Manchester Uni confirms it isn’t taking action against students over the fence protests

Protesting students tore down fences put up around halls last week as ‘new security’

The University of Manchester has confirmed that there will not be an investigation into last week’s protests at Owen’s Park. 

Last week, the university put up fences around several student halls, without warning students. They said it was part of “new security measures” for the national lockdown that started last Thursday.

Immediately, a student-run protest was organised. Although the university issued an apology, promising to remove the fences the next day, that night the protest went ahead, with hundreds in attendance.

Students at the protest then tore down the barriers.

The university told The Manchester Tab: “We always respect the rights of students to protest peacefully and have no plans to investigate or take action against any student for involvement in the protest”. 

Credit: Poppy Bilderbeck

After the protests, the university said it had launched an “immediate inquiry” into the fences. The results of the inquiry will be made public, and published “within two weeks”.

It was reported the fences cost the university £11,000 to install, inspect and remove.

A further protest went ahead last weekend, organised by S.A.F.E.R, a student-run organisation advocating for the academic, financial and physical safety of students.

Since the protests, the university has added to their Instagram story an apology, as well as several links to university help pages, covering mental health, academic and financial support.

Manchester Uni’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, said about the fences last week: “Firstly, I want to apologise again for the distress caused by putting up the fence yesterday and the very poor communication surrounding this.

“I am determined to find out what went wrong and to learn from it. As a matter of urgency, I have commissioned an inquiry into these events. This will be conducted by Professor Clive Agnew, a former Vice-President for Teaching, Learning and Students, and our intention is to also include a former Students’ Union Officer.

“They will examine how and, for what reasons, the decision to erect the fence around the residences on the Fallowfield campus was taken and how this decision was – or wasn’t – communicated to students. The report will be submitted by the end of November, and we will publish the full report as soon as possible for all to see.

“I will also be meeting with student representatives from the Fallowfield residences as soon as possible, together with our Director for the Student Experience, Dr Simon Merrywest.

“I know the events of yesterday were distressing for many students on a personal level at what is already a very difficult time. I’m sorry for that. I also regret that our actions led to protests and unrest at the residences last night. The fence has been removed today and, in consultation with students, additional security measures will be put in place to help to keep all of our residents safe.

“We would like students to write to us with suggestions about how we can improve safety across our campus sites. Please contact [email protected] with your suggestions.

“If you have been affected by anything that has happened either yesterday or during your time with us so far, or just want to speak to someone then our counselling and support services are available to you. Advice and Response staff will be present at the Fallowfield site next week for one-on-one sessions and we will be holding check in and chat sessions over Zoom. Details of these arrangements will be sent shortly. You can also speak to your ResLife advisors for wellbeing or any other concerns.

“Finally, I want to reiterate that I am truly sorry for the events of yesterday.”

Featured image via Poppy Bilderbeck.

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