Christ Church students have criticised the College’s handling of its accommodation crisis, complaining about last-minute rule changes and a lack of information.
Although the College has now secured alternative accommodation for those who would have been forced to live out next year due to the planned renovations of Peckwater Quad, changes to ballot regulations have caused “unnecessary stress” for students.
The new regulations, which alter the system of room balloting for the next academic year, prevent those who come at the top of the ballot from “pulling up” their friends. Students complain that this change was only enacted many weeks after the ballot, causing many to abandon the plans they had made.
Christ Church fresher Pippa Ebel sent an email on behalf of first year students to Junior Censor Professor Brian Parkinson and JCR Accommodation rep Matthew Deakin, in which she claimed that “many shifts of arrangements have caused great insecurity and tension”.
Ebel added: “The regulation changes should have been announced with the ballot, as plans have been made and now re-organisation is causing unnecessary stress and concern for many students.”
In a statement to The Oxford Student, Ebel also commented: “I am primarily concerned about the total lack of transparency by the Censors. [They] withheld key information from students, taking decisions on behalf of students without counselling anyone whom it would affect until 7th Week. The inadequacies and inefficiencies of the Censors was pretty remarkable, and raised major concerns among students.”
The Dean, the Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy, claimed that the censors had “not received any complaints and they understand that the student body is largely happy with the outcome”.
The Dean also pointed out that “arranging substitute accommodation was necessarily complex”, and denied students were excluded from the process. Rather, he stated that “the JCR officers were consulted throughout the process”.
These changes follow the decision of the College earlier in the term to offer a £1,500 subsidy to those volunteering to live out in order to belay the effects of the Peckwater Quad renovation work, which the Dean described as being “completely refurbished, including the heating, plumbing and electrical systems”. This was in addition to other perks, including priority in the following year’s room ballot. However, only eight students took up the offer.
With regard to Christ Church’s initial proposal, third-year student Jennie Graham remarked: “No-one was particularly keen on living out – the cash incentive wasn’t enough really to make up for how much more expensive it is.”
Alternative accommodation has now been secured for students affected by next year’s accommodation shortage. Professor David Nowell, Senior Censor at Christ Church, emailed students with the news that the College had “secured leases on two houses in Abingdon Road, and are in the process of signing leases for two further houses in Buckingham Street”.
He added: “Together with the effect of those who have volunteered to arrange their own accommodation, this should completely offset the number of rooms lost to the Peck refurbishment project.”
It is as yet unclear whether the acquisition of new properties will cause any reversal to the changes in ballot regulations.