Student groups commit to accommodation fee action

Harry Cross is the co-chair of Durham Students for University Reform and co-chaired the meeting last Thursday.

By Harry Cross

On Thursday 22 January, a joint meeting of Durham University’s left-wing and ethical societies agreed to take joint action opposing the recent hike in college accommodation fees. The meeting between 18 student societies had been held to develop a common strategy around high priority student campaigns on campus. The hike in accommodation fees by the university has provoked much student anger but, until now, little organised opposition.

Those present agreed to organise a demonstration on the issue of student accommodation fees later in the term. Society presidents are calling for the reversal of the most recent hike in accommodation fees, increased transparency on how student money is spent, a fairer system of grants for students from lower-income households and greater student democratic control over the governance of the university and the setting of accommodation fees.

Sofia Hewson, co-chair of Durham Students for University Reform, said: “Unfair and unpopular decisions taken by universities are often bolstered by student apathy. Durham students are not apathetic and we are willing to contest injustices. There has been a growing trend of student activism in Durham this year, marked by different progressive groups acting collectively.” This included a protest in December in solidarity with Warwick student campaigners who had been victims of police violence. The Durham protest, organised on the Science Site, was broken up by university security who also called the police against the protesters.

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In December, Durham University security broke up a student demonstration and called the police. Students have been increasingly active on a range of issues, including Living Wage and the Vice-Chancellor recruitment.

Students at the meeting related the hike in accommodation fees to the issue of the Vice-Chancellor recruitment, over which students have been barred from having any direct contribution. “If students had a greater say in the governing structures of their university,” one speaker commented, “the university would have to be accountable when it takes such unjust decisions. Students must do what they can to ensure that Durham hires a Vice-Chancellor committed to working with students and defending their interests.”

Palatine Centre

Next year, university accommodation at Durham could be over £2,500 more expensive than at Newcastle.

 

At the meeting, it was also concluded to express support with Durham staff in trade union actions such as the marking boycott; to reiterate support for a Living Wage for university employees; to support Durham University divestment from G4S; to organise a non-partisan campaigning event ahead of the general election to highlight progressive issues and to support greater representation in student groups on campus. The full minutes of the meeting can be read here.

Photographs: William Pinkney-Baird and Rose Innes

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4 Responses

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  1. Palatitroll
    Jan 26, 2015 - 09:08 AM

    It beggers belief that Palatinate would publish this article under ‘News’. To even report this nonsense in the first place shows significant bias: few other societies would be allowed to promote their aims so frequently and openly in the university paper, especially on an issue of such fringe interest. Can we expect to see all society meetings’ minutes published in Palatinate from now on? I hope so! I’ve always been fascinated to hear what Durham University’s Volleyball Club thinks about recycling.
    What’s more, I have never read such an uneven piece of reporting. No representatives of the university have been approached for comment, nor any members of the Durham University Conservative Association – both of which may have been able to offer the alternative perspective, thereby adding much-needed impartiality to this article. As it is, the clear lack of balance implies that these issues are settled and that the student population is in complete agreement. It most certainly is not. I’d come to expect decent things from Palatinate; I feel let down. Durham students deserve better.

    Reply
    • Harry Cross on Facebook
      Jan 26, 2015 - 09:28 AM

      Hi Palatitroll, the Palatinate regularly reports on sports events. This meeting included 18 different societies and planned large-scale activism on issues that affect every student at this university 🙂

      Reply
  2. L Jake Lambert on Facebook
    Jan 26, 2015 - 10:58 AM

    Emmy Sidebottom

    Reply
  3. Anon
    Jan 26, 2015 - 12:15 PM

    Palatitroll- it’s not published under News but under Politics and it does say who the author is at the top. It’s his own account and that is clear. If you have anything interesting to share, I’m sure they’d be interested in hearing from you.

    Reply

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