Trinity students have been shocked by a massive rent hike proposed by the College. Undergraduates have responded by unanimously rejecting the inflation-busting increases to their food and accommodation costs. The suggested increases would raise battels by £4 000 for a three year degree, increasing board and lodging costs by 57%. In a letter to undergraduates the head of the College, The Hon Michael Beloff QC, cites “the war in Iraq, concerns about terrorism and now SARS” as contributory reasons for the increases. In an interview with The Times newspaper on Monday, JCR President Sarojini McKenna criticized the College’s proposals and said, “these plans would change Trinity entirely for future generations.” Negotiations over battels were due to start this week. However Mr Beloff, pre-empting the discussions in a letter sent to undergraduates last Friday, stated that the College intends to phase in increases in real accommodation charges of 20%, catering charges of 40% together with 60% in the establishment charge, all above Oxford inflation. JCR Secretary Christopher Byrne said, “From the other JCRs that we have spoken to, we have by far the highest proposed increases.” In a press release sent out by the Student Union on Monday in response to the Times article, Vice President (Welfare) Andrew Copson comments, “if the domestic costs are raised in this way, students on a maximum loan will have only £2 per week to spend on essentials such as books and food.” Trinity students are incensed by the College’s plans. Sarojini McKenna told Cherwell, “we had not expected such drastic rises. Undergraduates are not a resource to exploit. To use student rents as a cushion against recessions and geopolitical crises is an irresponsible policy of College.” Mr Beloff ’s letter attracted criticism among JCR members. He defended his strategy, arguing that the College needs to increase charges to deflect criticism of elitism. Mr Beloff said, “A perception that Oxford students benefit so significantly from subsidised accommodation and food may no longer be acceptable to the wider community.” McKenna responded to this by saying, “The stigma that Oxford is the playground of the rich could within a few years become the reality. The increases could yield college £150 000, while they intend to raise hardship funds by just £10 000. Underprivileged students will be put off applying to Trinity.” The Trinity rent proposals have raised fears that other colleges may follow suit by demanding large rent increases. Mr Beloff warns, “other colleges in similar positions have reached the same conclusion” that Oxford colleges are “no longer in a position to continue subsidising student accommodation and catering costs at current levels”. Many JCR members however are worried about the wider Access implications. Byrne said to Cherwell, “College’s public Access committments in the national press will be made redundant if this massive deterrent to applications goes through.”
ARCHIVE: 2nd Week TT 2003

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