Strike campaigners held a second major protest today reaffirming their support for the 600 UCL students withholding rent for the rest of the academic year.
They went from UCL’s main quad to post a list of demands on the student residences office, then carried on past Astor College and Ramsay halls, finishing with dancing and drinking on Fitzroy Square.
The march was billed as a May Day after-party complete with beer caddy, smoke bombs and a thumping stereo.
“I think it’s a really great idea because UCL are c**ts,” said Astor College resident and now potential rent striker Amy Steadman, whose rent is £190 a week. “I think that they shouldn’t be making so much money off us.
“For those of us that don’t have parents giving them money it’s very difficult.”
Astor College is set to be shut down for refurbishing over the 2016/17 academic year, further reducing the number of spaces at UCL-run halls, though residents there have been told they can keep their mini fridges.
At Ramsay Hall, residents shouted support from the windows. Many UCL students are now preparing for their exams and poor conditions in halls can cause serious disruption.
Cut the Rent organiser David Dahlborn said: “We’ve seen how they dealt with a collapsed ceiling in Campbell House, showing absolute incompetency ensuring their own buildings are safe for human habitation.
“So I think that really calls into question who they are and why they’re in charge, and why they’re raising the rent year on year.”
National Union of Students (NUS) vice president Shelly Asquith officially declared union support for rent strikes at both UCL and Goldsmiths on Friday, including resources and legal support following on from a vote at national conference.
The campaigners welcomed the help and said they hoped it meant their demands would be taken more seriously.
“The sky-high cost of rents for students in halls is unacceptable,” said Ms. Asquith. “Extortionate rents, coupled with course fees and spiralling living costs prevents working class students from attending university altogether.
“This cannot go on.”
This year the UCL campaign has extracted a 2.5% rent cut from the university, who will be reducing halls contract length from 40 to 39 weeks. Management have also announced a rent reduction and freeze on over 30% of UCL’s owned accommodation.
However, this still falls well short of the 40% cut demanded by Cut the Rent.
Separately 300 students at Goldsmiths began their rent strike today after negotiations between the university and campaigners fell apart.
Similar to UCL, campaigners allege student rents are kept at above-market rates while conditions can be unfairly poor, with unresponsive maintenance and inappropriate or intimidating security staff.