Dozens of Bristol students march on Victoria Rooms in protest at hall changes
‘No ifs, no buts, No RHS hall cuts’
Dozens of Bristol students marched this afternoon from Stoke Bishop down Whiteladies Road to the Victoria Rooms to highlight their opposition to the new pastoral care model proposed by University management.
Students leant out of windows cheering, cars sounded their horns, chants were sung and a bongo drum was beaten as around forty students and Senior Residents made the half hour march across the Downs to meet with their Clifton and City Centre peers.
Along the route second and third years joined in, swelling the crowd to around sixty braving the rain and grey skies. Under a 'Hands off our Halls' banner, students commandeered Whiteladies Road, marching down the street with a traffic jam ensuing behind them.
Numerous chants were sung including "No mandate, no backing/our managers need sacking", "No ifs, no buts/no RHS hall cuts", "We're here because we care!", "Halls not hubs", "Rub a dub dub, we don't want a hub", "Save our halls", "Keep our communities" and "Simon Bray, Go Away"- a reference to the Director of Residential and Hospitality Services responsible for designing the new model.
Third year Natasha Owen was one of those on the march. Asked for comment as to why she was demonstrating, she replied"I feel it would be a real travesty if we lost the support we have in halls. University is a really exciting time, full of so many prospects and things but the thought of not having the support when you really need it worries me."
Following a brief speech by second year Geography student Tom Anderson, the march set off shortly after quarter past 2, with a number of cars sounding their halls in support as the umbrella wielding demonstrators walked up Parrys Lane and across the Downs.
Arriving at the Victoria Rooms shortly before 3 o'clock, the protesters were joined by Bristol Labour students and Cut the Rent, swelling numbers to close to a hundred. Flares were set off as attendees swarmed out across the building steps to listen to a series of speeches.
First up was 'Keep Our Communities' co-founder Cris Oehling Pascual who told the listening crowd that "Communities are as important as pastoral support to contribute to student wellbeing" and that "Every single member of the current pastoral system has come out against these changes", ending with the cry "Keep our communities- save our halls".
Fourth year Physics and Philosophy student Tom Phillips then took to the steps to rail against the current direction of university policy, brandishing a wellbeing poster which he claimed was indicative of a shift from live in support to signposting staff, endangering students. Proceedings were enlivened by a bottle swigging local resident who interrupted occasionally to compare the marchers to the lions which flank the entrance of the Victoria Rooms.
Next up was City Centre Senior Resident Ella Fraser, who was responsible for organising the open letter in which half of her fellow Senior Residents condemned the proposed reforms. Explaining she would have to be brief because she was set to be on duty, Fraser spoke of the debt she owed her old Senior Resident when she had been a first year and how she tried to help her own charges, to widespread applause.
One student waved a "Wenger Out" sign; another held a placard aloft which bore the words "Listen to the masses! Don't touch our Senior Residents." Samar Khan and Ellen Graves from the Cut the Rent campaign then took to the stage to attack the university for raising rents whilst concurrently cutting services to Bristol students.
It was left to Phillips to sign off the event, taking to the steps once more to praise the demonstrators and urge the crowd to join him in The Berkeley Wetherspoons for a gin and tonic.