JCRs challenge storage policies

Colm Murphy 13 November 2015

The Cambridge Student has learnt that a number of JCRs are pressuring their colleges for changes in vacation and storage policies.

At Downing, nearly 300 students have signed a petition protesting the scrapping of storage for international students.

Meanwhile, at Magdalene and Trinity, JCR officials are putting forward proposals for changes in the rules, and the JCR of Murray Edwards is currently canvassing the opinion of the student body on accommodation.

Last week, TCS reported that Magdalene’s welfare and equal opportunities officer raised the idea of allowing students to leave possessions in their room over the vacation at an open meeting, as the policy is under review.

When contacted, their JCR president, Harry Gower, said they were “yet to find a solution to the issue with college.

“We have spoken to college and asked them to publish a full list of what can be stored in which rooms (something which isn’t entirely clear currently).” This has subsequently been communicated to Magdalene students by Gower.

He added that they were investigating the possibility of a deal with an external company to enable students to bulk store student belongings.

At the very least, Christ’s, Emmanuel, Magdalene, Peterhouse and Selwyn currently ask students to vacate their rooms as standard practice.

Since TCS’s investigation, it was reported in The Tab that Downing’s Senior Tutor Dr Guy Williams suggested scrapping facilities for international students.

This led student Onkar Singh to create a petition which currently has 276 signatures. The petition argues: “This is a huge injustice for the international student body at Downing who … pay much higher rates for accommodation, college bills and tuition fees. Downing College must  be  an equal and supportive environment for all students”.

Dr Williams commented that “there have been concerns over many years about security of access and the safety of items stored” mentioning flooding and rodent infestations.

The College General Purposes Committee subsequently met on Monday 9.  The JCR was unable to comment on the outcome of this meeting.

iCUSU, which  represents  international students, is currently conducting a survey on issues of  storage and accommodation across the University.

TCS has also learnt that Trinity College Student Union is currently negotiating with the College to allow students to keep their rooms for storage at a cheaper rate.

Currently, students have to pay almost the same rate for their room as in term time even if they are only using it for storage.

Their president, Cornelius Roemer, pointed out to TCS that “Trinity does not take part in the conference business extensively so most of the rooms are vacated by students in vain.”

Most students don’t want to pay the full rate for storage, so “no use is made of most of the rooms that are vacated.”

He also mentioned that St John’s have recently adopted a policy of allowing all students to keep their rooms over the vacation for free.

After meeting with the Junior Bursar and the accommodation office, and subsequently running a survey, Roemer argues that if the policy was changed to significantly reduce the cost of storing possessions over the vacation, the College would make an extra £60,000 a year.

He does point out that, from a welfare point of view, adopting St John’s policy would be better.

Murray Edwards JCR’s vice president, Laura Robinson, sent out a Google survey asking for accommodation issues to be highlighted.

According to the minutes of the recent JCR meeting, Murray Edwards students have complained about a wide variety of issues including: mould, and no lighting, no water,  and no heating for extended periods. Murray Edwards JCR, while the survey is open, is unavailable for comment.

One Peterhouse student, whose family doesn’t own a car, told TCS: “It’s practically impossible to move all my stuff in and out three times a year. But as I’m not an international student, my college doesn’t provide me with any storage.

“I’ve had to pay several hundred pounds for private storage or stay on my own over the holidays, just to babysit my belongings. It’s a huge expense and inconvenience.”