The signatories of the letter include former JCSU and CUSU presidents supporting the demands of the campaignJESUS COLLEGE CLIMATE JUSTICE CAMPAIGN

A letter, signed by 66 Jesus College alumni, has been sent to the College Council “wholeheartedly” endorsing the demands of the rent strikers at the College.

The letter, whose authors said they were “appalled and dismayed” by the actions that “pushed students to the point of having to take this action,” lists three key “extremely concerning failures on the part of College Council and senior leadership” that led to the endorsement.

The signatories added in the letter that the most ‘urgent’ of the issues is the demand of the rent strikers that no student involved in the strikes should face disciplinary action, adding that “students withholding their rent are not doing so lightly.”

Firstly, the letter calls for an end to the threats of eviction faced by students who have displayed flags and posters in their accommodation, which the signatories believe are “not in keeping with the content and spirit of the College’s stated aims and policies.” The letter quotes the Jesus College website, which states that “the College aims to foster a community of freedom of thought and expression.”

The letter considers the threats “disgraceful” and adds that “the purpose of the College is not to act as an indiscriminate landlord.”

Last month, when a Jesus College student’s tweets, which included images of the emails he had received from the College, received widespread attention, the College told Varsity that the rules stating that banners and posters should not be displayed were a long-term feature of their accommodation licenses.

Secondly, the letter addresses the College’s harassment and abuse policy, which is criticised for having “failed to give an assurance to students that those reporting harassment and abuse would not be subject to investigation for breach of Covid-19 regulations.” The College apologised at the time for the “evident distress” caused after a petition responding to the guidelines amassed nearly 1,300 signatures in less than 48 hours.

The current letter renews the demand that the College “initiate dialogue with students regarding the statement and procedures for reporting harassment and abuse.”

Thirdly, the letter addresses the College’s “unethical investments,” citing and “applaud[ing]” the recent report by the Jesus College Climate Justice Campaign (JCCJC) released last month which found that the College invested a minimum of £5.15 million into the “absolute worst offending global exploiters and polluters,” with a further £4 million reported to be invested in other companies engaged “in ecologically and socially destructive practices.”


Mountain View

Report finds Jesus College invests minimum £5.15m in ‘absolute worst-offending global exploiters'

The letter reports that the College has neither publicly commented on the report nor has initiated a dialogue with the JCCJC, adding that the alumni were “appalled” by “the [College] Council’s refusal to engage with the findings of the report.” This is said to indicate “a brazen lack of concern about the ecological and human rights implications of the College’s investments.”

Responding to the letter, a spokesperson for the College said:

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, our policy has been that students who are not here due to Government restrictions are not charged any rent. Rents at Cambridge are already lower than many other universities, and we offer short term-time-only contracts to all undergraduates. 

“We regularly engage with the elected representatives of the student unions (JCSU and MCR) across a range of issues affecting students. Students are represented on many College committees, and four students are members of the College Council.”

The Jesus College Rent Strike Campaign, responding to the letter, told Varsity: “We are so encouraged to see Jesuans past and present coming together to stand against the College’s bad-faith actions and transform the College into the democratic, inclusive and safe community we know it can be.”

The campaign has stated via Facebook that they are striking “for a safer College[;] for a more democratic College[;] for a College which ensures the wellbeing of people and planet above all things.”

The strikers at the College are demanding a 30% rent reduction for Easter term, and a permanent 10% rent reduction; no redundancies to take place at the College; no disciplinary action against strikers; reform to the College’s accommodation license agreement, and for the Kitchen fixed charge to be removed.

Alongside this, the campaign draws attention to the need for “democracy” to be improved within the College, suggesting the establishment of a Governance Working Party, alongside calling on the College to commit to full divestment by 2022 and Net Zero by 2030.

This article was updated to include comments from Jesus College