‘Whose University?' campaign launched to "make students the priority"

Image credit: Marco Barisione

"To whom do our university and college spaces belong?" is the key question underpinning a new student campaign, named 'Whose University?', which aims to address problems caused by “a distinct lack of clarity about who has ownership over college spaces.”

The group describes itself as an “autonomous campaign run with the support of the CUSU Women’s Campaign” and seeks to draw attention to cases where the University and colleges are perceived to be prioritising business interests over the needs and welfare of students.

A campaign statement published on the group’s facebook page emphasized the “contentious” issue of space at Cambridge, stating: “We struggle to find rooms to book for student events, and many of us are kicked out of our rooms as soon as term ends so that colleges can rent them out to conference guests.”

The statement highlights that students may need to stay in Cambridge for welfare or academic reasons, and asserts: “We want the university and colleges to realise that the idea of a ‘home’ to return to each vacation is not a privilege that everyone here is able to access.”

Speaking to The Cambridge Student, Daisy Hughes, the organizer of the campaign, said: “I feel the need for the campaign has been brewing for a while… but the final push came out of women’s forum last week when we were discussing how access to mental health provision in Cambridge is restricted by the fact we’re made to leave at the end of each term, and also how domestic violence may affect people such that ‘home’ isn’t a safe place to go back to over the holidays.”

Many students have welcomed the campaign. One third year student, who wished to remain anonymous, told TCS: “Cambridge spends so much time convincing people from non-traditional backgrounds to apply without seeming to realise that the problems which could prevent people from applying don’t stop once you move in.
 
“I have been very lucky in having an extremely proactive head tutor who has made sure that I have somewhere to go. But even then it isn’t a standard procedure … its terrible that on top of our work worries some of us have to be concerned with making sure that we are not homeless over the Christmas vacation.”
 
Other students have questioned the campaign’s premise, with William Nott, a third year student at Girton telling TCS: “I think it’s a fundamentally flawed idea since conferencing effectively subsidises rents and other college services.”
 
However, in response to such criticism, Daisy Hughes told TCS: “While I appreciate that there are certain business requirements the university must fulfill … it is really a question of priorities. If students are made to feel that they aren’t a priority in their university, then we have a problem.”

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