OUSU president David Barclay’s motion to freeze college rents at the current rate passed at the Council meeting on Wednesday. It has been opposed by Balliol JCR president, recently entangled in a conflict with the college over an additional £300 Domus charge to be paid by all students.
Balliol JCR reached an understanding with the college this week to scrap the Domus charge proposed in November. Instead JCR and MCR agreed to co operate to find alternative methods to raise funds.
Balliol JCR president, Steven Dempsey commented “such a rent freeze could result in colleges losing money through accommodating students and, in the cases of less wealthy colleges, this could result in other charges (such as the now defeated Balliol Domus Charge)”.
Dempsey’s remarks implied that OUSU’s rent freeze motion could lead to colleges imposing additional charges on top of rent in order to maintain finances.
Barclay’s proposal seeks to prevent the escalation of rent for students in the current climate of uncertainty about government subsidization of education. David Bagg, representing Balliol college opposed the motion, stating that he felt it would aggravate animosity between colleges and their students.
In light of this controversy, Bagg argued that the motion would be seen as an OUSU dictat, and a steady rise in rent would be far preferable to declining relations between JCR/MCR and the bursar.
Dempsey remarked, “This freeze does not solve the true problems at the heart of student rent – the inequality between colleges and the amount their students pay for accommodation.”
“What is needed at least is a commitment from colleges to present their rent in a comparable way, including the same charges across all colleges, so that students can compare prices on a like-for-like basis between colleges and utilise the information for constructive negotiation.” Given that OUSU is not allowed to participate directly in negotiations between colleges and JCRs, Dempsey noted the idealism of Barclay’s motion.
He stated that he has “no intention of utilising this statement from OUSU, and instead will conduct negotiations in the context of Balliol’s financial situation”.
“Such a contextually aware approach has served us well in the recent Domus Charge negotiations and with the cooperative atmosphere between college and students in Balliol.”