One of Cambridge University’s most prestigious colleges has upset LGBTQ+ students and Labour and ‘climate justice’ campaigners after they were threatened with eviction for displaying political posters and rainbow ‘Pride’ flags.
Several undergraduates at Jesus College received an email this week asking them to remove all posters, flags or banners displayed inside or outside the college accommodation by the end of today.
This includes rainbow ‘Pride’ flags left hanging outside college properties in the wake of LGBT+ History Month in March, and small, A4-sized political posters promoting the Labour party stuck in the corners of windows.
And the email, sent by Jesus College, has threatened students that their accommodation licence agreement may be terminated if they do not remove the flags and posters.
The warning was shared on Twitter by Philosophy undergraduate student Aurelio Petrucci, with a picture of a some pride bunting a small poster declaring ‘I’m voting Labour’ at the upcoming local elections. There is also a row over placards put up by ‘Jesus students for climate justice’ demanding net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
He tweeted: ‘Not content with asking students to remove pride flags, @JesusCollegeCam is now threatening students with EVICTION for displaying political party posters. is this legal???!
‘The College needs to reconsider this immediately, and apologise, and I can only hope that they start to listen to the student union and stop trying to curtail our right to free speech and free expression of our identities’.
Several students at Jesus College received an email on Tuesday asking them to remove all items displayed inside or outside the college accommodation by the end of today including this ‘Vote Labour’ poster and ‘Pride’ rainbow bunting
This ‘Jesus students for climate justice’ was a shared as a breach of the rules on social media
Aurelio Petrucci shared this email demanding the removal of rainbow ‘Pride’ flags left hanging outside college properties in the wake of LGBT+ History Month in March
Posting a picture of Pride flags, he added: ‘No more ‘lbgt’ now thank you!’
Mr Petrucci, a Philosophy Undergraduate, has demanded an apology and has questioned if the college is breaking the law = but university bosses will not back down
The eviction warning, reads: ‘As you are aware, it is a breach of the terms of your Licence agreement to display any poster, flag, or banner internally or externally from the property.
‘I must ask you to please remove this item by Thursday, 22 April.
‘The College will take further action if you fail to put right the breach, which could ultimately result in the Licence agreement being terminated in line with Clause 6.1.’
Aurelio, former President of the Jesus College Students’ Union (JCSU), criticised the move, questioning: ‘Is this even legal?’
He said: ‘Forcing students to remove posters which criticise the College on pain of eviction is truly awful.
‘By threatening to evict students for exercising their basic right to self-expression, all this will do is add to the stress and anxiety students are already feeling about the pandemic and their exams.
‘Being able to criticise institutions, express one’s identity and political beliefs are the core features of British academia.
‘[This is] now being trampled by coercion and threats of homelessness/eviction by a Cambridge College.
‘The College needs to reconsider this immediately, and apologise.
‘I can only hope that they start to listen to the student union and stop trying to curtail our right to free speech and free expression of our identities.’
Jesus College (pictured) has insisted that students must take all the posters and flags down by the end of today
And another group who have spoken out against the email is the Jesus College Climate Justice Campaign (JCCJC).
Some of the posters being banned under the College’s licencing rule include divestment posters, calling on full divestment from Cambridge University.
A spokesperson for the JCCJC said that students are being ‘locked out’ of the key College committee where its investment policy is decided.
They added: ‘Divestment posters are just one completely harmless way students are trying urgently to make their voices heard on one of the most important issues of our time.’
A spokesperson for Jesus College said: ‘The rules on displaying any flags, banners or posters are a long-standing clause in our licence agreement.
‘We have asked that everyone living in College accommodation abides by the agreement they signed.
‘We encourage all community members to express themselves and their views, as long as it doesn’t break their license agreement or the law.
‘We have informed students that we will run an in-depth consultation this term with students, Fellows and staff about the most inventive and creative ways to enable this in College for the benefit of the whole community.
‘In the meantime, we have asked that anyone living in College accommodation remove any displayed flag, banner or poster.
‘We contacted all students twice about this in March.
‘We are now contacting the few students who have not yet followed our request, or let us know that they are not in Cambridge at present, to remind them of their license agreement terms.’
Jesus College also faced backlash from students in March when the Head Porter asked students to remove ‘all flags and banners’ from windows and walls at the end of LGBT+ History Month.
The College said that it was ‘very supportive of LGBT+ History Month and other LGBT+ events and initiatives throughout the year’. But the JCSU LGBT+ Officer at the time described the College’s actions as ‘disrespectful and flippant.’