The vice-chancellor has doubled the original rent rebate on offer to some students, but rent strikers have vowed to continue withholding rent until the University offers rent cuts to all students. Lancaster University's rent strike is now one of 55 happening simultaneously on campuses across the UK.
Following a decision made by University Council, Lancaster University's governing body, on Friday 5th February, some students are now entitled to double the original £400 "goodwill payment". Students who do not return to their University accommodation before 8th March can claim the £800 in the form of a rent rebate from their final term rental payment.
Students who have been stuck in their accommodation since the third national lockdown began in January are currently being offered no rebate at all. According to an email seen by Spineless, in order to ensure that no students on campus claim the £800, the University will perform "spot checks" to determine if their accommodation is currently occupied.
By not making any concessions to students stuck on campus, the University's current policy actively discriminates against international students, who may not have been able to leave the UK before the lockdown, and vulnerable students who may not have been able to travel home for financial, health, or family reasons. The rent strike organisers claim that due to the lockdown, the services on offer to on-campus students are much reduced to what was expected when they signed their contracts last year. But according to a statement released by LUSU, "There was strong pushback from senior University leaders around this, due to the belief that students are making use of the services they are paying for." In his letter to Lancaster students, the vice-chancellor claimed: "I have tried to respond [to the pandemic] dynamically and also fairly."
As Spineless has previously reported, the University has already committed to expanding student mental health support in response to the rent strike, including the provision of an out-of-hours service. However, it is not expected that this shall constitute a 24-hours service, as students have demanded. Lancaster University used to have a Nurse Unit on campus which offered students 24/7 access to medical professionals. When University Council voted to close the unit in 2010, a medical professor resigned from Council in protest.
Yesterday in the House of Lords, Lancaster University's Deputy Pro-Chancellor, Baroness Neville-Jones voted against an amendment which sought to prohibit public bodies from authorising rape, torture and murder. No wonder the University continually fails to stand up for students' welfare when a senior University officeholder thinks that it should be legal for the British state to rape, torture and murder its citizens as it sees fit!