Over 500 students sign up to join the Warwick Rent Strike in 48 hours

We spoke to the team of students behind the movement about why they feel it’s so important

Warwick students are signing up to withhold their rent payments to the University over the uncertainties around this term’s return to campus.

Instagram account @rentstrikewarwick launched the campaign two days ago (3rd January), calling for students in both on-campus and University-managed off-campus accommodations to withhold their rent payments for Term 2.

Within the first hour, the organisers got 100 students to sign up, and then reached over 400 sign ups in just 24 hours.

The organisers of the strike have shared a list of six demands, asking the University to give a 40% rent cut for this academic year, along with better provision of mental health and financial support, and no Covid-related job losses.

@rentstrikewarwick shared the details for the strike in an Instagram post, including an outline of their demands

The rent strike is in solidarity with a number of other university groups across the country, such as Cut the Rent Leeds. Following protests at the University of Manchester, students’ rent was cut by 30% for their first semester.

We spoke to the organisers behind the Warwick Rent Strike who told us the team is a ten-person mix of first, second and third year students, which works to represent different groups of the student body, and have been adding more people who are interested in helping out.

They attribute their successful launch to the preparation and organisation they put in beforehand. Asked why they started this at Warwick, a spokesperson for the team said:

“There is clearly a lot of rage and appetite for a rent strike on campus right now, and increasingly so with the worsening covid situation but I think it’s also the growing nati9onal movement that has been the most encouraging.

“We wanted to stand in solidarity with students across the country because we know that the more of us there are dissenting, the more likely any of us at all will get rent justice.”

To decide the demands, the team looked “at other rent strikes across the country and in the history of student movements, seeing what was viable but also not compromising on what [they] think is necessary.”

“We have good connections with the UCU which is why our demands also reflect their wellbeing,” they told The Warwick Tab. “We’re trying to represent as much of the Warwick community as possible, and we are also open to negotiating and adjusting our demands down the line if students have some concerns. We’re planning to have an open meeting soon.”

When asked why they thought this strike was so important, the team gave the following statement:

“Of course this rent strike is important because of how terribly Warwick has handled the pandemic and compromised much of our wellbeing, and withholding our rent is our form of protest.

“But beyond that, we have to recognize that rent strikes are so important because they are a sign of students coming together and understanding their collective identity. Of recognising their role in the university system and withholding their main participation to it until the university becomes a space built for their collective wellbeing.

“Going on rent strike is one expression of civil disobedience against universities and can allow students to see themselves within that history and become part of it as active agents of political and social change.

“It is the a sign of growing dissent among young people at society on the whole and their place within it.”

Posts about the strike have been shared by Warwick SU Democracy and Development Officer Akosua Sefah, Warwick Labour Society, Anti-Racism Society and Warwick Occupy.

The University gave the following statement on the situation:

“Following last night’s announcement of a new national lockdown, the university has been working to assess the impact this will have on our community. We will be updating staff and students on any changes ahead of the start of term on 11th January.”

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