UCD on-campus accommodation prices are set to rise by 7% for the coming academic term, representing a 20% hike in fees in two years.

The College Tribune can report a proposed occupation of university President Andrew Deeks’ office by the Students Union to protest rising on-campus accommodation rates, has been abandoned.

Out-going SU President Marcus O’Halloran last year held talks with the UCD authority to oppose their planned 14% rise in accommodation fees for 2016. In the event of the 14% rise going ahead the SU had planned to take direct measures of protest, such as occupying the college President’s office. However, upon the reviewed proposal of only a 7% increase in accommodation fees by UCD, covert plans for the sit-in protest have been dropped.

O’Halloran said “The time for direct action was to get us to the negotiation stage, but now the onus is on finding and bringing in investors for UCD Res that take the financial burden off UCD students. The university won’t look to students as the source of funding for Res if this is done.”

Giving his take on the negotiations between the SU and UCD over accommodation rates O’Halloran explained that “they agreed to halve their rates but would not lower them further for the 2016/17 period because of worries that this would delay build time by decreasing funding.”

Incoming UCDSU President Conor Viscardi has said similarly he would prefer to try and continue to negotiate with the university rather than engage in direct action. “We do have to consider that when we take action that it needs to be for the right reasons” stated Viscardi.

Viscardi did not rule out the prospect of resorting to protest or direct action entirely next year. “If what the university is proposing would negatively affect the students, and the wider student community, then action would need to be something be consider” he said.  Speaking on the incoming 7% rise in prices for next year he felt that “it is disappointing.”

The control over on-campus accommodation prices has been under the remit of UCD’s Finance Committee since 2013. The Committee and the University Management Team in 2013 released plans to increase campus accommodation prices for students by 44% over three years. This decision was necessary according to a UCD “to fund the maintenance of existing residencies and to develop further on-campus spaces.” Towards that end new construction has been taking place over this summer on building 354 new rooms onto the campus’ Belgrove residence.

However, from 2012 to 2013 the income the college received from campus residences had dropped from €15,952,000 to €14,802,000. It is therefore unclear if the full cost of the price increase for students was proposed to in order to be put towards new residency developments, or instead motivated in part to make-up for falling college income in 2013. The College Tribune has filed a Freedom of Information request with UCD to access the breakdown in allocation of the accommodation fee increases and the cost of campus residency developments.

The SU as the representative body for college students was not consulted initially on the planned 44% increase in on-campus accommodation fees. Only in 2015 did the University begin to negotiate with the Students Union on the issue of on-campus accommodation costs.

Last year Viscardi said the Union had gone to the college and “argued that students could not afford increases at the rates that they’d decided in 2013.” However, in dealing with the university the SU found that “there was a reluctance to adopt a new financial model because the current one was agreed upon by university management in 2013.”

Viscardi finished to say that “to what extent do we have [a say]” is questionable.

Jack Power, Editor