Meet the students occupying multiple buildings at the University of Sheffield

A group of students have occupied four buildings on campus

Over the past four days, a group of Sheffield Uni students have occupied a number of important university campus buildings in protest against the closure of the Archaeology department, and in solidarity with the ongoing lecturer strikes

The group of activists began their occupation on Monday morning, with 16 people marching into Jessop West, which houses the English and Humanities department, and previously, the Archaeology department.

The Sheffield Tab caught up with one of the occupiers, who asked to remain anonymous and is referred to as Sky.

What do you hope to achieve through your occupation of these buildings?

Sky: “Our demands are straightforward. Firstly, we want the university to fully reverse its closure of the archaeology department and restructuring of the school of languages and cultures. Secondly, the university must meet the demands of the UCU around its four fights (fair pay increases, an end to casualisation and precarious work, manageable workloads, and closure of the disability, ethnic, and gender pay gaps), and senior members of management must use their positions within UUK to argue for an acceptance of UCU’s pensions proposals.”

How’s everyone doing on the inside?

Sky: “We’re buzzing! We’re fighting for what’s right, building solidarity in the fight for the future of Higher Education, and having some fun while we do so.”

 So speaking of fun, how has everyone been occupying themselves in those big empty buildings?

Sky: “We’ve been painting banners, listening to music, watching films, making further plans, and also just getting on with university work. In Hicks we had a singalong screening of Mamma Mia. To keep ourselves moving, some of the occupations have had games of splat and ninja. A colouring session in Jessop West led to the creation of the Jessop Westosaurus!”

Jessop West has been occupied since Monday.

Why did you choose to occupy multiple buildings?

Sky: “We’ve chosen to occupy multiple buildings because university management have given us no option but to escalate, and so we are showing them that we will not back down. If they are determined to close down one of the most renowned archaeology departments in the world, then we will make things difficult for them while they do.”

A group of students occupying the Hicks building, asking for the archaeology department to remain open.

It seems like the archaeology department closure is an important issue for your group, why is it such an important issue to get behind?

Sky: “The targeting of the archaeology department at the University of Sheffield has been an incredibly unjust move that shows the university treating its courses as money-making machines. It is one more step in the marketisation of Higher Education, and must be fought against.

“The process has involved months of staff being unsure about whether they will lose their jobs, and students’ concerns being ignored and diminished. Members of the department have suggested alternative routes to meet the university’s concerns which avoid closure, and rather than attempting them before reaching the final option, the university has instead decided to argue that accepting more students in the department with a lower A-Level grade than AAB would be akin to selling Aldi quality products at M&S.

“When students have raised the benefits the archaeology department has brought them, these have been ignored, and when departmental staff were informed of the closure, they were informed in a short meeting with no opportunity to respond. Our staff and students must not be treated like this, and as students across many departments, we have to take a stand in solidarity with those in the archaeology department. And ultimately, to any other student I would say: if we let it happen to their department, what’s to stop it happening to any of yours?”

The Diamond has been occupied since Thursday, with the occupiers hanging banners inside.

Sheffield Students Union President, Evie Croxford, has stated the Student Union “fully respect[s] their legal right to a peaceful protest, and appreciate their commitment to affecting change through direct action”.

The SU also says that the officer team is “regularly checking on the wellbeing of our members who are occupying the building”.

A spokesperson for the University of Sheffield said: “We are in contact with the students who are occupying the buildings and we hope that the situation is resolved as soon as possible.”

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