Exeter College JCR is mobilising students to boycott catering facilities in college.
According to a facebook group set up by several Exeter students, including Edward Nickell, JCR President, participants “will not purchase any food or drink from Hall or the Bar, for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Instead, food will be provided in the JCR for a small contribution – very small compared to Hall.”
The boycott took place on Monday, for one day only. However Alice Nutting, a first-year English student, told Cherwell that “there has been a discussion about plans for a strike that could last weeks” at the start of Michaelmas.
Nickell claimed in a written JCR proposal to the college that “Exeter has the highest non redeemable catering charge in Oxford, by a margin of Â£116 per term. Colleges with smaller catering charges, for example New College, allow the entirety of the amount to be spent on meals eaten in hall.”
“The protest action,” Nickell told Cherwell, was “the result of tensions that have been bubbling for quite some time and finally boiled over last night… it became clear very quickly that the support for the action was very widespread.” He claimed that it had not arisen from “a suggestion from either me or the Exec.”
A letter from Bursar William Jenson to the JCR and MCR presidents, which was subsequently circulated around Exeter JCR, said, “While I accept that some students do and will always struggle financially, an institution such as Exeter cannot base its rent charges on what the poorest student feels is affordable.”
Jenson cited deficits in both the accomodation and catering accounts to demonstrate that the college continues to subsidise undergradautes. However he promised to propose to the college’s Governing Body the “re-instatement of the Hilary Term Graduate High Table dinner plus three Second Hall free dinners per term for each graduate student and four free Second Hall dinners per term for each undergraduate.”
On Monday night Cherwell went to dinner in Exeter JCR, costing Â£1.50. Owen Donovan, a kitchen volunteer, said that “we’ve seen far more students than we expected and a great college JCR spitit. It really shows that after years of catering charges rising to an exorbitant degree, this JCR isn’t going to take it.”
The facebook group said that “no-one is obliged to take part and no-one should jeopardise their work.” However it suggests that “Students who have finished exams can help out by coming to the JCR at meal times; we hope MCR members will join us too.”
Exeter JCR is not the first to adopt the policy. In October last year Magdalen JCR also initiated a boycott in response to the college’s new dining levy. The ‘hall strike’ ended without the college authorities granting concessions.