The rent strike will resume in Easter Term unless the campaign's demands are metLouis Ashworth

Following the University’s decision to make Lent Term 2021 entirely remote, Rent Strike Cambridge (RSC) have announced that strike action will be delayed until Easter Term.

This decision comes in light of the University’s announcement that rent will be waived for students not in residence this term.

According to a Rent Strike Cambridge spokesperson, action has been delayed to ensure that a minority group withholding rent do not face a disproportionate burden of disciplinary risk.

They told Varsity that the decision to postpone came as a result of an open meeting held last Friday (15/01) where “there was widespread agreement that the most vulnerable students have been disproportionately affected this term.” This refers to the fact that students who have returned due to extenuating circumstances are required to pay full rent in Lent Term.

They added that “the decision to use students, many of whom lack a suitable living environment outside Cambridge, as a means to claw back lost rental income is outrageous.”

RSC have made the decision to delay strike action to ensure these “most vulnerable students,” are not in a minority withholding rent, therefore facing a “burden of risk.”

Although the strike has been postponed until next term, the original proposed action and demands will remain the same, with the additional demand for a no-detriment policy. This follows the announcement that Cambridge, along with other Russell Group Universities, have ruled out the implementation of a safety net for this year's exams. 

Whilst they have postponed action, RSC emphasised that “anger amongst the student body has not dissipated.” They stated “colleges still refuse to rule out highly damaging job cuts for the lowest paid staff, whilst charging some of the most precarious students full rent this term.”

According to the spokesperson, RSC plan to hold the rent strike in Easter term unless their demands for the University to prioritise workers and students before rent are met.

The RSC spokesperson also commented that the University’s decisions to waive rent from those not in residence and to allow certain students to return “show the huge power that students have as tenants, merely by threatening a rent strike.”

However, they criticised the “appallingly uneven and unclear” approach to allowing students to return to Cambridge, adding it “has left many students in a state of unacceptable uncertainty. This shows a complete lack of regard for mental health and wellbeing, which is compounded by the University’s refusal to implement a no detriment policy.”

They further commented “the chaos surrounding returns is yet another example of Colleges failing to listen to students’ concerns and implement clear and fair policies.”

The disparity in college return policies is an issue that has already been raised by many students at the University, expressed in two open letters by Student Minds Cambridge and Trinity Hall students. Both letters share the sentiment that colleges should adopt a more compassionate approach to allowing students to return.

RSC are also committed to publicising other ongoing issues in Cambridge, recently publishing information on the lack of funding for the Disability Resource Centre revealed in a Cambridge Student Union report, stating “this is why we organise to fight austerity  and marketisation in higher education, which hit disabled, working class and vulnerable students the hardest!”

News that Rent Strike Cambridge has postponed their action comes as rent strike campaigns gain more traction nationally, as teaching moves online across most UK universities, with students at universities in  Warwick and Nottingham hosting rent strikes.

Following their success last term, students at the University of Manchester also threatened to withhold rent if they were required to pay for accommodation they could not use. However, the University of Manchester has confirmed that no student will be asked to pay rent if they are not in residence. 

The University has been contacted by Varsity for comment.