Students occupy the ESLC until demands for rent and tuition fees rebate are met
‘Shearer West has failed students’
In a move of non-violent protest for rent and tuition fees rebate, students are occupying the entry of the Engineering and Science Learning Centre.
Despite claiming on their instagram that the building would be “locked off”, all barricades that they had in place have since been removed following concerns from security that fire exits might be compromised and the students politely complied.
Upon entering the building, it is clear the students have made themselves at home with the main seating turned into a makeshift sleeping area, strewn with pillows, sleeping bags and a bottle of wine – the essentials.
The students main demands are for rent and tuition fees rebate, however this isn’t all they are asking for. Notts Uni Rent Strike are also demanding for “no repercussions for those taking part in the occupation, end to job cuts, reversal of all cuts made as result of the pandemic, an end to the casualisation of staff, with contracts to be brought in house, end to the hostile environment and hyper securitisation of the campus and an end to the marketisation of education”.
A rent refund for all students is the group’s main priority as over the past year the pandemic left many students paying for either halls or houses that they could not safely live in.
Whilst one of the occupiers Cody Bentham, second year Philosophy, acknowledged the rent rebate from the university last year, they say this is not enough. They argue that it needs to be extended to all students. Those who still had some in person teaching, such as medical students, have not received any rent refund at all.
Joel Butterworth, second year Liberal Arts, who is leading the occupation, says this is an example of how “the university put profit over staff and students’ wellbeing and gambled with public health by telling them [students] it would be safe to return to campus in September”.
Joel believes students are now being treated as consumers by the university but without the essential consumer rights: “If you were to buy a car and the car had a malfunction with the engine, you would be able to return that car. However, students, despite being treated as consumers by the university, are not being given the opportunity for the refund on their tuition fees.”
At a minimum, the group expressed that they would would like to see an apology from University of Nottingham’s Vice Chancellor Shearer West. Joel and Cody agree that “Shearer West has failed students”.
Moving on from the occupation and protests, in the future the group would like to see better communication from Shearer West to students directly, expressing their frustration at having to go through the SU in order to gain a council with her.
Over the upcoming week, Notts Uni Rent Strike plan to host banner-making workshops along with speak outs and teach outs. As for how they are personally spending their time, well they are students so are killing time writing essays and playing videos games. They say other students are welcome to join, subject to gaining a negative Covid-19 test.
This development comes amid a string of co-ordinated peaceful protests across UK universities in support of rent strikes and a history of occupations at Nottingham.