precise details of this must await clarification of the actual return arrangements.”
“All students who are affected financially by the pandemic, whether they live in college accommodation or not, can apply for college welfare or hardship support”.
Oxford, Cut the Rent will also support “college based campaigns” to achieve rent reductions, adding in its Facebook statement that “we are fighting this battle against 36 different landlords rather than 1”.
The University of Oxford yesterday announced that it has suspended its usual residency requirements for the entirety of Hilary term, meaning that students will be able to study remotely for all of the term.
The Government has said that most students should expect to receive online teaching until “mid-February” in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 in universities, but many students have expressed concern about being unable to return to Oxford for academic and mental health reasons.
The University of Oxford has also been contacted for comment.
Image source: Leeann Coller on Pixy