Students have blamed the wider University and other colleges for failing to support Lucy CavendishLOUIS ASHWORTH FOR VARSITY

Lucy Cavendish students have threatened the college with a rent strike over its handling of accommodation allocation for next year, with claims that there are not enough rooms available.

Over 100 students have pledged to hold a rent strike if the College does not meet their demands to reduce rent and ensure that all students are offered suitable accommodation.

The College is holding an emergency meeting with the JCR today to discuss the dispute, following the “chaos” of its room ballot.

A poll conducted by the JCR found that more than 20 undergraduates had been forced to reserve college postgraduate accommodation due to shortages, with one student reserving a room costing over £16,000 a year in rent.

These rates would be around £12,000 higher than the average annual rent at Homerton College, which boasts the cheapest undergraduate accommodation.

Students started a petition on Monday calling for a re-run of the accommodation ballot due to concerns including the cost of rent, inconsistent communication from the college and a lack of available rooms.

Accommodation was allocated on a first-come-first-served basis via an online ballot system, but many students experienced technical difficulties that prevented them from accessing the ballot before they could reserve a room.

The petition, which has had over 120 signatures, claimed that technical issues had caused “distress and chaos” with multiple students unable to access the ballot link or never receiving it in the first place.

These issues meant that some were unable to secure affordable accommodation or were left without any rooms to select at all. One student told Varsity that they feared having to intermit “because the rent will be over triple my maintenance loan”.

Fears of a lack of accommodation had been raised in the weeks before the ballot, though the College had assured students that there would be enough rooms available to meet demand.

An email sent to staff of the College by a former JCR Vice President stated that the college had “failed to meet the conditions set out to us as the JCR” around room allocation.

“In every meeting we had asked if there would be enough rooms […] and we were assured there would be,” the ex-VP added.


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Commenting on Cavfess, Lucy Cavendish’s Facebook confessions page, Joseph Garvey, who has participated in research on the impact of the high cost of living for students, claimed that he had “warned college staff… more than two years ago” about potential shortages and high rent and that “they lacked any concrete long term plan” to address systemic issues.

Speaking to Varsity, Garvey added that many of the current college staff overseeing accommodation were newly hired and had been “thrown in at the deep end with next to no time to correct what happened before”.

Students have also blamed St John’s College, which owns several buildings currently occupied by Lucy Cavendish students, and which are scheduled for demolition.

Elsie McDowell, one of the organisers of the strike, has criticised John’s for planning to “[knock] down Lucy accommodation with little notice, just to make money”.

“It just isn’t fair that a college that is supposed to be about widening access cannot support students while we are actually here,” she told Varsity.

Lucy Cavendish has since responded to student frustration by promising to reduce the lease length for the undergrad students made to reserve postgrad accommodation, from 43 to 39 weeks, and to reduce weekly rent for a standard room by £40.

Lucy Cavendish College told Varsity: “This year, we doubled our rent subsidies from £1 million to £2 million. We introduced a £500 rent bursary for Cambridge Bursary holders in College accommodation and we provided additional free meals.”

“We have planned student accommodation extremely carefully over the next 3-5 year period and we are working with other colleges to redevelop sites we previously used. We take seriously the rising cost of living in Cambridge, particularly for students, and we will continue to work closely with them to reduce costs,” the College said.

St John’s College has been contacted for comment.