Tensions have escalated between Sydney University Village’s (SUV) management and residents following the forced removal of protest signs hanging in the windows of units in the accommodation.
The signs, which read ‘SYDNEY UNI STUDENTS SAY: NO EVICTIONS – SUSPEND OR REDUCE RENTS’, were taken down by staff yesterday, without wearing any protective equipment.
Aman Kapoor, an international student at USyd and SUV resident who recently sent and later shared a letter to Vice Chancellor Michael Spence regarding rent amnesty, was one of several students to display the sign.
“Me and my flatmates who also signed the letter for [the] Vice Chancellor were the first to put the posters on our window, but it got removed by SUV management within 12 hours,” Kapoor informed us. “I believe it was their tactic to scare everyone, so that other residents do not do the same things in SUV.”
Kapoor’s letter called on Spence to help in suspending or reducing rent for those living in university accommodation, and ensure that students who are unable to pay rent on time due to a job loss or wage cut in wake of the coronavirus outbreak will not face evictions.
As of this article’s publication, Kapoor and the other signees have not heard back from the university, the unresponsiveness having prompted them to display the posters from their windows.
“Personally, I cannot understand why students can’t take such steps when [the] university is not responding to our requests.”
Following the banning of signs hanging from windows, students involved in organising these demonstrations have begun a photo campaign based around these signs. The campaign has gained support and participation from other student accommodations such as The Regiment and Stucco.
Acts of protest such as these stem from a growing sense of anxiety regarding the security and financial stability of residents of student accommodation. This is particularly felt by international students, many of whom have lost their job due to restrictions and closures that have been enacted in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Queen Mary Building’s (QMB) accomodation is currently shrouded in controversy. According to a resident, the building recently ‘shut down’ and removed all tables and chairs from common spaces such as study rooms.
With no access to the taps located in these study rooms, residents have had to line up to use the remaining taps, of which there are only one on each floor.
These decisions were apparently made with no consultation from any student body, and the accomodation’s management have not been responding to emails from residents who are unable to afford rent.
“If I could afford to pay rent, I’d still be in QMB,” another resident told us, having been forced to move back to their home in Melbourne after losing their casual work and, subsequently, their ability to pay for accomodation.
“I’ve spent the last 2 months of my life building a life for myself here in Sydney… I feel like going home means I’ve failed and that when I return I’ll be back at square one.”
Over 400 students have signed a petition calling for the government to lend its support and assistance to international students due to the “period of intense uncertainty and hardship” they currently face.