Wadham students held a demonstration on the college’s front quad this afternoon, in protest at the “unaffordable” rent of the college’s new second-year accommodation building.
According to organisers, the demonstration was intended to show the widespread anger at the £700 a month rent for the newly-built Dorothy Wadham building on Iffley Road, ahead of a meeting of the college’s Governing Body this afternoon.
Wadham SU has demanded a reduction in the rent from £700 to £550, and a move to term-time contracts. College authorities have maintained that they are “investing heavily to provide our second-year students with high quality, safe, convenient accommodation.”
In what was a very civilised protest, the students initially gathered at the stairs leading to hall, before moved onto the grass of front quad – an act strictly forbidden by college authorities.
However, after speaking with the porters on duty, the organisers agreed to move to the outskirts of the grass, in respect for the college gardener.
Once the students circled the quad, there were chants of “When I say Iffley, you say 550” and “Can’t pay, won’t pay”, as well as speeches from organisers.
In a speech at the demonstration, Wadham SU’s Vice-President, Joe Lovell-McNamee, told the crowd: “We’re asking that the current first years are not expected to pay unaffordable rents in second year, they’re currently being asked to pay £700 on a 9-month lease, which is £6,300 for the entire year!
“This is unaffordable, unflexible [sic], and unfair and we won’t stand for it. All that we are asking for is that the University of Oxford and Wadham College with all of its resources and all of its funds as one of the richest, wealthiest, international educational institutions, can give its students equitable housing arrangements.
“We’re not radicals, we’re not asking for a ridiculous amount, we’re asking for what’s owed to us. We hope that the governing body will see that our demands are reasonable and that they will find a meaningful solution to this current situation.”
On Sunday, Wadham SU passed a motion setting the SU’s official position regarding the accommodation contract for the Dorothy Wadham, demanding rents of £550 a month and term-time contracts.
In the event that College and SU fail to reach an agreement, the motion also mandated to refuse to run a room-ballot, or participate in any college-run room-ballot, to inform alumni of college’s proposal and its effects on students, and, as a last resort, to ballot for a rent strike which would impact Hillary Term’s battels.
A rent strike would involve second years refusing to move into the Dorothy Wadham building, and for all students not to pay college rent from next term onwards.
Lovell-McNamee told Cherwell “In line with a motion passed unanimously on Sunday, Wadham SU students gathered on front quad to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with current proposals for the rent and lease terms of next year’s second-year off-site accommodation.
“For the half an hour before governing body was set to meet, we thought it important to show that the opposition to unaffordable and unfair rents was far-reaching throughout the college, and can’t simply be brushed off as the view of a small vocal fringe.”
A Wadham College spokesperson told Cherwell that the college is “in discussion with its students on this matter and will issue a statement once a decision has been reached.”