Uni students and staff march together to call for action at Sheffield Stand Up protest

‘We are the next generation and we should be valued as such’

University staff and students joined in solidarity at Leadmill Point accommodation yesterday as part of the Sheffield Stand Up protest.

They called for action to be taken in concerns with university teaching and wellbeing support available at both Sheffield universities.

All socially distanced and wearing a face mask, the protesters chanted and spoke out about their concerns of the present university year and the effect COVID is having on both staff and students at the universities in Sheffield.

The main focus of the protest was to demand a reduction in student tuition fees, increase COVID testing of staff and students at both Sheffield universities and the need for better wellbeing support for all staff and students in this current climate.

Abbie Christie, a first-year student at Sheffield Hallam University and the organiser of the protest told The Sheffield Tab: “We want to reiterate that this protest is in complete solidarity with university staff and have members of the UCU here today. We are the next generation and we should be valued as such. The government need to stop putting profit before people.”

All teaching at the University of Sheffield is online until 19th October in response to the rise in COVID cases over the last few weeks.

Whilst Sheffield Hallam University still has some face-to-face teaching in place, again, the majority is taught online through Zoom seminars and pre-recorded lectures.

Despite the lack of face-to-face contact with lecturers and students being left to practically do online degrees, they are still expected to pay tuition fees in full.

Peter Jones, a UCU member at the protest said: “Staff and students, we need to be together in this. The UCU may take the decision to instruct its members all to go online in the next few weeks and we’ve got to be together in this because this is for the greater good. Not just for the immediate health for the staff and students, but we’re thinking about the communities and we’re thinking about society as a whole.”

The Sheffield Tab spoke to students at the protest to see why they got involved and the lack of reduction in university tuition fees.

Alex Kirk, a foundation year History student at The University of Sheffield, said: “For me, whilst we have these challenges facing everybody, I just want people to be able to live a bit more comfortably and to be able to survive within their means.

“If the money the university is not spending on facilities to provide for the students who have come to Sheffield, because of the lack of face to face teaching, that money should be going back to the students to better support them at a time when money is tight and the economy is in a very weak position.”

Sophie Newing, a Youth officer for Penistone and Stocksbridge Labour Party, told The Sheffield Tab at the protest: “Moving forwards, there needs to be far more support in getting food to those who are self-isolating, as the measures currently in place are nowhere near good enough.

“The mental health toll on students who have to lock down with people they have never met before can be grave, and more support systems need to be put in place.”

The Sheffield Hallam branch of trade union UNISON said: “We support UCU’s demand for a comprehensive move to online teaching. That would help keep everyone safe, and employers should stop dithering and make decisions now for the next several months.

“Think about Students’ Union staff worried about their jobs because bars and shops are closed or quiet. Think about disability support workers on zero-hours contracts whose work has dried up.

“That’s why our members need a guarantee that there will be no threat to their livelihoods and no redundancies during this pandemic. It is great to know students support us, and that you will help make sure that we won’t be forgotten.”

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