Why the Provost is getting worried…
And how we are turning the tide on rent and student housing:
Since the student campaign to cut the rent (Check our facebook page) was launched at a halls assembly in Max Rayne House in Camden last year we’ve given management a proper shake-up and forced them to reconsider their endless rent increases for the first time. As the new term begins we’re already in action continue pushing for a rent cut across the board in UCL accommodation and for a democratic university in which students and staff have a say over how halls are run and rents are set. (Join our first campaign meeting here!)
Whilst the main focus is a university-wide rent cut, it is important not to overlook the small victories that the campaign has won. So here are just a few things we have achieved over the past year that have improved conditions for UCL students in halls.
1. Compensation for over 200 residents at Hawkridge House
Organising protest actions at Hawkridge House meant that students who had been ignored by management for months over terrible living conditions caused by construction work and pests ensured that over 200 people there won a £132 compensation payment from UCL. Management didn’t give it freely, though. First we needed to assemble a large number of complaint letters after which residents threatened to not pay their rent if there weren’t given a fair deal. But thanks to our efforts, it worked!
(The dispute is ongoing and is still pursuing more a fair settlement from UCL the suffering caused by management)
2. Better Furniture for the Common Rooms at Max Rayne House and Ifor Evans Hall
This was the first win of the campaign and it came after we exposed the state of UCL’s most run-down halls. It may not sound as big as hundreds of pounds of compensation, but it did have a significant impact on the common room – and it was a vast improvement on the way things were before we demanded better conditions. The new couches and pool table meant that people actually wanted to hang out in the common room and improved the social dynamic of the entire hall. Again, this was not something that management wanted to give to us by themselves. We had to demand it!
3. Accessible Toilets at Ramsay Hall Common Room
For much of the beginning of last year, there were no accessible toilets by the basement common room at Ramsay Hall. As Ramsay is a popular party hall, this meant that wheelchair-users were not able to visit or join parties and use the toilet without a very undignified process of leaving to use one much further away that was accessible. Following our demands for improvement, there are now two accessible toilets by the common room.
4. Exposing and Overturning UCL Management’s Illegal Use of Academic Sanctions
During the dispute at Hawkridge House and Campbell House UCL threatened students, who were withholding rent payments in protest over the state of their halls, by saying that they would not be allowed to re-enrol on their courses. Threats and sanctions like these were deemed illegal by the Office of Fair Trading in 2014. It turned out that UCL were still using these threats against all students who were unable to pay for their accommodation in time. Our campaign forced management to backtrack on their threats and to stop using such illegal actions against students rather then negotiate with us.
5. Forcing the Provost to Accept that More Funding is Needed to Improve Halls
At the final meeting of the year between UCL Provost Michael Arthur and the UCLU Sabbatical Officers it was revealed that he would invest more funding into improving halls. After a year’s campaigning this meant that the top levels of management are finally beginning to shift under out pressure. Obviously, the Provost’s words doesn’t mean much. We shouldn’t celebrate until we see the funding go into improvements for students. UCL is infamous for not keeping it’s pledges in the past, to pay the London Living Wage to all it’s staff, for instance (spoiler – it still doesn’t!). If anything, this means that we need to keep up our pressure more then ever to make sure that, a: UCL live up to this pledge, b: they don’t make students pay more for the improved conditions, and c: they cut the rent!
– In other words, there is a lot of work ahead!
We’re looking forward to winning more improvements at UCL over the next year. Our campaign is completely student-run and everybody is welcome to join in and help us make sure that rents at UCL become affordable (as long as they aren’t bosses). If you’d like to be part of the action for a better and fairer UCL, don’t miss the first campaign meeting of the term on 7 October! (Event page here) See you there!
Join the campaign! – https://www.facebook.com/events/964826676907267/
And always remember….
Hasta la victoria!