“Neglect and lack of care” – Accommodation Services criticised by students for treatment during lockdown

13 mins read

Students have began to detail the failures they’ve experienced from the university’s Accommodation Services.

What started as a fight to scrap the leaving fee given to tenants when they had to leave accommodation during the Coronavirus pandemic has now become a campaign detailing the stories of tenants who have had issues with accommodation services.

A twitter page, Students Against Stirling Uni Fee, was set up after the university charged tenants an exit fee when they were told to move out during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

According to the twitter page tenants were charged different amounts, with no explanation, and when payments weren’t made, money was taken from government bursaries provided to students.

The page has now began to post stories accusing the accommodation services team of mistreating them, particularly when it came to support needed for mental health issues.

A Twitter page has been sharing Stirling students’ experiences dealing with Accommodation Services.

One user, Harry Constance shared their experience of living in accommodation and experiencing severe mental health problems while residing there.

In a tweet, they said they had been experiencing psychotic episodes for a couple of months during their first year of university and was not allowed to leave their accommodation contract to live with someone else, unless they left university all together.

They also said there was a lack of support available to their flatmates, whom, they said, didn’t receive any offer of support despite having paramedics, porters and ALS were constantly in their flat.

Harry stressed it was incredibly unfair for their flatmates to deal with the stress of their mental illness and them having no chance of support. They also said others in the flat were also experiencing mental health problems therefore it wasn’t acceptable to have received no support.

Harry’s tweet further said: “they never really reached out to them even though porters and ALS and paramedics were always in and out of my room. The lack of care for their wellbeing was shocking.

“… I just wish their wellbeing was more considered by those who are literally paid for it.”

A university spokesperson said: “In instances when students may have mental health concerns, the Accommodation Services team liaises closely with the student and the University’s Student Support Services team to ensure the appropriate support is available.”

The twitter page is also bringing to light claims of inadequate living spaces from broken windows and stoves to dampness that were not resolved despite numerous complaints.

One user also tweeted the page to say their student flat had dampness in two bedrooms, a toilet that would flood with every flush and a stove where two out of four rings were not safe to use.

Spittal Hill where Harry Lived Credit: Stirling Venue

Harry, who lived in Spittal Hill, said out of two shower rooms the flat had only one of them worked to the year they lived there.

In addition, Harry said the radiator in their room was starting to burn the wall and despite calling multiple times because they had never gotten an answer.

Around March, Harry says, they had slept in a freezing room for a week and half until she decided to leave early and was then charged £400 by the university.

A university spokesperson said: “The University’s Accommodation Services team operates an online reporting system which logs any faults students encounter in University accommodation. The system monitors the progress of repairs, and in situations where there may be difficulties in sourcing materials, we keep the student up to date on the timescale for the repair.

Students who required accommodation beyond the original end date of their contract, due to the travel restrictions in place because of COVID-19, have not been charged rent for the extension.”

In the last week, it was revealed the university has emailed students notifying them they must empty their rooms.

The Stirling Students Tenants Union (SSTU) said in a Facebook post the university had asked tenants to be cleared by July 12.

However, travel restrictions were still in place due to the Coronavirus Pandemic meaning many international students were unable to come back to clear their rooms. Boris Johnson was due to make changes to travel restrictions on June 29th.

SSTU Campaign Poster Credit: Stirling Students Tenants Union

A student got in touch with the page saying the university were asking a friend or company to clear out rooms, if students were unable to do so themselves. The student said the cost of a removal company would be around £750.

Once they filed a complaint, they were told many students were in the same boat and the rooms were needing to be vacated to allow for cleaning to happen before new students arrived for the autumn semester.

The student also revealed the university told them if accommodation rooms were not emptied by July 12th, they would dispose of anything left.

“The lack of care for their wellbeing was shocking.”

Another student, who wished to remain anonymous, told SSTU they stayed in London and cannot afford a courier service to pack and ship their things to their home.

Neither a removal company in Stirling or London would pick up her business due to the short notice and they had no one in Stirling to pack their things.

The student has had to consider booking a hotel room for the July 13, however this is after the universities deadline. Therefore, the only other option for the student is to make a sixteen hour round trip to collect their belongings.

Housing Officer Cian Ireland said: “The university has one again showing their neglect and lack of care for students, especially international ones, by making such unreasonable demands during a time of crisis which makes international travel unsafe and oftentimes impossible.

The university must stand by the original commitments they gave the students and give them until the end of August to pick up their possessions”.

A university spokesperson said: “In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University extended the departure period for all students in our accommodation. 

“… to protect the health and well being of students moving into… accommodation for the new semester, we are conducting a deep clean of all of our rooms.

“To facilitate this work, former tenants who have left belongings… have been asked to inform the University by July 10 whether they intend to uplift their items.

“In line with Scottish Government guidance, those students who get in touch will be supported in making appropriate arrangements for the safe pick up, storage or disposal of their belongings.

“In cases where international travel restrictions prevent the collection of belongings, we will work with students to facilitate safe storage. 

“The majority of students who left belongings… have already booked a collection slot, and those who have not, have until July 10 to get in touch. If the University has not heard… by this deadline, their former rooms will be cleared to enable cleaning work to begin, as the University is unable to store students’ belongings indefinitely.”

“The university has one again showing their neglect and lack of care for students”

The SSTU, headed by Ireland, have voiced their support and encouraged others to speak out with any claims of bad housing conditions or mistreatment.

Housing Officer Ireland further said: “It says a lot about the actions and attitudes of the university towards tenants that we are now seeing groups of students fed up with the way they’re being treated and having to publicly share their story to try and be heard.

“They have my full support in these endeavours, and it’s clear that the University’s accommodation service must address these concerns… we must see action on this”

Merryn Green is working alongside Cian, and the Stirling Students Tenants Union to help the campaign against the leaving fee.

The group had already set up their own campaign against the leaving fee and were in touch with a group of students who weren’t wanting to pay the fee.

From there, the twitter page grew into something more than just the leaving fee.

Merryn said: “A few students were complaining about having the money taken out of their account despite not wanting to pay it.

This sparked a lot of anger and a lot of stories to came out … of students being mistreated by accommodation services.”

Merryn also said: “The Goal of this is essentially to air out how poorly accommodations services treat students despite them paying extortionate amounts of money to live in.

“I think it’s disgusting so many people have been treated poorly by accommodation services to the point of dropping out and having mental breakdowns so it needs to be talked about.”

“The University’s accommodation service must address these concerns”

Cian Ireland, head of the SSTU

A university spokesperson said: “Those students who have chosen to leave University-owned accommodation prior to the original end date of their contract, have been granted early release from their contract.

These students were asked to pay any remaining rent due, before beginning a 28-day notice period.

The amount due for that notice period is capped at a maximum of £400, with students whose monthly rent is less than that, paying the lower amount.

Students have not been charged extra-contractual fees, and the University has not taken any funds from government bursaries.”

SSTU are continuously campaigning for tenants who have been treated unfairly by accommodation services. The team have set up a petition to help support Stirling University tenants.

Feature Image Credit: – Harry Williamson

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Journalism and Politics student// Editor-in-Chief 2021/22

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