International student told to use hardship fund to pay library fines

A Masters Student has had to apply for extra funds to pay off a £9 key texts fine

Junie Joseph

Junie Joseph

Hard-up international student Junie Joseph has been left distressed after being told by University staff to apply to the hardship fund, just to pay off a £9 fine for overdrawn key texts.

She was fined after taking three key texts out and forgetting to return them on time.

Junie, a Human Rights masters student, struggles to make ends meet at the end of the month, and has already had to apply for one hardship fund payment this year, a process she found “humiliating and demoralizing”.

To apply to the hardship fund you must complete several pages of forms with a detailed account of your incomes and outgoings, including benefits, grants and scholarships.

She struggles to find money to travel to meetings associated with her degree, and job interviews. As an MA student she does not have the same rights to government loans. She was shocked at the University’s unsympathetic approach to her situation.

Dan Whitmore, YUSU Academic Officer, said: “It seems a little harsh on the library’s part that they aren’t letting this fine slide when this student is clearly under immense pressure financially.

“I can understand that they obviously don’t want to find themselves with a flood of students who are, generally speaking, constantly short on cash claiming that they can’t afford to pay their fines.

“But in a case like this they should make the exception and waive it. It’s hardly going to send the library into financial ruin.”

Stephen Town, the University’s Director of Information, wrote to Junie in a private email: “The simplest way to avoid hardship is to return books on time.

“If you have a genuine hardship case then there are other routes for support as my staff have suggested.

“I would suggest the remedy is in your own hands.”

Junie told Nouse how even when describing her circumstances library staff would not change their stance: “I have talked with three to five other people from the library and none were willing to help.

“I am on a student loan from overseas. When I say it is not financially feasible for me to go outside of my budget I am being literal.

“My course mates organise nights out often but I cannot go – and don’t go – it is best to stay home so that I don’t get myself in trouble.

“Studying here is not an easy task – it is financially draining and I worry about how I will make it to the end of the month.

“It makes me less effective as a student.”

“It’s absurd,” Joanna Moffat, a third year student, said. “Some members of the university staff need a degree in customer/student care. The university needs to be more understanding.”

Andy Mulholland, a supervisor on the Library staff told Nouse: “She’s inconvenienced other people. I mean you either know the rules or you don’t.”

Poppy Young, a Philosophy student, said: “If she is managing her money well and can prove it, there should definitely be some sort of special circumstances allowance. It’s just a bit cruel and petty.”

Sophie Gadd, third year English and History student, said: “It’s only a tenner. I’d say the library should wipe the fine, in the spirit of the end of year.”

Financial support and advice is  available from the Student Welfare Advisers in Market Square.

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