Keble College faced accusations of inaccessibility this week following an announcement that students would not be provided with onsite accommodation during the college’s Commemoration Ball in 2020, leading to the postponement of accommodation release and a reconsidering of the decision.
Students filed an emergency motion which was discussed at the college JCR meeting on Sunday (October 20), saying that the decision not to provide onsite accommodation raised a number of welfare and access concerns, such as drunk students struggling to make their way home and students being unable to come due to the financial burden of paying for accommodation outside college.
Numerous elements of the ball organisation were criticised, including the decision to sell alumni tickets first and the price of accommodation being provided at other sites.
“You were supposed to represent us and you didn’t represent us,” said third-year Keble student Hannah Al-Qaryooti at Sunday’s meeting. “Students can’t just drop £50 on accommodation.”
JCR President Annie Johnson said that a meeting had been held
on Monday (October 21) with the chair of the Ball Committee and the Alumni and Development Of- fice, and that the decision not to provide accommodation was now being reconsidered.
The Keble Ball Committee said it had worked very hard to try to secure rooms in college and had pushed back against college administration for several weeks, following their insistence that rooms would not be provided. This is said to be due to a “security risk,” a claim which the motion called “dubious at best” due to the lack of justification provided. “There’s more of a security risk because more important people are coming to the ball, i.e. not stu- dents, and they care more about alumni than they do about us,” said Al-Qaryooti.
This was echoed in the mo- tion itself, which claimed that it “feels as if the focus has not only been adjusted to incorporate the wider Keble Family, but has actually been re-adjusted, lying mainly with alumni and affiliates, with students’ worries and needs being put on hold.” Many students highlighted that working alumni are able to pay for accommodation and tickets, but lower-income students will not be able to pay the combined price of the ball ticket, transport to Oxford and accommo- dation costs as a result of the ticket
price increase and the decision to hold the ball outside of term time, in 9th week.
However, both committee members who attended the meeting, one of whom was the executive Sam Edwards, voted in favour of the motion, which they said they had “nothing against.” Accommodation release has now been postponed by 10 days, with tickets to be released on the same day. Alumni tickets were released more than two weeks ahead, and a number of more expensive rooms ranging from £75 and upwards were also made available to them on the Keble Ball website, along with discount codes.
Al-Qaryooti’s calls for an emer- gency panel meeting in which the college working party would have to answer the students’ concerns was widely supported, espe- cially following the revelation that graduate students at the offsite H.B. Allen Centre would be granted accommodation during the ball. “If they actually have to look at us in the face and justify it, they’ll real- ise that their security concerns are nothing compared to the concerns of the undergraduates,” said Al- Qaryooti.
Rooms have been secured at various other sites for both student and alumni guests, including 160 rooms reserved at Oxford Brookes University. However, the cheapest room price available is £40, with most being £50 – whilst Keble accommodation averages out to around £20-21 per night, excluding vacation residence.
“I don’t want to book tickets if I’m not guaranteed accommodation,” said one fourth-year student who did not wish to be named. One concern which arose during the meeting was that the available accommodation at Oxford Brookes would suffice for just 160 students, whereas around 700-800 students would need rooms. However, the committee responded to this by saying more rooms could be booked once the reserved rooms had been paid for.
It also emerged that fewer tickets have been reserved for students than in previous years, with a reserve of 1000 tickets for students and their guests. This is 400 fewer than the usual amount, as more tickets have been allocated for alumni. The committee stated that the usual number of Keble students and their guests who pur- chase tickets is between 700 and 800, and thus in theory the normal uptake is guaranteed a ticket.
Students also called for greater transparency in the ball organisation process, saying that the ball committee had the opportunity to ask students for their opinion but did not take it, and that there should be a factsheet compiled so that students are aware of proceedings.
Keble College did not respond to a request for comment.