St Catz to rehouse second years amid RAAC crisis

St Catherine’s College is exploring options, including room sharing, to house second years amid an increasingly complex reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) investigation.

In an email to undergraduates, the College’s JCR President Axel Roy Lee revealed that the College may need to move second-year students offsite for “a week to two weeks at most” following the restriction of 152 rooms due to concerns over safety.

The College is exploring whether second-year students would agree to share a room on site, and has also proposed off-site and hotel accommodation.

Construction works are currently in progress to remediate 152 student rooms on the top floors of Staircase 1 to 16, the College’s main residential block. The College has aimed to complete the work before term time, but it appears unlikely that this will be the case.

Priority has been given to incoming first-year students on the grounds that this will “facilitate their induction” into the College and University. Third and fourth year students will also be prioritised to prevent disruption to leaver students’ final year assessments.

Students in the room-sharing agreement would pay half of the standard accommodation charge, amounting to c. £13.50 per day, for the duration that a room is shared.

Students that volunteer for this arrangement will also be given an additional 7 days of standard accommodation in their allocated room at 50% of the normal rate as a “gesture of goodwill”. Battel fees will not be reduced.

The second bed provided in each room will involve “a mattress on the floor” which will “allow the mattress to be moved during the day to provide more space in the room”. Extra desks will not be added.

Lee has stated that room-sharing will only be asked for “if it becomes necessary”.

A second email from JCR Vice President Kelsey Moriarty revealed that second-years not housed in the College, either in a single or shared room, would be housed offsite. “Around 30-40 students” are “likely” to be accommodated in other colleges, including Pembroke, Lincoln, and Wadham.

Moriarty added that “10-20 students” may be housed in hotels “on a temporary basis”. She called the news “frustrating and undesirable”, but added that “people in hotels will naturally take priority” in being rehoused. Individual details of accommodation circumstances were likely to be announced by “midweek”.

Other areas that will be restricted due to RAAC concerns include the College JCR, SCR, the kitchen, the administration block, the Hall, the Library, and the Bernard Sunley Building. The College will replace areas including the JCR and Hall using marquees, which were also used in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many second-year students are frustrated at the way that the College has handled the situation. The College has been investigating and devising measures to address the presence of RAAC since May of 2023, but students were unaware of these efforts until September 2023.

One second-year student criticised what they perceived as the College’s “incompetence” as they had “known” about the RAAC issue “since May”. The student also commented that they were uncomfortable with how “it’s [their] year […] that has to suffer” and that they were “made to feel bad for complaining” because it is not in the College’s “spirit”.

There has also been concern over the allocation of rooms. Students in St Catz are allocated older rooms without en-suites in the College’s Old Quad in first and third year. However, in second year, students receive newer rooms constructed from 2002-5 that contain ensuites as a standard.

With the College’s prioritisation of 1st, 3rd and 4th years, many students have become concerned that they may not be granted access to New Quad rooms in their time at the College. However, in her email, Moriarty stated that it is expected that “[by] Hilary, it is expected that students will be back in their planned rooms”.

Another second-year student, who did not want to be named, commented that “it’s a tough situation for College”, but that their “vague and somewhat insulting plans” and a “lack of acknowledgment of the major impact” that the situation will have on second years “makes it hard to have any sympathy towards them.”

Image Credit: Steve Cadman via flickr