Students Speak Out After University Erects ‘Prison-Like’ Fences Around Halls
The University of Manchester has issued an apology after trapping its students with ‘prison-like’ fences erected around the campus.
The UK entered national lockdown on Thursday, November 5, in a bid to stem increasing coronavirus cases on the run-up to Christmas. Officials are urging members of the public to stay at home, though schools and universities will remain open.
Thousands of students are housed in student accommodation and they have been urged not to travel home until the end of term. On Thursday morning, students at the University of Manchester awoke to find workers putting up tall metal fences, blocking off some entry and exit points and leaving many students feeling trapped.
The University is said to have constructed the fences without warning, with one student writing on Twitter:
After absolutely no communication from the university we’re being fenced in by the University of Manchester. After asking the workers we were told it won’t be the whole way round but we have heard nothing from the uni and they’ve offered no support
A number of posts appeared on social media as students criticised the fences and the university’s handling of the lockdown, prompting widespread shock and anger.
By Thursday evening, students took action into their own hands by launching protests against the fences, with crowds ultimately pulling them down.
The University of Manchester initially insisted that students had received notification about the construction, but it has since admitted that work began ‘ahead of the message being seen’, BBC News reports.
Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor Professor of the University, issued an apology following the outcry, saying the ‘concern and distress’ caused by the fence was not intentional.
The fencing was intended as a response to a number of concerns received over recent weeks from staff and students on this site about safety and security; particularly about access by people who are not residents.
There was never any intent to prevent students from entering or exiting the site.
The fences are being taken down from Friday morning and students are being contacted immediately. Alternative security measures, including additional security patrols are being put in place.
I apologise once again for the issues caused by this incident.
Students said the fence made it feel like they were ‘in a prison’, with one noting that the construction was an additional blow to those who have already spent weeks isolating away from family and friends.
Students have been praised online for tearing down the fences, with many social media users slamming the university for its irresponsible actions.
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