Poor conditions in USyd housing

Nina Dillon Britton talks to students who allege inadequate living standards at the Queen Mary Building

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The Queen Mary Building (QMB) has come under fire by its residents for consistently failing to meet adequate living standards. This is despite the fact that the QMB’s fees are roughly similar to the University’s expensive catered colleges, amounting to as much as $322 per week.

Most recently, and without warning, students had a $65 fee added to their accounts. QMB management told students that it was a “standard cleaning fee” detailed in their contracts, despite the fact this fee should have only been payable at the termination of their contracts.

Students were also frustrated by the various responses they received when they tried to clarify why the additional fee had been charged. First they were told it was possibly a “mistake”, while others who had accepted a 2017 accommodation offer were told they would have to pay for it. The University’s Student Accommodation Centre also refused to help, saying the fee was from QMB administration.

Students also allege the administration has not done enough to keep public spaces clean. Residents told Honi that piles of vomit have been left in elevators, music rooms and other common spaces, sometimes for more than a day. On top of this, students report many shared facilities and utensils are either faulty or missing, including sinks and ovens.

Despite the fact that non-resident students are not allowed to stay overnight in the building unless authorised, residents claim they have often been disturbed by parties during the week. Management has allegedly not enforced the QMB’s “Party Policy”. As part of the residential agreement, this policy stipulates that gatherings must end at 10pm on weekdays and midnight on weekends. Resident Ricardo Wu said that even though these parties occur on the lower ground floor, he finds it almost impossible to sleep on the fourth floor.

Students have also reported that their bonds are frequently not returned until long after the termination of their contract, and not returned at all when they swap rooms with other students.

Staff are commonly reported as aloof or rude when residents raise questions. One student, whose laptop was delivered to the QMB some months ago, found them particularly difficult: she is yet to receive her laptop despite repeated requests.

As most of the residents are Chinese international students, some have raised concerns that they feel powerless to lobby the QMB management for change. For the most part, management has sought to reconcile with residents. After consistent pressure to act, the QMB held a Chinese students conference where the manager spoke with students. While management has committed to addressing issues, students remain unsure if this will lead to substantive change.