Writes Chloe Jesse
On the afternoon of February 25th, about sixty students convened on UCC’s quadrangle to protest increasing rent prices for campus accommodation. Amidst the on and off snow and rain rose chants of “What do we want?” “Rent freeze!” “When do we want it?” “Now!” And “1,2,3,4: We won’t take this anymore! 5,6,7,8: We need funding from the state!” Students walked in a circle around the quad carrying signs like “Raise the Roof, Not the Rents”, “You’re Taking the Piss!” and “Down With That Sort of Thing!” The students were led by Student Union Deputy President and Campaigns Officer, Ciara Kealy.
This protest takes place after the announcement that all UCC owned accommodation rents will be increased by 3% during the 2020/2021 academic year. Students took to the quad during the afternoon, and subsequently camped for the night, demanding UCC retract this raise and, instead, implement a three-year rent freeze. Going forward, if the 3% increase does, in fact, go through, UCC accommodation rents will have risen by 19% over the last three years. Meaning students are paying roughly a fifth more than they were three years ago, amounting to almost 1,000 euro more in rent fees by the end of the academic year.
Ciara Kealy took to Twitter that afternoon and announced that “UCC students are being pushed out of education and this 19% increase in three years is not acceptable. Students should not stand for it, and neither will we.” She then invited other students in the country, as well as other Student Unions, to join and take part in similar protests.
Other students had similar opinions. “When I lived in Victoria Mills during first year,” one final year student said, “I was already paying 5,000 a year. I moved out just before the rent was raised by another 750.” “I had roommates who had to move out mid-year in Uni Hall,” said another final year student. “They couldn’t afford the rent increase and it was causing them a lot of stress on both ends: not being able to afford rent and then having to find another place in the middle of studies.”
In a statement released last week, UCC sighted these raises as being due to refurbishing work, rise in maintenance costs, and the investments required to house more incoming students. UCC is included in one of five other universities in the country who are also planning on raising the rents, including University College Dublin, (UCD), who is currently setting to raise their respective rents by 4%. A similar protest at UCD took place on the 18th of February in retaliation against this raise.
Over the weekend many students continued the protest despite the best efforts of Storm Jorge. The Students’ Union have really caught the attention of the media and several politicians have gone to meet campers to show solidarity, while some 300 staff penned a letter to the UCC President in support of their students. It remains to be seen whether a compromise will be met, but at time of writing a standoff remains.