UCL has collectively fined 1,000 students as a sanction for withholding their rent, during ongoing face-to-face negotiations between the university and student campaigners from UCL, Cut the Rent (UCL-CTR).
On Monday a £25 fine was imposed on every student taking part in the rent strike, totalling over £25,000. A representative from UCLU has requested that the fines be postponed until the end of negotiations, but university management did not comply with their demands.
Students on rent strike were notified of the fine less than 24 hours before UCL-CTR’s next negotiation meeting with UCL management. The talks began on Friday 10 June, with the last meeting having taken place yesterday.
UCL’s Head of Student Accommodation, Duncan Palmer, sent a mass email to those who are withholding their rent reiterating previous threats to take legal action and refer students to an external debt collection agency.
[I]n the event of non-payment, the external debt recovery process would lead to Court proceedings being brought against you and a Court judgment being sought. A Court judgment could have negative repercussions for you, for example in relation to your future credit rating.
UCL-CTR see this turn of events as the latest attempt to undermine their efforts to create a meaningful dialogue between university management and students.
In recent months, senior UCL staff have been exposed for threatening student journalist Rebecca Pinnington with expulsion after she revealed sensitive financial documents containing information on projected profits from UCL-owned accommodation, as well as claiming that it is a ‘fact of life’ that studying in London is unaffordable for some.
UCL Union Halls Accommodation Representative Angus O’Brien said:
I am confident that the Cut the Rent group will continue to treat negotiations seriously, as these tactics will not deter them from campaigning for a better future for the students at this institution. I call upon UCL to prove they hold student welfare in the same regard by immediately rescinding this fine and joining student representatives in serious discussion.
Student rent striker Agathe de Canson said:
Considering that we’re supposed to be in the middle of negotiations, it is outrageous that UCL has sent out such a threatening and intimidating email. They are gravely mistaken if they believe the use of these tactics will make us end our protest.
UCL-CTR is currently organising a manifestation to coincide with UCL’s undergraduate open day on Saturday 18 June. The activist group expect that the outcry against UCL senior management’s latest actions will result in higher attendance at their demonstration.
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