By Tom Grant and Shikhar Talwar
The University of Manchester’s Registrar, Secretary and Chief Operating Officer Patrick Hackett has released a statement this Tuesday afternoon stating that students involved in the occupation of University buildings will “face formal University disciplinary action”.
Students from the Manchester Leftist Action and UoM Rent Strike groups occupied the Samuel Alexander and Engineering Buildings to begin with, before moving to the John Owens Building, a building with restricted access for students.
Protestors then moved to the Simon Building, which they have been occupying since February 14. The students have said they will remain in this building indefinitely, and have been hosting events on the third floor to engage with other students and harvest support.
The official UoM Rent Strike account has released statements in the last couple of weeks whilst occupying the Simon Building which have discussed issues with security, and the accessibility of food supplies into the occupation.
The groups have also made claims that the Security Staff have directly harassed student occupiers online, mainly through Twitter. Hackett mentioned the Security Staff in his statement, claiming that “several of our Campus Support and Security colleagues were injured when on two separate occasions a group of students rushed the doors to force entry. This behaviour is simply not acceptable”.
URGENT: Security have just physically blocked a food delivery and told us we are no longer allowed to get essential supplies in pic.twitter.com/zcgWoIZPAq— UoM Rent Strike 2023 (@rentstrikeUoM) February 18, 2023
Hackett also mentioned that the University are currently in “the process of commencing formal legal proceedings to regain possession of our buildings”. What this means for those students currently in the Simon Building is currently unknown, but Hackett reported that the University is aware of “10 students still residing in an area of the Simon Building”.
He also stated that due to the occupations, “hundreds of Professional Services staff faced the disruption of being unable to work in their usual way”.
The UoM Rent Strike and Manchester Leftist Action groups began their occupation to demand that the University give in to the demands of the University and Colleges Union, the demands of the Rent Strike and give every student £1,500 to ensure their government maintenance loan stays in line with inflation.
The University released in a separate statement today that they are planning on spending £20 million in refurbishment works on the Dalton Ellis and Oak House student accommodation sites. This comes after the University has spent “£25million […] in refurbishments at Hulme Hall in the past five years”.
Patrick Hackett’s statement is the first correspondence from the University since The Mancunion asked for a statement regarding the circulation of a letter demanding the occupiers leave the John Owens Building on February 14. Since then, they have vacated the John Owens Building and occupied the Simon Building.
The Students’ Union Exec Officer team said:
“We are disappointed that the University believes that it has no other option than to take disciplinary action against its students. Throughout these occupations, we have asked the University to not pursue this course of action. We believe that students have a right to protest about the issues that are affecting them and their peers. We will maintain contact and support all students involved and continue to advocate and for the issues that their campaign raises.”
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