Around a dozen University of Manchester students occupied a university building in Fallowfield as part of ongoing rent strike protests yesterday.
Students representing UoM Rent Strike, Students Before Profit and 9K4WHAT have taken up residence in the currently empty Owens Tower on Wilmslow Road, in a stand against university management.
Yesterday evening, the students occupying the tower had their WIFI cut off by the university and were temporarily deprived of receiving food and other essential items.
However, after involvement from local MP Afzal Khan, the internet was restored in the early hours of the morning.
He said: “The welfare of students should be everyone’s number one priority.
“I hope @OfficialUoM will reach out to students and de-escalate tensions.”
Protestors have said that they feel like they have been neglected by the University, and are demanding a 40 per cent reduction in rent for the remainder of the 2020/21 academic year.
One of the occupiers, Ben McGowan, 18, is a first-year politics student at the University of Manchester.
Speaking to The Manc, he said: “The way the university has treated students is deplorable.
“Firstly, they told us we would receive face to face teaching and then backtracked on that within a week of us moving in. Then hundreds of us had to isolate with little support.
“The state of the accommodation is awful too. There’s been rat infestations as well as leaks and floods in some of the halls on campus.
“We will not leave until (Vice Chancellor) Nancy Rothwell meets with us and agrees to our aims. The least that university management could do is agree to meet us and hear what we have to say.”
UoM Rent Strike’s original demands, announced on October 5, are as follows:
A rent reduction of at least 40 per cent, for the remainder of the academic year 2020-21.
To offer all students no-penalty early release clause from their tenancy contracts, for both this and the next academic year.
Increase the standard of support for students in halls of residence, this includes food, laundry and post for isolating flats; better security and faster responses to complaints about standards of living e.g. broken fridges.
Mr McGowan, who lives in Fallowfield’s Oak House accommodation, also said he wanted a refund on rent paid for December as new Government guidelines meant he had to leave the accommodation, but the university had “refused to engage.”
In an open letter addressed to Nancy Rothwell, the occupiers said: “Even amidst the calls for transparency between the governing body and the students, you have still failed to provide us with a meeting to merely discuss these demands, much less to implement them.”
Mr McGowan added: “University management have a duty of care over their students.”
“If they are not willing to meet with us to discuss their concerns then they are failing in their role.”
A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “We are aware of the protest by a handful of students in an empty residential building.
“We have made it clear to them that they shouldn’t be there and that they may also be in contravention of current national Health Protection Regulations.
“We are already engaging with elected Students’ Union representatives about many of the issues being highlighted by the protestors.
“The University is fully committed to freedom of expression.”
Mr McGowan said that they have enough food to last them a while, and they will continue to occupy the tower block until their “basic demands” are met.
In an updated statement, a University of Manchester spokesman said that the Vice Chancellor has agreed to meet students over the weekend to discuss their concerns.
One of the ‘best things to do in the WORLD’ is in Manchester – and it doesn’t even exist yet
A Manchester attraction has been named as one of the best things to do in the world in 2023 – despite the fact that it hasn’t actually opened yet.
Time Out said: “Manchester is making a storm right now, with the UK city being crowned one of the world’s very best places to visit by Lonely Planet in 2022.
“It’s not showing any signs of slowing down this year, with the long-awaiting opening of Factory International, a £186 million arts venue which will be the new, permanent home of the biennial Manchester International Festival.
“The 2023 festival (June 29-July 16) will be filled with all sorts of big shows and experiences to get stuck into – including the largest-ever immersive Yayoi Kusama exhibition and a stage adaptation of The Matrix directed by Danny Boyle.”
The £186m new cultural space Factory International is already taking shape in the city, a looming grey structure that will be home to a massive programme of arts and culture.
The acclaimed Danny Boyle will direct the venue’s opening production, a performance inspired by The Matrix films.
5000 tickets for Free Your Mind, which will be presented across the flexible spaces in the building, will be sold for £10 or less, to give everyone in the community a chance to experience the huge site.
Factory International is set to open its doors in June 2023, programmed and operated by the team behind Manchester International Festival.
The enormous 13,350 sq metre space inside utilises supersized moveable walls, which can reconfigure the space for different performances.
Its artistic programming has already begun too, in the form of its first installation First Breath, which has been lighting up the skies with something that locals say looks like an ‘alien invasion’. You can read all about that here.
Featured image: OMA 10
Mason Greenwood attempted rape and assault charges dropped
All criminal charges against Manchester United footballer Mason Greenwood have been dropped today.
The 21-year-old faced allegations of attempted rape, controlling and coercive behaviour, and assault, all against the same female victim.
The investigation was first opened in January 2022 but has today been dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service, Greater Manchester Police has said.
Chief Superintendent Michaela Kerr, GMP’s Head of Public Protection, said: “Given the significant media coverage of this case, it is only fair that we share the news that the 21-year-old man, who had been arrested and charged in connection with an investigation opened in January 2022, no longer faces criminal proceedings in relation to this.
“The investigation team has remained in regular contact with the legal team, providing any updates of note, and so understand the rationale for the discontinuation of proceedings at this stage, and that this decision has not been taken lightly.
“Despite the media and public’s interest in this case, we have decided not to comment on it in any further detail.
“I would, however, like to use this opportunity to reiterate GMP’s commitment to investigating allegations of violence against women and girls and supporting those affected, regardless of their circumstances, throughout what can be a hard and upsetting time for them.
“An ever increasing number of officers are receiving specialist training and the force is more consistently utilising tools, available via the criminal justice system, to keep people safe and care for victims.
“If you feel you are or might be a victim, please don’t let this case put you off asking for help.”
GMP also outlined the support that is available:
If you or someone you know has been a victim of rape or sexual assault, we encourage you not to suffer in silence and report it to the police by calling 101 or 999 in an emergency.
You can also report information and crimes on our website (www.gmp.police.uk) using the ‘report’ tool.
Alternatively, you can report information anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
There are also lots of organisations and support agencies available across Greater Manchester that can help and provide support for you.
For more information on rape and serious sexual assault and the support services available to you, please visit our support pages.
Here are a few examples of the support centres who can help:
St. Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre – Manchester provides a comprehensive and co-ordinated response to men, women and children who live or have been sexually assaulted within Greater Manchester. They offer forensic medical examinations, practical and emotional support as well as a counselling service for all ages. Services are available on a 24-hour basis and can be accessed by calling 0161 276 6515.
Greater Manchester Rape Crisis – is a confidential information, support and counselling service run by women for women over 18 who have been raped or sexually abused at any time in their lives. Call on 0161 273 4500 or email [email protected]
Survivors Manchester – provides specialist trauma informed support to male victims in Greater Manchester who have experienced sexual abuse, rape, or sexual exploitation. Call 0161 236 2182.