We won the rent strike - but we're not done yet
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Five months ago, 100 UCL students stopped paying their rent in protest against the university’s unfair profits and unacceptable hall conditions. Now, we have received an offer of £850,000 from UCL, and our power is only growing. Our strike forced the university to offer students £350,000 to fund accommodation bursaries in 2016/17 academic year, with a further £500,000 for 2017/18. They have also reduced the cost of 1,224 rooms for the next academic year, totalling £1m in concessions. These are huge numbers, as it is forcing them to meet their promise to ensure access to education for those from all backgrounds, rather than earlier statements admitting they “don’t consider low-income students when setting rents.” By pushing them to these concessions, we have exposed their elitism and exploitation of students. It’s been a long battle to get to this point. As someone who was one of the initial 100 strikers, I’ve seen the campaign grow from a hopeful spark to a raging, nationwide fire. UCL did not come to these concessions easily – they made it difficult, or sometimes outright refused, to negotiate. They showed themselves to be bullies by trying to silence a student journalist, telephone strikers and threatening them, refusing international students the guarantor scheme, and trying to fine us £25,000. Students were trying to fight all this whilst also earning a degree. But that didn’t stop the campaign – if anything, it angered students, inspiring more action, and from more people. They thought they would subdue us, but instead they poured petrol on our fire. The numbers increased exponentially to that the point that the people in the campaign itself hadn’t realised quite how many had joined our cause. By the end of the strike we had over 1,000 students withholding rent. However, the obvious anger and upset of over 1,000 people clearly wasn’t enough to persuade UCL that something should be done, and they still tried to threaten their way out of it.
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