Aberdeen University has denied trying to take advantage of “desperate” students unable to get to a supermarket while self-isolating.
Outraged student groups have hit out at the university, accusing bosses of “hypocrisy” after publicising free food supplies being issued to those in isolation.
It comes after a damaging weekend for the university’s leadership, as principal George Boyne apologised to marooned students for breaking lockdown rules on a trip to Wales.
More than 70 people have been forced to stay in their flats at Wavell House since September 22 after an outbreak of coronavirus.
More are self-isolating in flats at other university-run halls too, with more than cases associated with the institution.
Those affected were e-mailed by the university’s catering team on September 23, outlining the various options available to them.
Students were told they could place online orders for supermarket deliveries, takeaways or have supplies dropped off at the front door.
Or, the e-mail seen by The P&J suggested, the university could supply food boxes providing three meals and snacks lasting three days for £42 or £75 for a week.
The university has since offered free food deliveries to stranded students, with a spokesman claiming it was because many were having problems organising supermarket deliveries.
No one, he said, had been charged for emergency food supplies.
But angry students argue the real reason for the rethink was the furore at the university “trying to make as much cash as possible” from those isolating.
The Gaudie reported on a “dramatic reversal” of the planned charges.
Computer science student, Kuba Pitula, who stays at Wavell told the student newspaper: “I thought the cost was crazy, normally I would arrange food for a week for myself for no more than £20.
“I didn’t even consider taking the food from the uni after seeing the price.”
New Carnegie Halls resident, Rachel McAuley, who is also self-isolating, claimed the £75 box was being sold at three times the price it would cost in the shops.
Another unnamed student at Wavell, who feared reprisal for speaking out, said: “It was ridiculous and extortionate.”
Aberdeen Student Tenants Union president Jack Boag said: “It’s frankly abhorrent that the university needed to get backlash.
“Providing food for free is what they should have always done in the first instance.”
Chairman of Aberdeen University Labour Students, Martin Le Brech claimed the university had been caught “red handed” trying to take advantage of freshers, possibly away from home for the first time.
“Luckily they were smarter than that and saw £75 was far too much for quite basic food supplies,” he said.
“The university has been caught red-handed trying to take advantage of desperate freshers and it’s quite outrageous.
“It’s hypocritical to now be bragging online about being a good university and supplying this food for free – it was a definite U-turn.”
An Aberdeen University spokesman told The P&J the priced boxes were part of a range of options offered to all students, and that there was no obligation to buy them.
He said: “It quickly became apparent that the usual choice of grocery purchasing via online supermarket delivery could not be obtained by students.
“As a result of this difficulty, the university made the boxes available at no charge to ensure all those in isolation had sufficient supplies.
“This is a fast-moving and ever-changing situation which means our approach is under constant review and changes are made as new information comes to light and in the best interests of our students.”