Both open letters stress that international students should be given permission to study remotely during Easter termLouis Ashworth

The Rent Strike Campaigns at Newnham and Clare Colleges have both released open letters as part of renewed Rent Strike efforts as Easter term approaches.

Newnham’s open letter, which currently has 40 signatories (as of 24/03), was released on Saturday (21/03), while Clare’s was released yesterday (23/03).

The demands of the open letters reiterate some of the key goals of the University-wide Rent Strike Campaign, launched in November: a 30% rent reduction for the 2020-21 academic year, a commitment to no job losses across the College, and the promise of no disciplinary action against members of the campaign.

Both letters raise the issue of rent increases at the two Colleges: in spite of Clare’s endowment being reported to have grown by 9.5% during the pandemic, the open letter reports that rent will increase by 1% for the 2021-22 academic year, adding that the “College’s decision to charge full rent over the Easter holidays is just the latest relentless example of profit being put before students.” Meanwhile, Newnham is criticised for “continuing to increase rent for every cohort.”

In addition, both open letters stress that international students should be given permission to study remotely during Easter term: on this, the Clare open letter emphasised that “given that there are currently no plans for in-person teaching in Easter term, it would be irresponsible for the College not to do all in its powers to allow students not to keep term for the rest of this academic year.”

Clare’s letter also includes a testimony from an international student affected by the requirement that students keep term in Michaelmas, which retells how the student was “forced to come back two weeks before the start of term to quarantine [during which time] Clare College charged [them] £30 per night for this period, so nearly £300 in total, which has put [the student] in a tough financial situation.”

Calls for better protection of vulnerable and estranged students are mentioned in both open letters. The letters mentioned that vulnerable students have been told that they “must attend face-to-face teaching” and there are cases of estranged students “being threatened with eviction” from college accommodation.

In addition to university-wide demands, Newnham’s Rent Strikers demand that no rent be charged in the vacation period for students who are required to remain in their accommodation, as well as a three-year rent freeze for all cohorts.

They also demand living wage accreditation from the College in paying living wage to all staff, including casual staff, and wifi access for all students.

On student support during the pandemic, Newnham’s Rent Strikers called for the College to “turn to its endowment”, stating that “hardship funds are not enough”. They also criticised that students have “faced isolation with initially no support from the college”.

Meanwhile, Clare’s Rent Strikers also call for increased representation of non-academic staff on college committees and for the College to commit to charging disabled students in rentno more than the cost of a “standard” room if they require a more expensive room for disability-related reasons.


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The Clare campaign completed a survey prior to the release of the letter, which looks into students’ opinions on rent and welfare provision at the College. This survey leads to the letter’s conclusion that “the financial priorities of the Bursar take precedence, at the expense of both students and staff.”

The survey also found that 34% of the respondents, which amounted to over 100 undergraduate students, found their rent to be a “source of stress or concern” during their time at Clare: with 39.6% becoming more worried about personal finances since the pandemic began.

On the issue of job security, the letter notes that “although the staff at Clare have faced no redundancies yet, the College’s response to the pandemic has offered them only the bare minimum. As early as May, the College decided to cut staff’s wages in real terms, and cancel their annual bonus for 2020.”

Clare’s Rent Strikers also raise concerns related to the welfare provisions at the College, citing the survey’s finding that fewer than 10% of respondents felt that the College had “sufficiently prioritised student wellbeing” since the beginning of the pandemic.

Varsity has contacted Newnham and Clare Colleges for comment.