Meet student action group S.A.F.E.R, ‘fighting for academic, financial and physical safety’

S.A.F.E.R, ‘A Student Action for a Fair and Educated Response’


Amid the difficulties facing students due to the ongoing pandemic, UoM student Catherine Wippell has set up a student action group called S.A.F.E.R, whose aim is to fight “for our collective academic, financial and physical safety”.

S.A.F.E.R has said they feel: “The university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been inconsistent and profit-led, undermining their staff and students’ safety, stability and access to support. This needs to change, and we need to fight for our rights. Let’s take action NOW, TOGETHER”.

S.A.F.E.R Protest. Image credit: Eliza Lewis

The group has formulated a list of demands in which they seek change surrounding the three factors: Stability, safety and support.

S.A.F.E.R’s first demand is “that a partial reimbursement of tuition fees is provided to current students at UoM”, and that this is done so without affecting staff salaries. S.A.F.E.R want students to be paying the equivalent fee for an online degree from The Open University. Furthermore, the student action group want first year students to get a “full rebate of tuition and accommodation fees” if the student “feels they cannot carry on their university career in these circumstances, and chooses to leave.”

S.A.F.E.R prioritises first year students in it’s demands for stability, and continues by saying how a “full refund of the rent paid for first semester” should be given back to first year students in university accommodation, and also that a “written apology from the senior officers team is sent out to all first year students who have had no option but to endure these living circumstances”.

S.A.F.E.R claims: “It seems that the senior officers have intentionally put student at risk of life changing health complications, for the sake of the maintenance of their own salaries”.

 

 

Credit to: Eliza Lewis

S.A.F.E.R also includes the wellbeing and jobs of staff in their demands. Under their demands for more support, S.A.F.E.R have asked “that a new staff support plan is created”.

According to S.A.F.E.R, this staff support plan should incorporate: The abolishment of fixed term contracts, “that two meetings are held every semester to create a space for discussing and diminishing the gender pay gap between male-identifying and female-identifying staff”, that the academic staff pension schemes should be “revised and improved” and redundancies abolished “during national and international crises such as a global pandemic.”

They go on to say that places of work should have risk assessments carried out, prior to being assigned to “cleaning, catering, maintenance and security staff” too. They also say that cleaning staff need to be informed of any positive Covid cases before entering university accommodation, as if they did not inform these staff otherwise, they claim the university would “put them and their families at significant risk.”

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UK universities have been exposed for trying to keep students at university long enough to ensure they don’t gain an adequate rebate of tuition fees. They have done this through their thinly veiled promise of ‘temporary’ online learning, to try and validate the fact we are still being charged full tuition fees. We have had enough of the university placing their own financial interests before the the physical and mental health of staff and students. This is not good enough. We will not passively accept this any longer. Link to the article this post is based on, The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/oct/17/uk-universities-accused-of-keeping-students-at-all-costs-until-after-fee-deadline?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other #asafermanchester #ucustrikes #staffandstudentstogether

A post shared by S.A.F.E.R (@asafermanchester) on

The team have also written a tuition and accommodation fees appeal, addressed to Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell and the Senior Leadership Team.

 

 

Credit to: Eliza Lewis

S.A.F.E.R go on to stress the need for a safe environment and more developed crisis plan, should a similar situation to the pandemic arise again. They request a “revision of the no disadvantage policy” and that “DASS students are provided with an improves form of online learning and extra support from the university”.

In terms of physical health, the group request a more advanced plan which should not encourage first year students to move into halls when the environment is “high risk” and “that all reasonable measures are taken to provide financial and physical safety to staff”.

Finally, S.A.F.E.R request that, “senior officers communicate with students with the utmost honesty” as the students have been “disappointed that the university is continuing to place staff and students in environments that pose high risk to their physical health” and they claim the university is “continuing to feign surprise when these situations result in increasing COVID-19 cases”.

S.A.F.E.R have subsequently created an appeal, addressed to Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell and the Senior Leadership Team.

The appeal is available to sign, and S.A.F.E.R have said: “It is vital that we get as many signatures as possible to emphasise the support of this campaign to the University”.

When contacted for comment, a University of Manchester spokesperson told the Manchester Tab: “The safety and wellbeing of our students is the University’s primary concern, and we are supporting them in every way we can.

“We have put in place a comprehensive support package for all students who are self-isolating, that includes a partnership with a major food retailer to provide student-specific delivery slots, food parcels, support on wellbeing and practical matters including arranging for clean sheets and a laundry pickup service. This has been communicated to all our students.

“For further support, University accommodation has a ResLife team on site where they can go for help and advice.”

The university’s latest self self-isolation advice can be found here.

Featured image credit to: Eliza Lewis. Logo credit to: Lae C-Wilson @laecwilson

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