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University of Bristol staff sign open letter voicing solidarity with student rent strikers

Around 50 members of University staff have so far signed the letter expressing their support for the rent strike movement at Bristol.

By Emilie Robinson, Digital News Editor

Around 50 members of University staff have so far signed the letter, expressing their support for the rent strike movement at Bristol.

The letter, addressed to Bristol University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Hugh Brady will be delivered to the University alongside emails from students and community of rent strikers as part of the group’s Day of Action taking place today, 16 November.

The letter includes the signatures of academic staff from across all faculties at the University, expressing their support for a rent strike which has reportedly involved over 1400 students since the strike began on 24 October.

Stating that they ‘write from a place of deep concern with the University’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic’, staff signatories of the letter have voiced their solidarity with the ‘bold and creative response by students’ at Bristol and call upon the University to meet the rent strikers’ demands.

Staff signatories call upon the University to meet the strikers demands, which include there being no repercussions for rent strikers; no-penalty contract releases and deposit refunds for anyone who wishes to move out of halls; and a 30% rent reduction for the whole year for those who decide to stay in halls.

The letter also endorses the strike’s additional demands relating to outdoor access, food boxes, regular mental health check-ins and better transparency regarding the security services enforcing lockdown in halls of residence.

The letter from staff concludes ‘we hope that the University will respond positively and constructively to students taking action and commit to a positive resolution to the dispute’.

Bristol, Cut The Rent have urged university staff to show their support of this letter, ahead of their meeting with the University’s Board of Trustees on 20 November.

In the meeting, the University’s Board of Trustees will hear the campaign’s petition, specifically its demands of no penalty contract releases, rent reductions and deposit refunds for international students.

This hearing follows a meeting held on Tuesday 3 November between Cut the Rent and the University’s Chief Operating Officer, in which the University issued a formal response to the rent strikers’ demands.

‘High-level commitments’ were made on some demands, such as an option to request sanitary products on food box forms, greater transparency regarding the powers of security guards and how to submit complaints if this power is breached.

The list of the demands made by the strikers | Bristol, Cut the Rent

However, disappointment came with the University’s inaction over key issues, where they made no promise of no penalty contract releases or rent reductions at this time, citing the ‘significant increased costs’ being incurred by the University, having already ‘entered into substantial financial commitments in response to students telling [them] that they wished to live in halls of residence this year’.

In their formal response to the rent strikers, the University also stated that ‘they ‘aim to operate [their] residences on a break even basis’, but that this was ‘not going to be possible in the current year due to the level of support’ [which they] need to provide to students in halls of residence.

The University revealed that ‘the number of room cancellations prior to term starting and the cost of supporting students in halls is twice the additional sum... provided for in [their] budget this year’.

Bristol, Cut the Rent hand in demands to the University ahead of historic strike action
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The University have previously stated they ‘welcome further discussions with representatives from Cut the Rent’ and that they ‘fully acknowledge how stressful and challenging the current situation is’.

They also previously stated that students withholding rent ‘will suffer no detriment to their educational progress’.

Calls continue, however, for students at Bristol to withhold rent in this historic student rent strike.

Featured Image: Bristol, Cut the Rent

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