Residents in Trinity Hall are outraged at the College’s move to charge them rent over the extended exam period, as well as for its decision to move all residents staying longer than May 17th into the same apartment block.
On April 14th, residents received an email from the Halls Accommodation Office – seen by The University Times – that told them they would have to pay €29.64 a night after May 2nd, and would need to apply for an extension on their tenancy.
The email added that students remaining in Trinity Hall past May 17th would have to move out of their flats and into a single, designated apartment block so College can close other apartment blocks to save money on hot water and heating.
Many residents – some of whom have no other accommodation options in Dublin and cannot return home due to travel restrictions – are incensed by the decision, which will see them charged rent at the normal nightly rate during the extended exam period, and beyond May 17th.
Trinity’s website quotes rooms in Halls – which include a range of price levels – as starting at €158 a week.
First-year general nursing student Andrea Hughe, who originally complied with Trinity’s request that students vacate Trinity Hall, returned a number of days later after agreeing to help out in St James’s Hospital.
She soon learned that despite the fact that the exam period had been extended to May 18th, students would still have to pay €29.64 a night inclusive to stay in Halls. When she asked to be exempted from this fee, she was told that there would be no exceptions.
“I feel that it is absolutely atrocious to expect students to pay almost 900 a month following the 2nd May, to reside at Trinity Hall, when some students are unable to go home and have no choice but to pay it”, she told The University Times in an email.
Hughes, who has now been forced to look for temporary accommodation through the HSE due to the prices, described the fees as “outrageous, adding that she “chose to come back up to Dublin to work, as I knew working somewhere close to home would put my family at risk”.
In an email to The University Times, Christopher Mrema, a first-year global business student, described Trinity’s decision to charge residents the normal rate for the extended exam period as “simply absurd” and “no different from a Mafioso type extortion”.
“It does not make sense to me that they want us to pay the same rates that we have had to pay all year long despite the conditions”, he said.
“According to an email we received from halls the campus is turned to a language school over summer, now basic economics would dictate that based on the circumstances we are in with the COVID-19 pandemic and the world in the midst of a global recession, there is likely to be no students that will attend this language school that they are planning on running.”
Penel Norman, a first-year English studies student, said in an email that they were “extremely upset with the Accommodation Office for proposing these fees, not only because we are in the middle of an emergency, but more specifically because those of us still here are the ones with nowhere else to go”.
“They are trying to profit off of the most vulnerable tenants here when we have no other option after already charging us too much during term, and this flies in the face of the government’s emergency measures trying to protect us by freezing rent and banning evictions during the crisis”, they added.
First-year BESS student Noor Waraich said that she was surprised when she was informed that residents would be paying regular room rates as “we’re all being forced to stay here for different reasons and it is a bit of tough time for all of us financially”.
She added that “she hoped the accommodation office would understand and an agreement can be reached”.
Dario Apollini – a first-year chemistry student – told The University Times over email that “the Italian embassy doesn’t have a fixed date for flights back to Italy but rather more of a waiting list so I don’t know yet what date I will leave Ireland, which means that not only am I FORCED to stay here and would be forced to pay, but I’m also clueless about the date of my departure, meaning I wouldn’t even know how much to pay as I could leave on the 5th of may just like on the 15th”.
In email correspondence with The University Times, residents also expressed serious concerns about having to move out of their flats into the same apartment blocks, and the impact this would have on their ability to social distance.
First-year biochemistry student Aidan Desjardins told the The University Times over email: “Obviously, it’s less than ideal for us to be moving apartments, especially when one considers social distancing. One would think keeping us where we are, that is to say distanced, would be the better strategy.”
“The fact that we have to pay full price for staying in Halls during this crisis is almost egregious”, Desjardins added. “A lot of us aren’t allowed to go home for one reason or another. On top of that, the sticker price includes access to facilities such as the gym and Oldham house, which we no longer have access to.”
Mrema said that “since there is likely to be no students coming attending this language school it would only seem logical to house the remaining international students in different houses so as to lower the risk of anyone of us getting the virus and passing it on to everyone else.”
“This will simply undermine all we have done as a nation to fight this virus and may hurt the university’s image in the long run.”
In an email statement to The University Times, Trinity’s Media Relations Officer, Catherine O’Mahoney, said: “We acknowledge the concerns of students. Both of these matters are under ongoing review by the COVID-19 working group. Any decisions will be taken in conjunction with medical advice.”
On April 17th, a number of residents sent an email to the Trinity Hall Accommodation Office and the warden of Halls, asking them to reconsider the nightly fee.
Zaid Albarghouthi said in an email to The University Times that the signatories believed that “the accommodation office at Halls can provide the remaining students with better offers for extending tenancy”.
“We all know that the majority of the residents who are still staying at Halls had no choice to do so due to the different situations at their countries and we are asking for this to be reflected on things like the price of the extended period of tenancy and the start date of such period.”
Albarghouthi added that he hoped Trinity’s prices would not be “set as to maintain the profit originally made out of accommodation fees”.
In an email to The University Times, Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union President Laura Beston said that she was “awaiting a response from college but hope that they take the extenuating circumstances that COVID-19 has created into account. Exams are scheduled until the 15th of May and therefore students should have accommodation provided until this date, not for an extra charge. (Same applies for any extension of shut down)”.
“The country is in shut down, which allows essential staff workers to get to work and for civilians to access essential services. But, adding students from halls and campus into this mix, looking for new accommodation when there is plenty on campus and in halls going unused is ridiculous. If the college decides to remove or charge residents it’s merely an act of greed.”
She added that TCDSU is working alongside “USI and various government representatives on a whole host of accommodation issues and will use these channels in response to any issues on campus, if we are required to”.
JCR President Zara Nic Fhinn wrote in an email to The University Times that the situation was “far from ideal in the eyes of both the college and the students”, adding that while most people had left Halls in accordance with the Accommodation Office’s guidelines, “it is the students that had no choice but to stay in Trinity Hall were somewhat forgotten about”.
“The SCR and Warden have done their best in creating some sort of community with the students left in Hall, however, we as the JCR wish we were able to be there for those students and fulfil our duty to create a community within Hall.”
“Alongside the SU”, she added, “the student body is working tirelessly to try and ensure that something will be done about the students who are paying rent to stay in student accommodation during these unprecedented times”.