Hundreds of University of Manchester students let off smoke bombs and tore down fences in a tense protest at the campus in Fallowfield tonight.
The protest was organised in an attempt to show the impact what they say a “complete lack of support” through the Covid-19 has had on students
It followed a stand-off all day after the University installed fencing – which has since been taken down – around a number of halls of residences.
Without any prior warning for many, students living on the Fallowfield had metal fencing put up around their buildings to ensure that students do not break the new lockdown measures.
This included Unsworth Park, Richmond Park, Oak House, Sheavyn House, Ashbourne Hall and Owens Park, all collectively accommodating hundreds of students.
Last month, a student was found dead on the campus in a suspected suicide after suffering ‘severe anxiety’ linked to lockdown.
The University of Manchester said that students were not locked in, although they insisted students comply with the new lock down measures and hope they ‘do the right thing’.
However, with these “prison-like” conditions having been put in place, students on the campus were fearing the impact the following month would have on their mental health.
One concerned parent told Manchester Evening News: “The students are being penned in like animals.”
With so many other accommodations throughout Manchester not having had the same restrictions put in place, students on the campus were describing it as “harsh” and “inhumane”.
The university apologised for not informing the students and said that these restrictions had been put in place to ensure that non-residents did not try to enter the halls.
A spokesperson for the university stated that the fences were “designed to help highlight main entrances and avoid the mixing of households.”
In updated details in a statement given to the students via the university website, students were to be asked to present ID to get into their halls during security checks at night.
These restrictions seem to have been put in place after the university later stated: “In recent weeks we have received a number of concerns from staff and students on this site about safety and security; particularly about access by people who are not residents.
“We are therefore introducing new security measures out of hours at key entrance points to our campus, accommodation and main pedestrian routes to help keep our students, staff and our community safe”
The University has now said it will be removing the fencing after student protests and the furious backlash from parents.
In an email sent to the students, it said: “The fencing that started going up today was a further measure to support safety on site, and as now residents would continue to enter and leave as they please.
“It was certainly not the plan to lock them in their accommodation.
“However, despite the positive intention, the feedback about this change has been very negative and as a result we will shortly be writing to all students to confirm that the fencing will be removed tomorrow”
One of the organisers of the protest, Izzy Smitheman, told UoM student publication The Mancunion: “We are still going to protest. It’s not about the fence, it’s about the principle.”