In a rare display of student anger at alleged “second-class” treatment, Corpus Christi undergraduates staged a protest against College authorities on Friday.

A crowd of approximately 150 students from the College gathered on the New Court lawn to protest alleged financial mismanagement by the College, which has resulted in rent increases.

The protest, which was backed by the College JCR, also took aim at the College’s alleged lack of communication with JCR members. In particular, students accused College authorities of not having consulted them on key decisions.

Speaking to Varsity, Rhys Grant, the newly-elected JCR President for 2010-2011, “Recently College have been guilty of mass miscommunication or in some cases a complete lack of communication altogether.”

Grant added, “Friday’s event was about showing the College authorities that the students want to be involved in the decision-making process and want to be consulted about issues that will directly affect us. The huge student turn-out has hopefully sent that message.”

Patrick Farmbrough, whose term as JCR President ended on Friday, echoed these sentiments. “While the JCR and the college have been making positive steps in improving co-operation, there are still systemic problems with communication.”

According to Farmbrough, “Friday wasn't about getting angry or pushing any kind of political agenda. It was about showing that we care about our college, and that we want to play a constructive part in its decision-making process. I think the fact that over 150 students came out to support us says it all, especially when students are generally so apathetic.”

The significance of the turn-out was noted by several observers, who pointed to the fact that 150 of the College’s 250 undergraduates had been in attendance.

However, the event was notable, not just due to the size of the crowd, but also due to the presence of high-profile Cambridge student leaders. Current CUSU President Tom Chigbo and President-elect Rahul Mansigani both attended the event, signalling wider support for students’ complaints.

Students were keen to emphasize, however, that Friday’s gathering was not a “protest” but instead an “event”. According to a joint statement released by Grant and Farmbrough, “The JCR and MCR committees would like to press that last Fridays event was not a protest but was an event to raise awareness amongst the College authorities that as a single community, all sections of the College - the fellowship, the staff and the students, must commit to working together rather than the students views being consistently dismissed.”

It appears that College authorities have reacted quickly to listen to student concerns. According to Farmbrough, the College has agreed to a series of meetings at the highest levels to discuss the concerns. He added, “I’m grateful to the College for listening to our concerns, and optimistic that real progress can be made.”

The Master of the College, Mr Stuart Laing also confirmed that progress was going to be made on issues that concern students. Speaking to Varsity, the Master said, “I have however seen the list of complaints which the JCR Committee presented to the Executive Body on 8 March. This included some items which all would consider minor (e.g., the seating plan for a recent dinner), some which were not based in fact (e.g., an allegation about failure to provide clean bed-linen), and some which are serious, such as student room rents.”

The Master added, ““Nearly all these issues reflect lapses of communication - either between students and the College Administration, or within our administration itself. We are acting fast to put these things right, and are confident that, with the co-operation of the students, we can do so.”

The Master’s complete, unedited statement also appears in Varsity today.