In an Instagram post and Open Letter on the group’s LinkTree, YSSN challenged the University’s treatment of rent strikers, stating that the University failed to “protect the physical and mental wellbeing of staff and students during the Covid-19 Pandemic”.
Following pressure from YUSU President Pierrick Roger, YSSN has announced that Academic Registrar Wayne Campbell has agreed to meet with YSSN representatives on Friday 21st October to “discuss” threats made against rent strikers.
Referring to a debt collection agency, hired by the University, that sent threatening letters and emails to students who went on rent strike during the pandemic, YSSN also exposed the treatment of international rent strikers, who have “received an email threatening legal action and potential VISA cancellation” should outstanding debts not be paid.
In anonymised evidence submitted by students, YSSN demonstrates the horrific treatment of international students, with one unnamed student being informed that failure to pay outstanding rent “may include the recommendation of suspension of your registration as a student, the involvement of a debt collection agency or legal proceedings”. Another student was also informed that an inability to pay outstanding rent “may affect the immigration status for international students”.
If Vice-Chancellor Charlie Jeffery does not attend the meeting on Friday 21st October, YSSN promises to boycott their meeting with Wayne Campbell and instead “call for students to cancel their direct debit payments for fees and accommodation due on the 31st October”.
YSSN also made demands on their Instagram, including that the University “immediately ceases all enforcement action and agrees to write-off the outstanding debt without any academic, financial or legal repercussions for Rent Strikers” and “agrees to cooperate with the YSSN to address the litany of un-met systemic issues at UoY laid out by the Student and Staff Assembly held in Summer 2022”.
YSSN hopes that this new student strike will “send a clear message that UoY students will not let the University subject students to the threat of deportation without incurring a severe financial penalty that outweighs the amount of withheld debt”.
A University of York spokesperson said: “We will be meeting with YSSN later this week to discuss the issues that our students have raised, and identify the best ways forward to support individuals facing difficulties.
“During the pandemic the University had a number of support measures in place for students living with us, including releasing those no longer on campus from their accommodation contracts with no penalty, and appealing to private landlords to find workable solutions for students facing rent issues as a result of lockdown.”
“We actively encourage students to talk with our support services about any difficulties they face, including financial ones, so that we can work together to resolve concerns and ensure that students have the best possible experience whilst studying and living with us.”
All information collected by the York Student Solidarity Network is available on their Instagram and via their LinkTree.