Bristol University students to hold a rent strike in response to quarantined halls

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By Emilie Robinson, Digital News Editor

‘Bristol, Cut the Rent’, a coalition of students campaigning to reduce rent in University halls, are planning a rent strike from next Saturday, 24 October, and demand a 30 per cent rent reduction.

The group announced yesterday that since Wednesday, 16 October, they have amassed 450 signups, with over 100 people registering their support for the strike in the 24 hours from Thursday.

The group are calling for as many students as possible to stop paying their rent ‘until the University treats its students better’ and the following demands are met:

• No repercussions for rent strikers

• 30% cut of the rent for the whole year for those who decide to stay in halls

• No-penalty contract releases and deposit refunds for anyone who wishes to move out of halls

The group are also calling for ‘more of the University in terms of their response to students in isolation’, and are demanding that:  

• Students in locked-down halls be guaranteed at least 1 hour of time in outside communal halls spaces

• Food boxes to be delivered to flats

• Regular mental health check-ins twice a week with each flat by Resilife

• Full transparency on the powers, role and actions of any security staff enforcing lockdown in halls

Connor Nicol, one of the organisers of the campaign, told Epigram: ‘I think with the momentum this one has, it has the potential to be really big. Last year’s rent strike, I think only had about 150 signups. I’m not too worried about this one not being big, to some degree’

‘I appreciate this situation is not anything the University has had to deal with before. But ultimately, they did have resources that told them that bringing students back would result in an outbreak. The UCU even said that.

‘You can’t bring students back in full capacity without risking an outbreak, so it does feel like we’re just back in halls purely because they needed the rent money.’

Bristol University’s Students’ Union (SU) have stated their support for the action, with a message on their website saying: ‘We’ll be supporting Cut the Rent by highlighting their demands to the university in the spaces that we are in, alongside the halls lockdown demands that we have already released.’

Bristol, Cut the Rent and the SU will be holding an online workshop ‘aimed at helping first years in Halls organise for their strike.’

A University of Bristol spokesperson said: ‘We fully acknowledge how stressful and challenging it is for students living in University accommodation having to self-isolate.

‘We thank them for following Government advice to keep themselves and the wider community safe and are doing everything possible to support them. This includes providing cleaning supplies, laundry services and free food boxes with fresh goods which we understand some other universities are charging students for.

‘Security and support staff within residences are essential to remind students of the need to behave in a responsible and lawful manner.

‘Self-isolating students have full access to wellbeing and mental health support services, and our blended learning provision has been created to ensure they can still continue with their studies online.

‘Students who aren’t having to self-isolate are still able to attend face-to-face learning and move around freely within Government guidelines.

‘The health and safety of our students is a top priority, and our Residential Life teams are available 24/7 to offer help and advice. Regular support and contact with students will ensure everyone is kept up-to-date and can ask any questions.

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‘We welcome further discussions with representatives from Cut the Rent and Bristol Students’ Union, but this is an issue that is affecting all universities at the moment and our actions are guided by Public Health England and the authorities to limit the spread of coronavirus.’

The calls for a rent strike come as confirmed cases of coronavirus continue to increase among staff and students at the University.

The calls for a rent strike come as confirmed cases of coronavirus continue to increase among staff and students at the University.

As of Friday 16 October, the University confirmed there were 789 students and 10 staff members who have tested positive for Covid-19.

This was an increase of 64 from Thursday.

Featured Image: Epigram / Siavash Minoukadeh


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