Jesus College clarifies policy that left international students ‘hung out to dry’

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Jesus College was criticised for its policy regarding quarantine arrangements for students returning from international destinations at the start of next term, and has since provided more detail and guidance.

On the 11th November, Jesus sent an email to students, indicating that their “preferred option” was that students returning from abroad discuss their situation with their household before making travel arrangements. They said that while it was possible to self-isolate in your accommodation, if one or more members in a household were uncomfortable with this they would have the following options: arrive 14 days before any other member of the household, or “self-isolate in private accommodation prior to your arrival back in college.” The College stated that they did not have any spare accommodation for students to self-isolate in.

This guidance was criticised by the International Rep at Jesus College and members of the SU’s international students campaign since it allowed for domestic students to control the financial situation of international students, forcing them into expensive private accommodation or forcing them to pay for an additional two weeks in their own household, as well as potentially having to isolate over Christmas and New Year.

Zach Brown, OSU ISC Director of Festivals said that “in a time of heightened anxiety and extreme uncertainty, this move to hang international students out to dry is unconscionable, unfathomable, and inadequately festive.”

Mateja Zdravkovic, international rep for the Jesus Junior Common Room, said that while college would allow students to isolate in 0th and 1st week and was on the right path here, the issue is that “this pretty much depends on whether the British students are comfortable with it.”

On Thursday night, we approached the college for comment, and on Friday they sent a more detailed document outlining the policy and offering more guidance and support for international students.

A spokesperson for the College said: “Our priority continues to be the health and welfare of everyone in the Jesus College community and we are committed to supporting all our students during these challenging times. Further guidance for students returning from international destinations after the Christmas vacation has been circulated today, and we are in touch with all students who may be affected, so that we can provide support as and when required.”

The later email clarified that those with en-suite rooms “do not necessarily need to discuss [their] plans with [their] household” and that if there were any concerns, the College was available to “support the safe return of all [their] students.”

In a clarification of the original approach, Jesus College wrote that “depending on individual circumstances, [they] might not be able to provide [students] with College accommodation if [they] are returning early”. Previously, they had indicated there was no spare accommodation.

Further, any student who does need to self-isolate in private accommodation was given reassurance that the College was there to help in the face of welfare and financial challenges, as is the case for students isolating in College accommodation who may face financial difficulty. Students isolating on the main Turl Street site (including Ship Street) will have three meals a day available to them through the existing catering options.

They concluded: ”The most important thing to remember is that we are here to support you, whatever your circumstances.”

The international rep, Mateja, welcomed the extra detail.

“I think now we have to make sure that students don’t shy away from asking college for help… I think Jesus is doing the best job out of all colleges, which I’m really happy to see.”

Students returning from international destinations will be able to self-isolate into term time if necessary, a policy Mateja said was “on the right path”. He said that “the problem with vac rent is pretty much solved for the older years as the lease covers the vacation already” but that “[he] wanted to make sure financial and welfare support was available to all.”

Image credit: Jesus College website