With the announcement of the new lockdown, our rent strike page, Student Justice Now, exploded in interest from angered and confused students. We also witnessed the creation of another rent strike page run by students at the University of Birmingham, it hit 1500 followers within 24 hours of being established. Whilst we have been working on our rent strike campaign since October 2020, there has never been a wave of support for the prospect of a strike like the one we have just experienced.
In order to build on this anger, we organised an open meeting on the 9th January in collaboration with both the Instagram and Facebook rent strike pages that had attracted mass support from the student base. Promoted as a chance to air grievances, vote on demands, and put forward a committee to organise the strikes, the meeting had a peak turnout of 65 students.
The tone of the meeting was one of militancy, there was overwhelming support for our demands of a full rent rebate and the cancelling of tuition fees which was reflected in the vote. By the time that this report is released there will have been a rent strike committee elected by the students themselves. There was an acknowledgement amongst attendees that we must build a mass base of first year students before throwing ourselves into a rent strike, the need for democratic decision making is also one that was met with agreement.
To organise future meetings we have put together a Whatsapp chat which we shared around social media using a QR code, at the time of writing it has 200 members and gains more every day.
On the 13th January, the University of Birmingham offered first year students of select accommodations a 100% rent rebate for the next four weeks, a clear concession aimed to sap the momentum of the rapidly growing student movement. The overall consensus amongst the group chat was one of demanding more, the demands put forward by the MSF of tuition and rent refunds as well as the overall call for free education have proven popular.
By Nye Shaw – Birmingham Student Justice Now