Imperial College Union have continued the pressure on Imperial College London over the plans for halls in Acton. There has continued to be unease amongst the student body about the plans. The issue has been raised and discussed at numerous meetings, including the Student Welfare Committee, and College Senate (which is a body that is chaired by the President & Rector, and is made up of various academics and management staff). Paul Beaumont, Union President, said that the College’s response has been “seemingly positive”. He said that he is “glad that some academics and staff are as concerned about the site and annoyed at the way in which the whole project was handled as we are.” There has been no word thus far on the future of Garden Hall, which could be turned into office space, or the halls in Evelyn Gardens. The College leases the latter from the Wellcome Trust, and there are 32 years left on the lease. Last week it was reported that the indications are that the Wellcome Trust are not at the moment willing to extend the lease. Felix repeatedly contacted them for comment, but they said that they “don’t comment on individual assets.”
Last week, the Union sent five requests to College. It is understood that College Management are in the process of drafting a response to the Union’s requests. Beaumont said “I have been assured that they’re being considered carefully and we will hear back soon”.
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The Union timed the journey to Acton as over 50 minutes during rush hour (door-to-door) to dispel the claim that it is about 30 minutes, which has been mentioned by College. However it has been pointed out that they do top up their Oyster cards en-route. The video is available on STOIC’s YouTube channel. The journey back to College took about 46 minutes.
The Union’s #againstacton page on their website has now garnered over 4,500 unique visits, and a “Pledge Your Support” site was launched on Tuesday, with currently over 400 signatures. Beaumont said that he was “overwhelmed by the support students have shown for the Union’s campaign”, and that he would like to thank those who sent in long pieces detailing their personal experiences.]
In a quantitative analysis of the participation of students in Clubs, Societies & Projects over the last few years, the Union found that those that live further away in their first year are less likely to get involved. The data also showed that students who did not participate in their first year were less likely to participate later on. The Union also looked at qualitative data from the Student Experience Survey, which it says corroborates the views with regards to a poor student experience.
The College announced the purchase of land and plans to build halls in Acton, currently titled W3, on Monday 18 February. By Tuesday, the Union had launched a website and had provided their stance, which was vehemently against the proposals. The hashtag #againstacton was launched, which has been used many times. Current indications are that most students oppose the move. There was widespread criticism of Simon Harding-Roots, the Chief Operations Officer, saying that students at Imperial needed a “dose of reality” about the halls, with the Union using it in their video of their journey.
The decision to build the halls ignored the advice of the Union President and was not released to students as it was deemed to be commercially sensitive. Students’ opposition has mainly focused on the distance needed to travel everyday, the cost of the halls, especially when factoring in the cost of travel (which goes above the £150 lowest band), the safety of the area, the wardening provisions, as well as the ability to recruit hall seniors in the location.