College backs down to angry JCR

Tom Muir 8 October 2007

St John’s students were left with a sour taste in the mouth when they returned from their summer break and were hit with massive food and drink price hikes.

But college dons were forced to climb down after student union officers whipped up support for a widespread boycott of St John’s bar and catering.

Costs in the college bar had sky-rocketed while formal hall tickets leaped from an affordable £3.80 to a pricey £4.50.

The increases came on the back of long-running disputes about rising room costs – a sore spot for many undergraduates at the college.

And because students were left completely in the dark about the price rises, JCR president Martin Kent called on undergraduates to prepare for action.

He told The Cambridge Student that the first he heard about the hikes was when he returned to college because the JCR had never been consulted.

In an e-mail to fellow students he said: “We’re shocked by the massive increases in prices. This is completely unacceptable.”

It is believed the decision to raise costs was taken by the college domestic bursar Commodore John Harris.

And it appears that after hearing rumblings of discontent among the student population, St John’s master Prof Richard Perham – just one day into his new job – decided to pull back the bursar’s plans.

Formal hall tickets were lowered to £4.08 and anyone who bought at the higher price has been refunded the difference.

Kent took the drop as a white flag and called off the boycott, while the college has pledged to review the issue.

He said: “We would particularly like to thank the master and senior tutor in their investigation of the issue and their very prompt action.”

Commodore Harris said: “Prices are examined each year as part of the college’s annual budget.

“Food and bar prices are linked to the costs of obtaining and supplying the food and drink, and not to fund improvements in the college’s buildings. Food costs in particular have risen sharply this year.

“We always consult fully with the JCR on room charges and the general financial state of the college.”

He admitted he had not consulted Kent on food prices but said that would change under new plans being brought in this year.

He added: “The president of the JCR has been informed of the current situation. Commodore Harris refused to comment on whether the master had slapped down his initial price hike, but said: “The formal hall price increase is in line with the increases of other food prices for this academic year.”

Tom Muir