Students were concerned that restricting individual kitchen access would pose, rather than mitigate, health risksLouis Ashworth

Students at Corpus Christi have raised concerns about being prevented from accessing their kitchens after the College cited safety issues as a reason for restricting access.

At a meeting on 1st June, Senior Tutor Dr. Marina Frasca-Spada announced that kitchens were to be locked in student accommodation at Cranmer Road, Leckhampton House, Kho Building, Selwyn Gardens and Barton Road.

These buildings mostly accommodate postgraduate students, many of whom have stayed during the lockdown.

Kitchens would be locked if, and when, household occupancy was above 6 people. This is seen as a preliminary measure to allow students to return and will ultimately depend on future government guidance.

The College claims that fitting locks to the kitchens “is in line with the situation elsewhere in the College, and in other colleges”.

The College did not provide examples in support of this statement. Varsity understands that student kitchens at many other colleges have remained open during the lockdown.

“This is for the safety of students and staff”, College Bursar David Secher stated when approached for comment.

Students who remain in residence have raised concerns over the logistics and safety of this decision.

Corpus MCR President, Daniel Heydecker, told Varsity: “the proposal inadvertently caused a lot of anxiety and frustration; a lot of concern was raised about student welfare and the financial implications if kitchens were to close.”

This follows inconsistent accommodation provision across the collegiate system throughout the pandemic. Whilst students at King’s felt pressured to leave, those at Clare Hall reported that the College had been supportive of their decision to stay during lockdown.

Corpus residents were particularly anxious that the proposed kitchen policy would leave them unable to cater to their special dietary needs or without access to safe drinking water. With kitchens closed, students would have to rely on water from bathroom taps, many of which are reportedly made of lead piping or labelled ‘not potable’.

In response to these allegations, the College stated that “all water in the College is safe to drink […] but to allay student concerns (even though unfounded) we have now by-passed the tank”.

Students pointed out that tenancy contracts stipulate kitchen access and questioned whether this amounted to grounds for a rent reduction.

When voiced to the College, one student felt that their worries were “brushed off”.

Daniel Heydecker MCR President explained: “a lot of our students have been unhappy about the level of communication from the College; we have raised this, and are working to help improve transparency”.

Students also criticised the timing of the announcement. Residents of Cranmer Road and Leckhampton House were told that their kitchens were to be locked the following day (2/06).

Instead of preparing food at home, as has been College policy since lockdown began, students were expected to collect meals from a central kitchen in Leckhampton which is open five days a week.

“We have made an arrangement with another college for weekend meals,” College Bursar David Secher explained, adding: “Take-away meals only are provided and PHE guidance is followed, including strict social distancing. Any student with special dietary requirements or eating disorders should discuss their requirements with their Tutor or the College Nurse. Corpus aims to meet the needs of all students”.


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Despite this commitment to safety, students are confused by the proposal. Whilst individual kitchens could be used by a small number of students, a central kitchen would increase the risk of exposure to Covid-19 by drawing in members from multiple households.

In light of the strong feelings expressed by the student population, an MCR Urgent Extraordinary Open Meeting was called on 4th June, in which students were informed that the ‘fitting of locks had been postponed’.

Resident’s complaints are thought to be behind this decision.

This follows a raft of complaints surrounding accommodation arrangements at the College during lockdown.

Students allege that the College put the health of both residents and staff at risk when housekeeping was repeatedly sent into the Leckhampton building without PPE, a situation which students felt was ‘extremely dangerous’ as it could risk spreading Covid-19.

The College has postponed fitting locks “until students have been reassured”, whilst MCR President Daniel Heydecker has since stated (16/06) that “based on our most recent discussions, we are confident that kitchens will not be closed”.

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