- Arts & Literature
- Science & Technology
By James Restall
An overwhelming majority voted not to attend hall or formal hall or purchase food from the college bar at a JCR meeting on Monday evening.
The strike will begin on Monday 22 October and will last for two weeks in an attempt force the college to reconsider its decision to introduce a £200 termly catering charge for living in students.
In an email to Magdalen students, JCR President Meg Trainor wrote: A majority at yesterday evening’s meeting voted to condemn the catering charge and to go on hall strike.
She added: “Should College change its position before the next GM on Sunday 21st October, the JCR will discuss its response at that GM.”
The JCR has also set up an online petition, while The Oxford Student understands that plans are underway for a poster campaign around college.
The decision to strike follows revelations in last week’s Oxford Student that Magdalen is introducing a compulsory levy on students in an attempt to eradicate a £565,000 annual deficit in the college’s catering accounts.
Under the scheme, which will come into effect in October 2013, students living in college will pay £150 at the start of each term which can be used to purchase food at informal hall sittings and in the college bar. An additional £50 termly charge is designed to cover kitchen overhead costs.
Students preferring to use the college’s kitchens will be charged £80 per term, while those living out will pay £30.
Henry Watson, Magdalen’s OUSU rep and former JCR Vice President said: “Magdalen College’s JCR negotiated extensively with the College about the Bursary’s proposed catering charge in good faith.
“We had all the facts, figures and arguments on our side, showing it to be both unfair for undergraduates and unnecessary for the College’s finances. However, our concerns were ultimately ignored and we were excluded from the final discussion, where they decided to impose the charge.”
He added: I think the planned 11 per cent increase in the fixed costs of attending Magdalen College for an undergraduate, which this charge contributes to, is highly regressive and grossly inappropriate when students are facing such a tough financial environment.”
The new charge means that from the start of next Michaelmas term Magdalen will become the most expensive Oxford colleges for undergraduates. Under the pay-as-you-go system which currently operates for purchasing meals the college ranks fifth.
In the 2010/11 financial year the college recorded assets totalling over £164m. The net movement in funds for the year was just over £13m.
Mike Worth, a third year physicist, said: “For the college to levy such charges, in order to raise less than £100,000 per year, during a period in which they make millions in profit each year is absurd. It is a clear sign of the disregard that the college administration has, both for its students and its responsibilities to encourage applicants from all economic backgrounds.”
He added: “The proposed charge is not only aimed at the least wealthy group, the students, but will have the most impact on the least wealthy within that group.”
The JCR initially opposed the introduction of the charge on the grounds that it was damaging to the College’s accessibility. Last week Cameron Quinn, a former Magdalen OUSU rep, said: “For an institution that already enjoys a (partially, though not entirely earned) reputation as a playground for public schoolboys and future Tory ministers, this will present an enormous barrier to access efforts.”
Robert Greig, a second year PPE student, said: “The implication of the proposed charge is that members of the college will turn to student hardship funds to get by. The college is raiding the pot for the poorest students, which is utterly deplorable. This is a smack in the face to alumni who donate so that people from all backgrounds can flourish here.”
Negotiations between the JCR and the College have been ongoing since Michaelmas term last year when Magdalen decided to introduce a catering charge which would have cost students an additional £750 per year.
While the MCR agreed to the revised charge, the JCR is continuing to resist the College’s decision.
In her email, Trainor said: “I pursued our opposition to Governing Body’s decision over the long vac and, as indicated above, this dialogue is still ongoing. I will of course update the JCR on any developments as they occur.”