Frustrated STEM students ask Appleton occupiers to minimise disruption

They’ve penned an open letter demanding cooperation

An open letter asking the occupiers of Appleton Tower to lessen the disruption they are causing informatics students has amassed over 200 signatures.

The letter expresses sympathy for striking UCU members, but goes on to highlight that occupiers are disturbing STEM students in a way that appears counterproductive to their alleged aims

Jacob Dyer, the fourth year informatics student who penned the open letter, told The Edinburgh Tab: “For informatics students Appleton is far more than just a study space. It’s a home away from home.”

Two demands are listed in the letter: Firstly, “we ask you to clearly state how long you intend to continue this occupation.”

Secondly, “we ask that rather than occupying the entirety of the building, you occupy the atrium, preventing access to the lecture theatres. This would provide the disruption you want to cause the university, while allowing a sizable group of students to continue to use the specialised resources, which are not available anywhere else, for self study.”

The takeover of Appleton Tower comes at a particularly difficult time for informatics students, who not only have crucial course work to complete using the facilities inside, but are also set to host an entirely student-led hackathon event, ‘Hack the Burgh’, this weekend.

Over 300 students from across the world have come to Edinburgh to attend the event, which may have to be downsized if occupiers do not cooperate with requirements laid out by organisers. 

Staff-Student Solidarity Network Edinburgh, the group behind the occupation, have clarified they are operating as an “open occupation”, meaning “students are free to enter for independent study or research, but lectures and tutorials will not take place.”

However, Jacob told The Edinburgh Tab: “Appleton Tower is a home away from home. If you were to go home this evening and there was someone sat in your doorway, who wouldn’t let your mentor in, your parents in, or your best mate that is vocal about their disagreement, you would be devastated. Even if you can enter the building and do everything as normal, it still doesn’t sit right. That’s what things are like right now for a large number of students.”

Jacob added: “Hack the Burgh requires a lot of space in Appleton Tower to run and is a safety nightmare due to the hundreds of laptops and extension cables running around. That event needs to happen.”

Occupiers have been in talks with informatics students but they are yet to reach a comprehensive agreement. In a meeting on Wednesday occupiers said they would retreat to the second floor of the building for the duration of the hackathon weekend, however according to Jacob they later backed down on this commitment.

Jacob said: “While largely receptive to discussions, as they want to be ‘open and democratic’, the occupiers did ask informatics representatives to leave the meeting on Wednesday as they did not want to discuss some stuff with us around.”

Second year artificial intelligence student, Maksymilian Mozolewski, told The Edinburgh Tab: “Appleton Tower is more than a university building, it’s a social hub. It’s where we study, meet, collaborate, ‘hack’ and most importantly – meme.

“I couldn’t care less about the lectures and workshops here personally (I don’t usually go to many anyway). But the occupiers have depraved us of our turf. The fact that a bunch of masquerading, self-righteous strike-hijackers are ‘occupying’ it is very frustrating and they’ve lost my support.”

Maksymilian added: “They’re not doing it for the staff, even their demands are different from that of UCU. I am fully for the staff strikes, but this space is essential to our course and so I am here. If the ‘occupiers’ did their research, there’d be no drama.”

Staff-Student Solidarity Network Edinburgh has been approached for comment.