Open Letters: Analysis

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Student Media Officer, Tommy Parker, reviews the Open Letters from Student Union President Jordan Kenny and Vice Chancellor Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell on how much of an impact the University’s student intake this year had on the he current accommodation crisis. 

The open letters from both the VC and the SU President have massive implications for the student body. Typically discussions between the SU and the University happen behind closed doors, so for the SU officer team to break out of this confine, they must feel very strongly about the issue.

Jordan’s letter is very strongly worded, effectively condemning the actions of the senior management team on its recruitment. Taking a moral stand point rather than a legal one, Jordan is requesting that the University honours its moral obligations to students in terms of accommodation and the wider theme of student numbers. Due to this, effectively this means the University is under no obligations to comply with his request, but using the reputational damage this could cause and the welfare of students makes a compelling argument. The list of demands are strong with high ambition, but still remain realistic.

The Vice-Chancellor’s response, on behalf of the University, was just as compelling, but used different techniques to provide a defence. By agreeing to certain statements in Jordan’s letter, and stating that “I share your concern at the impact this is having on individual students” shows that the University does want to work on this issue, at least on the face of it. However, the University focuses on what it already does for students, using its multi million pound investments to prove that it’s catering for all of the students. Interestingly the University makes no apology for the housing crisis, ensuring that it isn’t accepting any responsibility. Neither does it lay out many tangible outcomes of what it will do beyond consultation. They even say they are under no obligation to help students in the private sector.

The SU forcing a public response from the University is like playing all your cards. By trying to utilise outrage and public opinion the SU is forcing the University’s hand when it comes to student numbers. Time will tell on the effectiveness of this strategy. If nothing comes of it, the SU looks weak as a public show of strength has failed, but the University looks out of touch with student opinion and that it doesn’t cater for student welfare enough. If the SU’s demands are met the idea that the SU is a voice of students will be stronger than ever and the University will look as if it should have planned more effectively, but does listen to students.

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About Author

Tommy Parker is Editor-in-Chief (2016/17) and former Students' Union Community Officer (2014/15). He writes about gaming, equality issues and the University of Bath.

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