As rain, sleet, and snow fell today, students at University College Cork pitched their tents on the Quad in the first day of their strike against a 3% rent increase for on-campus accommodation announced by the college for the forthcoming academic year.
Members of UCC Students’ Union and individuals from the student body say they will remain at the location until UCC decides to reverse its decision to increase rents.
Despite the bleak weather conditions today, which are forecast to continue, the students and their representatives say this is a stand they must make.
“Students will be forced to live in tents anyway if they don’t lower the rents,” Catherine Dawson, UCC Students’ Union education officer, told The Echo.
“This isn’t just some cowboy landlord, this is University College Cork,” said David Condon, UCC SU commercial and communications officer.
“Considering that this decision was made in the midst of a national housing crisis, I think it’s incredibly insensitive.
“For UCC to place students under further financial burden in an organisation that’s supposed to be not-for-profit is really something we can’t stand for.”
Ciara Kealy, UCC SU deputy president and campaigns officer, believes this campaign is the only way to get the college to pay attention.
“I don’t want to be here,” she said.
“I’d rather be in my office working away and going home at half-five, but there’s a point to be made and I don’t think unless there’s a visual demonstration that people will actually listen.”
The latest increase would mean that the cost of on-campus accommodation at the college has risen by 19% in just three years, which the Students’ Union says will add to the financial strain of students who are already struggling.
“This year we’ve also set up a food bank that’s used every week by students who can’t even afford to pay for their own food,” said Ms Kealy.
“People are really really suffering because of poor financial situations, that are just trying to get an education. The university knows this and to still increase rents just doesn’t seem logical.
“It’s locking people out of education. Many people who would be in fifth and sixth year in schools, or even younger than that, that are hoping to go on to third-level institutions such as the likes of UCC now are faced with the very harsh reality that maybe they won’t be able to.”
Four members of Students’ Union will be camping out full time, with others joining in as and when they can.
Mr Condon said the protestors have yet to have any contact from UCC, but says they are “always open to chat”.
“We’re only five feet away from the President’s Office.”
UCC said that the increase is “due to major refurbishing work, the rise in security and maintenance costs, and the investment required to provide additional accommodation for students”.