How and why my university should cut the rent

November 24, 2016

When choosing a university, you are essentially choosing which one will be easiest to suffer through for the next three years of your life. Obviously, the details of your course and the future prospects are lingering somewhere in the occasionally visited area of your brain, but if we’re being honest, the people and the place are what make a university experience great. With this in mind, choosing an accommodation is just as important, if not more important than choosing which university to attend. Right?

I didn’t expect much when I moved into East Slope halls of residence. I’d heard the rumours: “sick parties, shit place to live.” As one second year sunk his third snake bite, after obliviously smashing my dreams of a cleanly kitchen. I’d chosen the cheapest halls of residence to live in, because if I was going to live down south, I would need every penny I could scrape together. So, for eighty-six pounds a week, I knew East Slope would not be the halls dreams are made of.

Despite the rumours, I was optimistic about my room. The coffee and teared stained carpet didn’t bother me. I didn’t blink an eye when the stench coming from inside the wardrobe hit the back of my throat, resulting in a gag reflex not disturbed since the Christmas of 2015. The smelly room and the stained carpet did not phase me. For eighty-six pounds a week in a building that was built in the seventies, it was manageable. Problems only started occurring in the flat, when the mould did.

“Has anyone seen that green stuff on the piping of the toilet?” my flatmate shouted one Tuesday. She was stirring her third tea of the morning and neglecting her fourth essay of the week. “It’s definitely mould.” She continued “we better report it.”

Weeks went by without any sign of a contractor. Twenty-four little eyes lit up, every time a man with a tool belt walked in our direction. Unfortunately, twenty-four little eyes resorted back to their sombre tones once he bypassed us completely. We were waiting so long for our mould situation to be resolved, a mushroom grew as well. By this point, our toilet had its own eco system. Perhaps a gardener would have been better suited for the job. Many more days passed with still no contact from building management.

The day we were about to give up hope, our aneurism inducing doorbell rang. It wasn’t a contractor; it was a third year with a clip board. I suppose not all heroes wear belts.
He told us he was an organiser of the 70/70 Housing Campaign and invited us to sign a petition to cut rent costs on campus. “I’ll sign it!” my flatmate piped up “no one else is doing anything around here.” She was right, so we invited him inside to learn more.

“The campaign was set up last year, after a motion from the University of Sussex Labour Society passed, wanting to create cheap rent” he continued “The motion demanded that accommodation should never be more than 70% and to look at the accommodation experiences survey, which reported discrepancies in experiences of marginalised groups, so we’d take a thorough look at that. “

After we all signed the 70/70 Housing Campaign petition, the third year and his clip board moved on. I was interested to find out more, the student newspaper recently reported that many accommodations were poor quality and very expensive, with the cost of the cheapest single rooms on campus currently making up 85% of the smallest student loan for 2016/17. I wondered whether the impending demolition of East Slope would affect these figures.

Following a catch up with the campaign organiser, he said “The petition received thousands of signatures and was submitted last month.” With such great news, I asked what would happen next: “we’re still in talks with the university at the moment.”

I walked through the front door of our flat. I didn’t bother to check whether the garden was still festering in our toilet, it definitely was. Though it was encouraging to hear the university were not in serious talks with the campaigners, I expect it will be a while before we find out the finer details. Hopefully they won’t take as long as the man with the tool belt.

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