As protests continue, Exeter College has offered its JCR and MCR an alternative to the catering charge.
The offer, which was made on Wednesday 26th February, proposes to replace the £840 mandatory annual flat-fee paid by students living-in with a £598 termly mandatory charge which would cover three meals in college on weekdays along with brunch and dinner on weekends.
Students living out would have to pay £150 per term, which would be redeemable against meals in hall. In this scenario individual meal prices would increase.
In an email to the JCR, the Rector explained the proposal. “College is now offering to replace the catering charge with two kinds of meal plan… For students who live in: a flat cost of £598 per term (added to your battels) will cover three meals a day, every week day in full term, and brunch and dinner at weekends. This works out at £10.67 a day and includes the cost of food and overheads.”
JCR President, Richard Collett-White, told Cherwell, “The JCR is pleased that genuine negotiations are now taking place, though I am doubtful we will come to an agreement just yet.
“We have yet to discuss the proposal as a JCR, but I know many students have reservations which we will need to thrash out.”
Other students were more openly condemnatory. Orock Nsoatabe, a second year, told Cherwell, “When I was living in college I barely went to hall at all. With this offer I would have paid £1,800 a year for next to nothing. Even if you were to go to hall, £10.67 is still a lot for a day’s worth of food.”
An anonymous Exeter student added to that sentiment saying, “The email we received told us ‘the student body needs to choose this solution, or stick with the catering charge.’ That’s a worse hostage situation than the first Die Hard movie.”
Owen Donovan, a third year English student, concurred, “I personally do have a problem with the tone of the Rector’s e-mail and the ultimatum that it contained. I hope that going forward college authorities will be open to negotiation rather than the offer of only two options.
“However, it’s important that we recognise that the college have come to us with a proposal, and hopefully they will concede to negotiations concerning the details of the proposal to make this an offer that benefits both the students and the college.”
As well as proposing this offer, the Rector has also offered to hold an open meeting next Tuesday at 1pm.
Although it is unclear exactly what form the meeting will take, the decision has attracted a positive reaction from students. Nathan Ellis, an Exeter second-year said, “This demonstrates that the action of students to show college how angry they are is working but also that we need to keep going, in order to secure a real reduction in the catering charge.”
In order to maintain the boycott, students have set up a ‘Hallternative kitchen’ in the JCR kitchen. In a JCR motion passed to provide a £150 float for the project, “Sam and friends” promised to “cook for everyone each night this week.”
Sam Perkins, the organiser, explained, “When we did the one-day boycott last trinity, we provided food all day for the whole JCR. It was a big task, but it really aided the morale of the event. We thought this longer boycott would benefit from having cheap and convenient food reliably every night – and the camaraderie of everyone coming together has cemented the student solidarity too.”
However, the success of the ‘Hallternative kitchen’ has sparked more confusion over college costs. One of the emergency cooks explained, “While the Catering Charge covers overheads, the prices we pay per meal are supposed to solely cover the ingredients – yet we have been producing comparable food for £1.50 a night (£1 on Monday), compared to £3.15 in Hall. Where does all our money go? If only we knew.”
The ‘Hallternative kitchen’ was established following its brief closure last Sunday. The kitchen, which is the only on-site self-catering provision was locked by the college’s Junior Dean due to an “almighty mess”.
Saturday 22nd February also saw a banner promoting the ongoing hall boycott controversially confiscated from a student’s room.
The banner stated “Exeter: Most expensive college #ctcc” and had been hanging from a window. The Rector explained the move: “Our attention was drawn to the banner, hanging from a window above Turl Street, by the University’s security personnel. The College rules forbid students from hanging objects from their windows. Our Junior Dean therefore removed the banner.”
Sunday night saw an emergency JCR motion debated which proposed, “That College provide redress for their failure to meet their obligations to a tenant”, and “That College refund students for the cost of the banner”.