On Friday 17th April, the LSESU sent a letter to Sanctuary Students, a private student accommodation provider who owns Lilian Knowles house, calling for rent payments to cease. Many postgraduate tenants of Lilian Knowles feel that the demand to pay ongoing rent is unjustified given the closure of campus and nationwide lockdown due to COVID-19.
The letter emphasised the need for consistent upkeep of hygiene in the accommodation to protect students from the virus, a need that they argue is unlikely to be met, endangering the health of students. Furthermore, they noted that since 80% of LSE’s postgraduate body is international, and with Lilian Knowles being a postgraduate hall, the large majority of tenants do not receive a student loan. Many students have already left the hall and returned to their home countries, as recommended by governments here and abroad, as well as the students’ families.
Tama Knight (MSc Gender, Development, and Globalisation) was one of the main organisers of the protest. She told Metro.co.uk: “If we are all in this together, then student accommodation providers have a responsibility to put public health, student safety, and financial stability first… Sanctuary Students’ decision has the potential to financially devastate students, essentially punishing them for making decisions about their safety in a global situation completely outside of their control.”
At the point of writing, Sanctuary Students have not responded to the Student’s Union’s letter. Other private accommodation providers in London such as Urbanest and Unite Students have refunded rent payments to students who have since gone home.
Postgraduate students at LSE sent a letter to LSE’s administration on the 9th of April calling for a reconsideration of charging fees for the summer term, which has also yet to be responded to. In addition, The Beaver has reported on how the move to online classes and exams have highlighted inequalities across campus, ranging from a lack of support from the Disability and Wellbeing Service, to financial and technological difficulties.