Anger at ‘authoritarian’ measures in response to University of Sheffield building occupation

Written by Liam O'Connor

Students aired their disgust over the weekend at “hostile” policy aimed at identifying protestors from the University of Sheffield after a university building was “occupied”.

From 15 February to 18 February, students took over the Hicks building, protesting in solidarity with an ongoing national University and College Action (UCU) strike over “deteriorating pay” and working conditions.

Twitter account Uni of Sheffield Rent Strike coordinating the protests, claims students in the Hicks building were told they could only retrieve their items after providing valid identification and a signature.

Representatives from the University of Sheffield branch of the UCU told Sheffield Wire: “These actions by university management are aggressively punitive and hostile towards the students engaged in this occupation.

“The decision to separate students from their property by locking a door was a deliberate one, and to treat it as “lost property” and require students to provide ID to reclaim it is an overtly threatening move on the part of management.”

It was one of the five university buildings to be occupied throughout the week, along with the Diamond, Jessop West, Firth Court, and the Arts Tower.

University of Sheffield Court order displayed outside the Hicks Building

The occupation ended on Friday, after a court order of a possession hearing from the university was brought to the building.

A protestor, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “We came from outside to see what was wrong. Students wanted to leave but their stuff was still locked in a lecture theatre. Some people had their identification within their bags locked inside, so there was no justifiable reason not to give their items back.

“I definitely think it was to identify them but also to intimidate them.”

The news that students were being refused their items unless they provided ID was met with condemnation online, including from Jo Grady, General Secretary of the UCU.

Confirmation of the world-renowned archaeology department closing is another source of protest. There are over 48,000 people signing a petition to save the department.

Second-year Archaeology student Luke Hepworth-Poritt said: “We don’t feel like we matter as students and that our discipline as a whole doesn’t really matter, it’s not important enough for the university to keep on.”

Sheffield Wire is currently awaiting response from University of Sheffield on the response to the Hicks Building occupation.

Written by Liam O'Connor

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