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Northfield students freeze in "sub-par accommodation"

Enraged Northfield students are demanding compensation for time they spent without hot water and heating, with an online petition attracting over 100 signatures.

The petition, set up by a Northfield resident, explains that: “the heating across the Sussex campus has been very temperamental, with Northfield being particularly badly affected.

“As Northfield is not exactly cheap to live in, it is not acceptable that people should be living in sub-par accommodation.

“This highly frequent lack of heating is not what we originally anticipated when moving into the accommodation Sussex has to offer.”

Speaking to The Badger, the petition’s author said: “People have been complaining about how bad the heating and hot water situation is and there doesn’t seem to be enough of an initiative to fix it.

“I made the petition in the hope that it would provide them with more motivation to either fix the problem or offer us compensation”.

Criticism of both the University and Sussex Estates and Facilities (SEF) has been scathing on social media, in particularly Facebook, with some students sharing pictures of residents resorting to using saucepans and kettles to wash themselves.

Several complaints about SEF were also brought up in a recent Student Experience Forum.

Bethan Hunt, Education Officer, explained: “Students complained that the Jubilee building constantly needs to be repaired, which is ridiculous as it is a new building.

“When people put in for repairs to SEF, they never hear back so it doesn’t get fixed.

“There was only one toilet in use in the Jubilee building for the Post-graduate open day, as SEF hadn’t repaired them.”

She added that one Media, Film and Music (MFM) student rep explained that: “Arts A had no heating and was so cold that a lecturer cut their lecture short so they could get back to the warmth.”

One student in university accommodation explained that she experienced several issues in her flat, saying: “We didn’t have a working microwave for two months, we had a false widow spider infestation and the heating has been on and off all winter.”

She added: “A disabled friend in my block was left without lighting in their bathroom and no working hob for a few days, forcing them to shower in the dark.”

Another student who lived in Northfield last term spoke of her frustration at not being able to get a kitchen sink repaired, saying: “We had water spilling out of the pipes into someone’s cupboard and onto the floor.

“After six weeks passed, I decided it was ridiculous. It had now been reported three times and we had resorted to cleaning our dishes in the showers!

“I ended up calling a family friend who worked as a repairman; it took me 10 minutes to find and fix the problem. After fixing it myself, we were never contacted about the issue, nor were they informed we had fixed it.”

The student condemned the University and the quality of service provided by Sussex Estates and Facilities, saying: “I’m not sure if £144 a week is worth it.

“An external landlord fixes problems quickly, but the University lets their students who are mostly new to being alone deal with all the problems alone with no one to help them fix the situation.”

In a statement, a University spokesperson said: “We welcome feedback from our residents, much of which is passed on from our colleagues in Sussex Estates and Facilities (SEF), who are responsible for maintenance on campus.

“During the period recently when there were issues with the campus heating, most students were able to take advantage of the alternative provision we offered, such as portable heaters and nearby hot showers, while repair works progressed.

“To date in 2015, we have received eight formal complaints from Northfield residents about heating via the Housing Services complaints procedure, and we are investigating each of these with due care and attention.”

The spokesperson added: “We would always advise our residents to report any issues directly to their residential porter or Building Manager and, outside office hours, to the York House 24-hour Reception on campus.

“Contact details are in the Residents’ handbook, which is provided in each room and electronically in advance of arrival.”

The University has previously defended the decision to privatise accommodation services in January last year, stating: “There is no evidence to suggest that maintenance issues are taking longer to be resolved since SEF took responsibility for campus facilities; in fact, in many cases it is quite the reverse.”

Daniel Green

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