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14th February 2023

University issues ‘ultimatum’ letter to John Owens occupiers

Occupiers of the John Owens building have been told to leave by 4pm today or risk facing “formal disciplinary action”
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University issues ‘ultimatum’ letter to John Owens occupiers
Photo: Tom Grant @ The Mancunion

The University of Manchester issued student protestors occupying the John Owens Building an ‘ultimatum’ letter this morning.

Occupiers from the UoM Rent Strike and Manchester Leftist Action groups tweeted on their accounts that they had received a letter today, February 14, which was posted under a door to the John Owens building at around 8:00am, according to an occupier.

The students have been occupying the John Owens since last Wednesday, and are requesting the University give in to the demands set out by the UCU, the Rent Strike and give each student £1,500 on top of their government maintenance loan to be in line with inflation.

The Mancunion obtained a photograph of the letter, which states that “all occupiers are therefore required to vacate the John Owens building with immediate effect, and by no later than 4:00pm today, Tuesday 14 February 2023, and cease any further occupation of the building (and any other University building).”

The letter then refers to disciplinary action that they may take against the students. The letter states that “a failure to comply with this requirement will be considered a further serious disciplinary matter, resulting in additional grounds for formal disciplinary action under University Regulation XVII (Conduct and Discipline of Students). Occupiers should note that a failure to vacate will be considered a further example of ‘serious misconduct’ under Regulation XVII, with potentially significant consequences for continued study at the University. For students studying professional courses, their continued occupation of the building in the circumstances outlined, might also give rise to fitness to practise issues which require consideration under the University’s Fitness to Practise Procedure.”

Photo: UoM Rent Strike

There are currently no plans to leave the occupation in both the John Owens and Simon Buildings according to the occupier The Mancunion spoke to this afternoon. The occupier from the John Owens building said, “if they [The University] would rather expel students than really listen to what people are saying then that’s on them and that’s their reputation that they’re risking”.

The occupier said that “everyone is fully aware of the potential consequences of any of the people who are engaged”. They continued by saying, “I knew it was risk when I came in, and I could have left at any point, but I think I think it’s important. This issue isn’t going to go away. Like the issue of the state, higher education, the issue of the housing crisis and how it affects your people. Even though the marketization of universities, something at some point is going to have to give and if we just keep putting up with the situation getting worse, it’s going to become impossible for students a few years down the line, and it’s becoming impossible for a lot of students at the moment. So while it’s not what I would ideally be doing at the moment, I think it’s necessary. I think people have to stand up at some point. And if we stand within enough numbers, we can actually get real change. So I think it’s very important and that’s why I’m doing it”.

The occupiers have reportedly received other letters over the course of the occupation, but these did not contain references to disciplinary action.

The occupier also commented that the banner placed outside of the John Owens Building stating ‘John Owens Autonomous Zone’ was simply a joke that they hoped would annoy the university.

Students’ Union Activities and Culture Officer Robbie Beale posted a video to his Instagram story later this afternoon urging people to gather outside of the John Owens Building at 4pm to join him in protest against the universities proposed disciplinary action.

In this video, he said that “it is unprecedented that a university has taken disciplinary action against students for an occupation in recent history in the UK”.

He went on to call the decision of disciplinary action “a big escalation”.

The University of Manchester have been contacted for comment.

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