BY PRANJALI SEHGAL
A student advocacy group has demanded Monash Residential Services (MRS) reduce its rental fees inline with a reduction in services and changes to living conditions under COVID-19 restrictions.
The Monash Clayton campus continues to accommodate residential students amid a campus lockdown, having implemented additional cleaning of halls and making it mandatory for residents to comply with government restrictions.
However, a campaign created by student advocacy group ‘Monash Uni: Support Your Students’ received more than 2,000 signatures, highlighting residents' dissatisfaction with their current living arrangements.
Campaign organiser Drew Alsop said the advocacy group originally focused on the academic side of student life, but had turned its attention to students' living arrangements and conditions during lockdown.
“After receiving so much feedback from residents, now is a good time to start being vocal about what’s happening at MRS,” Mr Alsop said.
Mr Alsop said the majority of residents said they were “very concerned” about privacy issues, lack of communication from MRS and the unchanged rental fees that did not reflect the changed living environment.
However, an MRS spokesperson said they did not plan on lowering rental fees because students could still access activities and services online.
“MRS accommodation fees are very competitive and are 25 per cent less than market rates,” the spokesperson said.
MRS has released a policy stating if residents wished to cancel their current contract, they won’t be penalised and will be given priority access to return when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
“There is financial support available for domestic and international students – including our recently announced $15 million Student Compassionate and Support package,” the MRS spokesperson said.
MRS advised students to consider a student loan if they were ineligible for the package, or to contact Services Australia for information about eligibility for financial support, including rent assistance.
MRS is offering free on-campus flu vaccinations to all residents.
It also encouraged international international students to visit the Study Melbourne website, for further support resources.
“We offer 24/7 live-in support for residents by MRS staff and Resident Advisors (RAs), and residents are welcome to approach any member of the Residential Support Team for extra support, advice, or questions,” the MRS spokesperson said.
The support services have mostly taken a digital shift, utilising online platforms to ensure residents feel connected and safe.
Holman Hall resident Caitie Murphy said she would prefer the rental cost be reduced.
“It does seem a bit rich to be paying all this money to live in what is essentially now just a room without the added benefit of the fact that it's right next to where we study,” Ms Murphy said.
She added the RAs are “doing their best” to keep residents feeling connected, including those who have moved back to their hometowns.
But as students head home to avoid paying rent, Ms Murphy said she worried for the first-year students adjusting to life on campus.
“A lot of our RAs have gone home, it would be really hard to be a jaffy at this time,” she said.
Up to date Monash information regarding COVID-19 can be found here.