A group of students at the University of Sussex have organised a rent strike, following a lack of communication from the University regarding their stance on third term rent payments. Currently, the student hub states “Normal rental charges apply if you remain on campus. We will continue to support you with essential services during this time.”

A growing student body named ‘Sussex, Cut the Rent’ have organised the strike, and have expressed deep concern that Sussex are currently still expecting students to pay their third term rent payments in full, despite the financial burdens the coronavirus pandemic has placed on many. In an open statement published on social media, they detailed their demands:

We demand the the University of Sussex acts on the following with immediate effect:

  • To cancel foreseeable rents for all students left in Sussex rented accommodation
  • To reimburse the full third term rent for those who have already paid. 
  • To ensure that Students will be allowed to stay in their accommodation for the duration of the lock down period.
  • To offer pastoral care to those on campus or in isolation via a help line
  • To ensure that those remaining on campus have access to subsidised groceries or food during this period. 
  • To make empty bedrooms in Sussex rented accommodation available for any students who need it.  

The COVID-19 crisis has created severe financial uncertainty globally, but students have been disproportionately affected. Sussex, Cut the Rent highlight in their open statement that many students “…simply do not have the funds to continue to pay huge sums of rent, already much higher than their Student Loans cover, due to reduced hours in casual employment, total redundancy or other unforeseen monetary complications.” 

Furthermore, many international students have been forced to leave the UK due to ongoing travel restrictions, meaning that they will be expected to pay their third term rent payments, despite being unable to return to campus: 

“Many international students cannot return home due to travel restrictions. For these students their future options and movements are incredibly uncertain, so it is imperative that the University offers them some certainty and stability in these unsettling times. We urge you to ensure that all students adhering to government restrictions will be able to extend their contracts seamlessly, ensuring that no one is evicted for any reason.”

The Badger spoke to a representative of Sussex, Cut the Rent. They have exclusively revealed that fifty Sussex students have pledged to withhold rent, and a further 100 have expressed their interest. 

They told The Badger

“Why should students pay to be trapped in university accommodation on a campus that has shut down? Students have been left without essential services and many of us have lost the income we rely on to survive. The university should not be profiteering off of a global pandemic. Other universities, such as Brighton, Plymouth and Surrey, have already recognised the impact this situation has had on student finances and waived all third term rent. Surely the University of Sussex, with the most expensive average accommodation rent outside of London, can recognise this also? If they want to put student welfare first, senior management must cancel all third term rents.”

Students who are currently living in university accommodation can pledge their intention to withhold rent or register interest in the strike by filling out this google form: Sussex University: Cancel rents now! 

Students who are unable to participate in the rent strike have been implored to take part in a ‘virtual banner drop’ on April 14. Students can take a photo of themselves, or their window, with a poster saying “I support the Sussex rent strike”, which should be uploaded to social media with the tag #sussexrentstrike.” 

You can read the open statement in full, here: Open Statement: Sussex Rent Strike

The Badger has approached the University of Sussex for comment regarding their stance on waiving rent fees. We will update this article with their response.

Image Credit: Sussex, Cut the Rent

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