Sheffield Student Union votes 45-0 in favour of supporting rent strike

Written by Ed Brown

Sheffield Student Union voted to support a rent strike organised by University of Sheffield students.

The vote, which took place on 11 March, saw 45 councillors voting in favour of the strike and none voting against.

“It’s a strong vote for,” said SU president Beth Eyre. “I’m really happy to see students utilising the SU democracy routes” she added.

The rent strike has been ongoing since 20 January. It calls upon the University to cut student rent by 30 per cent, and to offer all students a no-penalty early release clause. It also asks the university to reassess the support available to students.

The strike currently consists of 103 students, whilst the demands and principle of the strike has been supported in a petition by over 700 students at the university, according to Dan Walsh, 19, who studies politics and international relations.

“The uni have shown consistent disregard for student mental health and wellbeing,” said Walsh. He criticised the packages being sold by the university to self-isolating students; the cost of the essential food and toiletries packages comes to £49.25.

He expressed concern about the growing student suicide rates. “That could be a friend of mine,” he said.

A spokesperson for the University of Sheffield said: “We understand this has been an incredibly difficult year for students and throughout the pandemic we have been working hard to support them in the best possible way.”

Following negotiations with the SU, the university agreed not to charge students who couldn’t make use of university accommodation between 4 January and 12 April, but this has not satisfied the rent strikers.

“We legally could not access our accommodation,” said Walsh in a speech to the SU council. “The refund from the most recent lockdown is the bare minimum.

“We are getting an entirely different product than what we signed a contract for. It is logical that if you receive a different product then you pay a different amount,” he added.

Jess Kent, 22, a fourth-year maths student participating in the strike, shares this view.

Jess pre-pandemic at Marxist Society march (credit: Jess Kent)

“It’s nowhere near the same,” she said, comparing this academic year to those before the pandemic. After being told she would receive face-to-face teaching, Jess was then told she wouldn’t after already signing the contract for her accommodation.

“We were essentially lied to,” she said, noting the lack of engagement with virtual clubs and societies.

“Less people are turning out. There’s no social stimulation whatsoever.

“You need to have that connection with others – forget about your degree for a night and just relax. And we’re been robbed of that. It really does make the burden a lot harder.”

Written by Ed Brown

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