Words By Meg De Meo
On Friday 16 October over 50 students attended a rally co-hosted by the Sussex Renters Union, Sussex Student Union and the First Generation Scholars Society. The rally addressed the experience of students living on campus who felt that they are paying thousands of pounds in rent and fees to watch lectures alone in their rooms.
Since the arrival of students on campus there has been an increase in the number of cases both nationally and locally. Students have been asked to self-isolate or quarantine periodically with what Sussex Renters Union described as minimal support.
The price of on campus accommodation is justified by the access to university facilities, seminars and lectures. Since arriving on campus in September students have found that most, and in many cases all, of classes have taken place online.
Attendees expressed frustration that the student experience they had been promised was different to the one that materialised. Some felt that Sussex had to compete with other universities that were offering a “normal university experience.”
Many students from outside of the UK chose to come to Sussex on the promise that university life would be relatively normal. Those speaking at the event said they are now experiencing isolation and would have stayed at home had they known that teaching would be online and facilities unavailable.
The reduction facilities together with the restrictions put in place to stop the spread of Covid-19 has impacted mental health. A student living on campus said that “loneliness and boredom is taking over.”
The morning of the rally students received an email from Kelly Coate that addressed rumours of a rent strike. She stated that this would devastate the university’s finances and put jobs at risk.
Speaking at the event, Kweku Peprah emphasised that the renter’s union needed to develop a clear line that united students and staff whose livelihoods are at risk, citing the financialisaton of higher education, which has made universities dependent on fees and rent, and deteriorated working conditions. He stated that: “We need to recognise who we are fighting with and who we are fighting against.”