‘We commend students taking part’: Lancs rent strike supported by JCRs and LUSU

Pressure is mounting on Lancaster University to make concessions over rent during the pandemic

Following the news that Lancaster University students are withholding their rent payments in order to receive a reduction or waiver in fees, the rent strike has now been backed by all eight Lancaster undergraduate college JCRs, and the Students’ Union Full-Time Officers.

This support has not come without controversy, as a leaked email sent to Furness College JCR shows that Lancaster University initially attempted to silence the JCR from using official channels to support the strike:

The leaked email shows that University management were unhappy with Furness supporting the rent strike

The email reads: “The University Media and Communications team have asked that the re-tweets and any other posts on the rent strikes be removed please.

“We have to be very mindful of what is posted on social media under Furness College. By all means, please re-tweet and post these campaigns using your own accounts to help spread the message and refer people to the Students’ Union pages too. But for now, I would be grateful if these can be taken down from anything under Furness College.”

Speaking to The Lancaster Tab, the Lancaster Uni Rent Strike group said: “We think this interference by University management into the activities of supposedly autonomous JCRs is not only disgusting, but also shows just how fearful they are of the Rent Strike.

“JCRs are elected by students, but these events leave us questioning their purpose – to reroresent those students, or to represent the views of University Management?”

Commenting on the leaked email, a Lancaster University spokesperson told The Lancaster Tab: “This isn’t at all about trying to restrict the student voice in any way. Our colleges are diverse communities that include elected student officers, college staff, and staff and student members. The communications team is currently working with Furness JCR and the colleges to agree a standard way of using social media that ensures college content is appropriate, representative and attributable.”

When contacted for comment, Furness College’s JCR said: “Due to ongoing talks, we are unable to comment.”

The demands listed for the campaign include rent reductions and increased mental health support

Lancaster University Students’ Union’s President, Oliver Robinson, made the following post on his official Facebook page, throwing his support behind the strike: “The key to success in any strike is collective action – the more people we have in a single action, pulling together, the more likely our chance of success is, and the greater likelihood that the Uni will offer greater concessions.

Not only this, but the Students’ Union itself has thrown its full weight behind the rent strike, and has itself offered a reduction in the rent for its own properties in the coming Summer Term. In a statement on its website, LUSU said: “We will be using our positions to take this directly to University Senior Management, including the Vice Chancellor and University Council. We encourage students to take part as we’re stronger together.

“We commend the students taking part, and those that have organised this so effectively in an effort to secure better material conditions for themselves and their fellow students.

“As a Students’ Union, we also strive to do the right thing for our members. It would be wrong of us to ask the University to give rent reductions if we didn’t ourselves. Our SU Trustee Board has taken the positive step and decided to offer one week rent free in Summer Term to students who are tenants of SU Living and are unable to occupy their property during the current lockdown as a way of helping those impacted by the pandemic.”

Featured image credit: Lancaster Uni SU Twitter

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