Students in Bristol have called a rent strike over conditions of learning and living which the university promised and failed to deliver on, reports Jago Corry
Both the government and universities have seen a chaotic process of students moving into university communities, finding the promise of ‘blended learning’ to have been ‘misguided’ in light of mass outbreaks of Covid in halls, while lecturers and academic departments choosing to implement online-only policies for the beginning term.
Students in the city of Bristol under the group ‘Bristol Cut the Rent’ are planning a rent strike, starting the 24th October, their statement follows:
“Students were sold coming to Uni being promised blended learning, so many of us signed contracts with halls and moved to Uni. Now, we are finding that most of our learning has moved online and we are essentially paying thousands of pounds in rent for a room we wished we'd never signed for”.
Rent Strike Bristol is calling all undergraduate and postgraduate students to join the picket, where signups have already surpassed 600.
The group’s central demands are as follows:
1No repercussions for rent strikers.
2No-penalty contract releases and deposit refunds for anyone who wishes to move out of halls.
330% cut of the rent for the whole year for those who decide to stay in halls.
The group also have demands for the students who have been in insolation within halls:
1Outdoor access: students in locked-down halls to be guaranteed at least one hour of time outside per day (in accommodation courtyards, green spaces or other safe alternatives).
2Food boxes: boxes to be delivered to flats, to cater for all dietary requirements (inc. halal and kosher) and to contain fresh food.
3Regular mental health check-ins twice a week with each flat by Resilife.
4Full transparency on the powers, role and actions of any security staff enforcing lockdowns in halls.
Bristol’s student rent strikers are apart of an ongoing and escalating anger towards a neoliberal higher education system which puts the linings of landlord pockets over the physical, mental and material wellbeing of students and staff.
Bristol Cut the Rent describes the strike’s necessity as ‘leverage’ over conditions of learning and living which the university promised and failed to deliver on.
Tensions between those who have suffered under the ‘corporatisation’ of universities, and the big business executives, student accommodation landlords, and Tory donors are almost certainly set to rise.
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Jago Corry is a socialist activist, writer and undergraduate Politics student. They are presenting their dissertation research on dissolving neoliberal discourses to the 2019 BCUR conference.