University of Manchester students protest against ‘prison’-like fences

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Last Thursday evening, hundreds of students gathered in protest against The University of Manchester’s “new security measures.” Earlier that morning, students woke up horrified to discover they were being “fenced” into their homes. Last night students tore down areas of metal fencing running through the Fallowfield campus 

According to The University of Manchester, the large metal fencing, then circulating the entire campus and each on-site accommodation block, was one of several “new security measures” that has been put in place as a result of the second lockdown. Students claim that the university has had “absolutely no communication” with them about the new changes and are left feeling like “prisoners”. 

Ewan, a first-year student at The University of Manchester told The Gryphon, “they put them up without any warning! It was only at 5pm that I received an email about extra security measures being put in place, but other than that I have heard nothing!”. Ewan added that “there is fencing everywhere around campus, the new measures must have undergone a lot of planning so there is no excuse that students haven’t officially been made aware”.  

 Ewan was one of many students who attended the protest on Thursday evening, believing that the university has neglected student welfare completely. The student accommodation of the Fallowfield campus has flats between six to fourteen students, with “cells” for rooms and no communal leisure area. “I didn’t expect much from student accommodation anyway, however, the fencing makes living here feel like a prison. Being a first-year student already brings the challenges, such as separation from friends and family, yet this year I am unable to meet course mates, join societies, get to know people around campus and now I’m being fenced in!”. 

Having suffered from Covid-19 earlier in the term, Ewan and his flat were forced to isolate in university accommodation. “Even then, the University neglected our situation. We were forced to rely on supermarket deliveries, which were in very high demand at the time. It was only when my parents drove an hour and a half with shopping that me and my flat had a decent amount of food.”  

The University of Manchester has already faced criticism this term for making the decision to move all teaching online in early October in order to “protect the health”. Prior to this, the university had encouraged students to move into halls of residence, regardless of a rise in cases in the North West region throughout September. Students were placed under the impression that they would receive “blended learning” – a combination of face-to-face and online teaching, however this has not been the reality.  

The University has not yet commented on the protests themselves, however, the president and vice chancellor have since sent an email to all University of Manchester students apologising for not making the students aware that fencing was to be put up.  

The fences have since been officially taken down.

Featured image via the Guardian.