Keble College has reversed its decision to refuse students onsite accommodation during the commemoration ball on June 27, 2020. The move comes after students put substantial pressure on the organisational committee to secure rooms in college, citing access and welfare concerns which would particularly affect low-income students.
In an email to college members, ball executive Sam Edwards said 200 rooms would be initially made available on November 7, but that this was “the maximum number which can be confirmed at this stage,” as the college is yet to finalise academic requirements for students staying on for work in 9th week.
Third-year student Hannah Al-Qaryooti, who was instrumental in proposing the motion and highlighting the accessibility concerns involved, said, “I am extremely happy that Keble have reversed their decision. It shows that they have listened to student concerns about accessibility.”
Initial concerns revolved around the cost of rooms outside college, the cheapest of which was priced at £50 – thus making it difficult for low-income students to attend. As the majority of the accommodation was located at Oxford Brookes, students also expressed worry that drunk students might be forced to walk to the site alone in a vulnerable state.
Rooms in college were originally priced at £43, but the ball committee has decided to subsidise the cost, reducing the price to £33. They will be allocated on a first-come-first-serve basis, although full bursary students will have their rooms automatically reserved.
The college has also committed to offering heavily subsidised tickets to Moritz-Heyman scholars, meaning that they will be able to attend the ball at a cost of £50, which Al-Qaryooti lauded as an “extraordinary commitment to accessibility from Keble and should be followed by other ball committees.”
Social Backgrounds Rep Adam Ferguson told Cherwell: “It is very encouraging to see that Keble is both aware of, and open to our suggestions as to how best support low-income students. Given a short amount of time and a tight schedule, the college acted remarkably quickly and have introduced an element of accessibility to the ball which will hopefully remain indefinitely into the future.”
Despite the success of student action, Al-Qaryooti expressed she was “disappointed that it took such pressure from the student body to actually make accessibility provisions and that such concerns from the student part of the committee were ignored when these decisions were initially made.”
She added that future balls outside term time should include an access officer, due to fears that “with such a quick turnover of students, it can be quite difficult to create long-lasting change, as when students leave, the accountability does so with them and instead we go back to square one with the new cohort.”
The organisational committee is split into a student section and a college working party, the latter of which was initially responsible for the decision to refuse onsite accommodation to students “for various logistical and safety reasons,” according to Edwin Peel, the chair of the working party.