Hundreds of students in Manchester protested on Thursday evening and tore down fencing installed without warning at the Fallowfield halls of residence.
Students said they felt “penned in” and that the fences were just another example of how they were treated with contempt by the University of Manchester (UOM) authorities.
Izzy, who lives in the halls, told Socialist Worker “We didn’t receive any information about the fences being put up. The university claimed we were sent an email, but I received nothing.
“The fences have blocked us from going onto the university campus and visiting any other blocks of flats. They also block us from any green spaces for exercise.
“There is talk as well that the wristbands that we use to go out and into our block of flats aren’t working anymore,” she said.
At the protest on Thursday night, students blamed the university’s actions for the rampant spread of coronavirus.
“They’ve decided to lock us in, but they made sure they had our money first,” one speaker told the crowd.
Fury at the fences forced the university’s vice-chancellor into a retreat. Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell said, “I sincerely apologise for the concern and distress caused by the erecting of a fence around our Fallowfield Halls of Residence today.
“The fences are being taken down from Friday morning.”
But students took matters into their own hands and pulled them down themselves.
UOM has failed its students. Students who have been forced to isolate since catching the virus have received little support.
Izzy said, “I don’t know one flat of students that have all tested negative.
“We’ve been sent one box of food during the time we were isolating in our flat, but the food went off in one day.
“They’ve locked us down completely with no warning. That’s going to have an effect on people’s mental health. Our whole lives are now in our rooms.
“Even if we went home they’d still make us pay rent. Now we can’t get out at all.
Last month students began a rent strike and over 300 students are currently refusing to pay rent.
They are demanding a rent reduction for this year, a non-penalty release from their tenancy for those who want to leave, and more support for students in accommodation.
Izzy says that the protests will go further. “We have to take this anger and put it into a fight against universities that put profits first.”