Accommodation at Queens' is allocated by its ballot which does not permit students to ballot for rooms in a groupSimon Lock

Students at Queens’ have taken a stand against the College’s balloting system after the dean issued an ultimatum over a student-run ‘shadow ballot’ discovered by college authorities.

Students at Queens’ have issued an open letter, which currently has over 160 signatories, to the college governing body outlining students’ “deep concerns with the ballot system and any future reallocation” and opposing the ultimatum presented to students yesterday. The letter, which has been circulated to students but is still being drafted, comes as the latest development in escalating tensions surrounding the college’s accommodation.

Yesterday, at a meeting with members of the Queens’ JCR, the dean revealed he had discovered a shadow ballot, and presented them with two options: to reveal those who run the shadow ballot, who will then be placed below incoming freshers on the existing ballot, or have everyone’s rooms randomised for next year within the price band they have been allocated.

The shadow ballot was created in response to Queens’ official balloting system, under which students are not permitted to select other people to ballot with, meaning that they cannot be assured of living with friends. The system was designed to prevent too many friendship groups from living in one area, creating rowdiness. At the time of implementation, the college warned students that any attempt to publicise their room choices would result in removal from the ballot. The shadow ballot consists of a spreadsheet circulated to students, on which they can share which room they have chosen.

Last night, the JCR called an emergency meeting and presented students with the options they were given. 82 members of the JCR body voted for those running the shadow ballot to come forward. 15 voted in favour of randomisation. Queens’ JCR president, Hope Whitehead, noted: “We understand these are not good options, and we’re not pleased with them either.”

She described the dean’s response to the shadow ballot: “The Dean will not accept negotiation on these options – in fact we almost weren’t given them, and this already seems to be a compromise between him and other fellows who think the stress of the ballot is too much and would advocate for randomization every year.”

The JCR has asked for organisers to come forward before Friday, the deadline for the ultimatum. If no students come forward, students’ rooms will be randomised two or three days after the decision is made on Friday.


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The dean also made clear that attempts to protest in terms of rent strikes, especially before coming back to him with a decision, would, as Whitehead said: “not only [...] not persuade him, but would lead to further consequences down the line that would affect the entire student body.”

In their open letter, students called for a more open discussion between students and the governing body around accommodation, requesting to meet with the governing body to find a solution.

They also criticised the official ballot system’s “overwhelming lack of transparency,” which asks students to “choose their room in a two minute appointment, without knowing which rooms are still available, how much they cost, or any details of the room beyond its number and the building where it is located.” They go on to “unequivocally agree that any intimidation associated with balloting and choosing rooms is unacceptable”.

In reference to the shadow ballot, students wrote: “As an open document, the Shadow Ballot was created with the intention of increasing transparency and easing the anxiety associated with the ballot.

“While we acknowledge that the Shadow Ballot does make some students feel uncomfortable, the College has been unreceptive to student anxieties around the ballot in the past, leaving students with little option other than to participate in an illegal Shadow Ballot.”

On the prospect of randomisation, they said: “Logistically, we feel that randomisation, even within price bands, is inherently flawed. Students choose a room, not a price band, and that choice is relative to a number of factors”, including specific bathroom or dietary needs”, and remarked on its long-term impacts on students’ welfare.

Speaking to Varsity, Whitehead said: “the JCR is absolutely not satisfied with [the College’s] response and the way it seems to completely disregard the welfare of students.”

Varsity has contacted the college for comment.

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