5 Things the CUT THE RENT CAMPAIGN won in 2014-15

Why the Provost is getting worried…

And how we are turning the tide on rent and student housing:

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Over 1000 staff and students signed out petition for a rent cut in a week!

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!)

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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)

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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!

www.thetab.com/uk/london/2014/10/29/horror-as-pest-infestation-strikes-ucl-halls

The free lodgers at Max Rayne (yes, this is a genuine photo from the hall!)

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.

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Ramsay Hall

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.

www.uclu.org/articles/university-forced-into-unprecedented-u-turn-on-sanctions

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Residents at Campbell House were unable to study for their exams because of UCL’s demolition works on Gordon Street, just behind their bedroom windows! They protested by refusing to pay rent!

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!

www.uclu.org/blogs/leah-francis/goodbye-and-update-on-last-welfare-wins#housing

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Moneybags Michael Arthur has a £360K salary. Cut his pay instead of raising the rent!

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/

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Together we can win!

And always remember….

Hasta la victoria!

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Fighting for Liberation Officers – the UCLU General Assembly 20th January

On January 20 we will be back in Logan Hall debating what Sabbatical Officer roles should represent you next year.

Members of UCL Defend Education have put forward Proposal 5, which proposes four full-time Liberation officers, including a new LGBT+ and Disabled Students’ Officer, whilst maintaining post-graduate, activities and education support. Read the full motion here and the full details for the meeting on our event page here.

This is also an action in opposition to a proposal that would have UCLU reduce its total number of full-time officers to 7, without adding any officers to fight for the rights of liberation groups.

A photo from the last General Assembly, December 2014. Join the January Assembly to help vote for more liberation officers at UCLU!
A photo from the last General Assembly, December 2014. Join the January Assembly to help vote for more liberation officers at UCLU!

All you need to vote is your UCLU ID, so don’t forget it and don’t miss out on having your say! Registration opens earlier at 5.30pm and there are fewer motions, so is expected to be a relatively short assembly.

If it passes, our proposal will add a full-time LGBT+ Officer and a full-time Disabled students’ Officer – a progressive step that will once again put UCLU on the leading edge in terms of representational student unions. It will ensure that UCLU continues to operate as representative, campaigning and inherently political organisations that can improve conditions for students at UCL.

At at time when Disabled Students' Allowance is being cut, it is more important to have a full-time Disable Students' Officer now than ever!
At at time when Disabled Students’ Allowance is being cut, it is more important to have a full-time Disable Students’ Officer now than ever!

Having four Sabbatical Officers that work specifically on liberation issues is the next logical step in the policy of liberation that was initiated at UCLU by the creation of the full-time Women’s officer and BME students officer two years ago. With four liberaion sabbs UCLU can meet the needs of its members students in a more comprehensive way than before, and provide a role model for union around the country

This proposal is backed by UCLU Unicef Society, Fossil Free UCL, UCLU Green Party Society, UCLU Vegetarian Society and UCLU Socialist Society. If you wish to offer your societies support for this motion please let us know.

This General Assembly will also be voting on a resolution to strengthen UCLU’s stance against UCL’s rent hikes – so that’s yet another reason to join the assembly!

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