The Fallowfield fences: One year on

The protest that defined the mood of the year

Today marks one year, since students living at the University of Manchester’s Fallowfield campus, woke up in shock to the sight of steel barrier fences being erected around their halls of residence.

Without prior warning or any explanation from the university, the halls which students had just started to feel at home in, they now felt trapped in. The following hours would put the university firmly in the national limelight.

After the fences went up, the university confirmed they were part of “new security measures” due to the national lockdown at the time, apologising for worry it had caused and reiterating that students living in halls could come and go as they pleased.

However, there was still backlash from students. Almost immediately, the students of Manchester organised a protest against the fences for that night.

By evening the university estimated over a 1,000 students had gathered around the fences, following a minute of silence for Finn Kitson and a few short speeches, the fences came tumbling down across campus.

After protesting Manchester students tore down the fences, President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell apologised for the distress caused by the erection of the fences and confirmed they would be taken down in the coming days. She also commissioned an immediate inquiry into the events.

It later emerged that the university had spent £11,000 to to install, inspect and remove the fencing.

A week later students would occupy the Owens Park Tower after having organised hundreds of students in a rent strike, winning almost £11 million in rent rebates.

University security would then be involved in a “racial profiling” incident on campus which saw the university suspend two security officers, saying it was “deeply concerning”. In May, two security guards were charged with racially or religiously aggravated assault following an incident on campus.

Nancy Rothwell then lied on national television about having contacted the student involved, later being forced to apologise for making the “wrong remark”.

After scandal after scandal, Nancy Rothwell would lose a vote of no confidence in her management by students by 89 per cent but held on after the result was rejected by the board of governors, saying they had full confidence in her.

It was later revealed that the board of governors had made this decision more than two weeks before the referendum result was announced.

At the time, University of Manchester spokesperson told The Tab it was “absolutely normal” to give “consideration to a number of scenarios”. When we asked what these others scenarios were and if any statements had been drafted, the spokesperson declined to comment further.

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