Banned signs and increased security: What we know about the chaotic MMU halls lockdown
Parents drove two hours to drop off food
On Friday night 1,700 Manchester Metropolitan University students living in Birley campus and Cambridge Halls were told by the university they had to self-isolate ‘with immediate effect’ after 127 residents tested positive for coronavirus.
Without warning, security and police appeared informing students that they were not able to leave.
Megan Tingy, an MMU student said: “We were getting ready to go out and looked out to security and police outside the halls. They say we can’t leave.
“We haven’t received any emails from university about this and they seem to be holding us in against our will.”
A university spokesman said: “We are fully supportive of the [lockdown] decision.
“Services such as wellbeing support and the library will remain available to our students online.
“Our security teams will increase patrols to support the lockdown and we will take disciplinary action against any students found to have breached requirements.”
The halls lockdown made national news this weekend, and on the whole just seemed very chaotic. Here’s everything that went down during Man Met’s halls lockdown:
MMU had to confirm they are not legally enforcing the halls lockdown, after lawyers got involved
Yesterday evening, police, council and university bosses confirmed they are not legally enforcing a lockdown on thousands of students at the two Manchester Met University halls of residence.
This came after people were saying students had been “imprisoned“, and a number of legal commentators raised questions as to what gives the university, or Manchester Council, the power to impose such measures.
Addressing the email sent to students, Adam Wagner, a Professor in Law at Goldsmiths University of London, tweeted: “This message would not comply with the statutory requirements as it does not state the legal basis of the lockdown.
“If this was the only message received by students I don’t see how they have been lawfully locked down (even if they could be).”
Meanwhile, Levins Solicitors of Liverpool tweeted: “To the MMU students at Birley campus and Cambridge halls: get in touch and we will do our best to help, pro bono.”
To the MMU students at Birley campus and Cambridge halls: get in touch and we will do our best to help, pro bono.
— Levins Solicitors (@LevinsLaw) September 27, 2020
The students are now free to leave their halls if they wish but are being asked to “do the right thing” and self-isolate in their accommodation.
“We expect students to follow the guidance for self-isolation set out by the Government and Public Health England. ”
“We are unable to prevent our students from leaving the halls, but our students are bright young adults and we trust that they will do the right thing.”
Students put signs in windows, which were then banned
Students put signs in their windows, with things such as “HMP MMU”, “F**k Boris”, “LET US OUT!” and “SOS”.
My walk to work takes me across the MMU campus, where students are being held hostage in their accomodation. Apparently they've been told to take these signs down. pic.twitter.com/P6faVDr9mo
— Social Christancing (@pangalactic) September 28, 2020
On Saturday, residents received an email stating: “We are contacting you all today to ask for the signs which are on display on the windows in your flat need to be removed.
“Please ensure these are removed ASAP.”
Thousands of students in lockdown in Manchester— and can't leave for exercise or food
Now they're told to ignore media and (below) remove signs such as "Let Us Out" and "Cheers Bojo"
Silencing students doesnt feel like fair response to the predictable disaster that is unfolding pic.twitter.com/4U1o2SAfFS
— Gabriel Pogrund (@Gabriel_Pogrund) September 26, 2020
Media Law expert David Banks said: “Manchester Metropolitan University might have had no choice but to tell 1,700 students in halls to self-isolate.
“But what right do they have to tell them to remove signs in their windows? Someone on their comms team needs to get a grip and stop this spinning into a PR disaster…”
Students at Manchester Met, locked down inside this block, say they can’t get a food delivery until Thursday and think they should get back some of the £9k they’ve paid. pic.twitter.com/rHZscoNkiL
— Daniel Hewitt (@DanielHewittITV) September 28, 2020
Labour MP Caroline Flint said: “How stupid to tell students confined to their block to take down posters.
“I’m minded to put one up in solidarity. Protest posters vary in quality & wit but are part of being a student”.
Yesterday, the university issued an apology and claimed they “respect the rights of students to express themselves”.
We apologise for the message sent to our students last night about posters in windows, it didn't reflect the University's view. We respect the rights of students to express themselves, but as requested by @gmpolice the posters must not break the law or they'll have to be removed.
— Manchester Metropolitan Uni (@ManMetUni) September 27, 2020
People are dropping off food for the isolating students
On Sunday afternoon friends and parents were seen dropping off supplies for them at Birley Campus on Bonsall Street.
The parents of one student drove for two hours from the Midlands.
They said the lockdown would have “a very serious impact” on the health and wellbeing of students – and said they feared some could turn to drink and drugs.
Second year student, Lauren Keating, said to the M.E.N: “A lot of people are just having drinks with their flat mates in the evening.
“We’ve dropped off a crate of beer for our friend with his other shopping.
“Other people have been ordering loads of board games. Some people have definitely been hitting the board games hard.”
All first year MMU lectures are now online
The university has now announced all lectures, seminars and classes for first and foundation year students at Manchester Metropolitan University will be online for the next 14 days after a Covid-19 outbreak.
Professor Malcolm Press, Vice-Chancellor of MMU, said online learning would remain in place for a fortnight. He also said the situation would be reviewed regularly.
Prof Press said other year groups would continue to be taught in a “blended way” with a mix of online and face-to-face classes.
MMU’s VC says students will be getting financial compensation
Speaking on Sky News today, VC Prof Press said students will be receiving financial support, worth more than a week’s rent.
He said: “We have a care package in place that provides students with basic food and everything they need to support themselves in their accommodation.” On top of this, they are now offering “a financial support package” of “hard cash”. He did not give an exact figure but said it will be “more than a week’s rent”.
“The fact that a message in error was put out asking students to remove posters is a distraction.”
— SkyNews (@SkyNews) September 28, 2020
In a statement, Prof Press said: “I recognise the impact that this situation is having on our students, particularly given the extremely short period of time we had to inform them of the decision. Many of them are away from home for the first time and still finding their feet. Their welfare is our top priority and that is why we have been working hard with organisations around the city since Friday evening to put in place support to help during this 14-day period.”