Image: Flickr/ Robert Cutts

Bristol students to rent strike over “unacceptable” treatment

Students at the University of Bristol are going on a rent strike in protest of their “unacceptable” treatment in university accommodation.

Cut The Rent, Bristol have called for all students living in halls to stop paying rent from Saturday 24 October after the majority of their teaching is placed online.

An online form has gathered over 750 sign-ups so far.

Organisers have set out a list of seven demands, including “no-penalty contract releases available for all those in halls and a 30% rent cut for the whole year for those who decide to stay in halls”.

They also requested one hour of outdoor access for self-isolating students and a higher standard of food boxes, containing fresh food and catering to all dietary requirements such as halal.

In a statement, organisers Cut The Rent, Bristol said: “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.”

This follows a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases at the university, with 725 students and nine members of staff testing positive for the virus as of 15 October.

Finlay Stevenson, organiser of Cut The Rent, Bristol, told The Boar: “I’m supporting the strike because students have been sold out in an obviously cynical move to retain fees at any cost to them.”

“Students are left either paying extortionate prices for limited facilities, or trapped into paying for a room when they could study at home.”

Mental health, physical health and general wellbeing all seem to have been sidelined in the desire to get our rent

– Ollie Bulbrook

Two Bristol University halls, Hiatt Baker N Block and The Courtroom, have been placed in a two week quarantine so far, with many other students self-isolating after exposure.

Isolating student Ollie Bulbrook also critiqued the university: “The overwhelming number of students signing up to the strike is a testament to the University’s mismanagement and poor communication.

“Mental health, physical health, and general wellbeing all seem to have been side-lined in the desire to get our rent. Because of the way the accommodation is built, I still haven’t seen the sun in 10 days.”

This isn’t the first time Bristol students have striked – in 2019, university students won £250,000 in compensation for poor living conditions. A University of Bristol spokesperson replied to the strikers’ demands: “We fully acknowledge how stressful and challenging it is for students living in University accommodation having to self-isolate”.

They added: “The health and safety of our students is a top priority.”

They continued that “self-isolating students have full access to wellbeing and mental health support services”, and that “they can still continue with their studies online”.

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