Today marks the 8th day of students occupying a tower at the University of Manchester’s Fallowfield Campus. With increasing press coverage, a member of the UoM Rent Strike group tells us how the group is progressing.
Tom Baker* who is working as a part of the University of Manchester’s rent strike group, discusses how the group has made advances in their campaign and was confident they would continue to do so.
The rent striker, describes how the group functions: “There’s no centralised leadership—it’s run through a WhatsApp group, so there is a kind of organisational body. It’s an incredibly ad-hoc group.”
Our demands: pic.twitter.com/ueb2rHZFbx
— UoM Rent strike (@rentstrikeUoM) October 22, 2020
“It’s bats***!” he adds, however, the group’s flexible organisational approach is proving successful for them.
On the 17th Lewis Goddall interviewed students occupying the tower for the BBC, and the 19th saw University of Manchester president Nancy Rothwell interviewed live on BBC news. Rothwell remained adamant that deducting accommodation fees 5%, totalling to two weeks deduction was suitable, although the interview highlighted that this would only account for time that students were not living in the halls anyway.
— Roger Johnson (@RogerJ_01) November 19, 2020
Baker is positive about the publicity, highlighting that “the university has had a lot of bad press, whether its fences, or riot vans, or racial profiling, we hope this continues to push the university”.
In addition, the movement has already accumulated over 300 signatures from university lecturers in support, as well as a letter of condemnation to Rothwell for alumni which has 200 signatures.
Despite this, the group has struggled to speak to their university president, “they’ve been trying to avoid dealing with us. They’ve set up deals with the student union, and they’re going around us through hall representatives.” The group remains prepared and resilient though, “they’re trying to go around the movement, which is a part of why we’re escalating the strike in January.”
Happily, Baker reports that the students within the tower are faring well, as today marks the eighth day of occupation. “There’s ten to 15 of them living together, staking out their rooms and they have kitchens.” Fortunately, the occupiers have access to a lot of food, “security is not trying to force a hunger strike, but materials that are not “food” are not allowed in, so we have some interesting methods of getting them in.” Warner laughs. Those occupying the tower are allowed to leave, but not allowed to renter.
Within the movement, “spirits are high, as we’ve been gaining a lot of momentum and attention in the press. The movement is getting bigger and growing.” Particularly, as their group works with other campaigners on campus such as the SAFER campaign. Which are a covid-response group, looking for university fees to be reduced to £6000, the same as the Open University. On advising students who would like to support the movement, Warner advised starting a rent strike committee if your university does not already have one, to prepare for a rent strike to commence in January. Below are other links to support the organisations.
To support the rent strike movement:
- Follow UoM Rent strike for updates on Twitter
- Follow the SAFER campaign on Instagram
- Donate to students in the tower
- Alumni letter for those that wish to sign
*Name changed to protect anonymity
Words: Bethan Adams| Subbing: Maelina Hassel