UCD has decided not to back down on the planned on-campus rent increases. In a letter to UCD Students’ Union regarding the rent hikes, University President Andrew Deeks has said that “it is in the best interests of our community overall to proceed.” This letter comes after over one hundred students marched on UCD’s Tierney’s building earlier this week, in protest of the on-campus rent increase of over 12% over the next three years. Student leaders also interrupted a University Management Team (UMT) meeting and read out their demands to President Deeks and his colleagues.
The College Tribune has obtained the letter which was sent in response to two previous S.U. correspondances on the 4th and 18th of February. The entire University Management Team signed off on the letter sent to the S.U. on Wednesday February 19th. The letter explains that it is the view of Andrew Deeks and the University Management Team that “proceeding with these developments will contribute to longer term rent stability and potential rent reductions, and that it is in the best interests of our community overall to proceed.”
It continues by saying that while the Management Team sympathizes with calls for a rent freeze from the Student Union, “such an action would require [UCD] to freeze any further development of student accommodation.” The letter further accounts for the rise in rent by explaining that “the bringing of student accommodation under the Rental Tenancies Act, together with inflation in the costs associated with maintaining and developing accommodation, has meant that [UCD] must raise the accommodation charges.”
The official response acknowledges the difficulties that both students and employees of UCD are having in finding affordable accommodation “within reasonable commuting distance of the University”. The letter explains that UCD are increasing the current on-campus housing stock by 40% in comparison with that of 2014 “in order to help release pressure on the Dublin housing market”. The UMT claim that this “ambitious programme” will have added 3300 additional bedrooms by 2025.
The letter also suggests a number of existing supports for students struggling with accommodation: “We recognise that some students will not be able to afford our accommodation or indeed any accommodation within a reasonable commute of UCD, and so we have put in place an increasing range of scholarships and hardship funds to assist these students. The money for some of these scholarships comes through philanthropy, while others are supported through operating funds.”
In response to UCD Anti-Casualisation’s calls to increase pay and improve working conditions amongst graduate students, the UMT stated “We reject any suggestion that we are casualising our workforce” citing that the University has created more than 500 jobs in the past 6 years. The UMT have also announced that they “will be undertaking a review of the payments for casual teaching to ensure that these contributions are appropriately recognised.”
This week’s protest coincided with a meeting of the University Management Team (UMT), who made the decision to increase the on-campus accommodation by 4% year on year for the next three years. Three representatives from the SU and UCD Anti-Casualisation interrupted the UMT meeting and read out their demands to President Deeks and his colleagues. These demands included: an immediate retraction of the decision to increase on-campus rents, a reduction of on-campus accommodation rent and the establishment of a student rental-assistance fund for students on and off-campus.
More to follow.
Hugh Dooley – Reporter
Conor Capplis – Editor