Students at the University of Manchester are protesting the institution’s investments in the fossil fuel industry by occupying the finance offices on campus.
The students are calling for the University to remove all of its investments from fossil fuel extraction and equipment companies. This amounts to £11,975,986 in companies such as Shell, Glencore, and Rio Tinto.
The Fossil Free campaign at the University of Manchester has been running for eight years with little to no response from university management, despite a student and staff petition with over 1000 signatures and constant lobbying outside Governors meetings.
Earlier this semester the students released an open letter to the university, asking for a dialogue to be started about divestment. The students warned that if they received no reply from the university they would be taking action against them.
Following a lack of response from university management, 18 students entered the John Owens building at 9am yesterday morning, occupying the entrance hall and finance boardroom.
The students say this location is symbolic: “We’re bringing this to their doorstep so that they can’t ignore us anymore. We’ve tried hard to engage with the University Officers and the Board of Governors but they refuse to open a dialogue with us. If we’re sitting inside their offices they don’t have that option.”
The group previously staged an occupation in June, where eight students occupied the entrance to Vice-Chancellor Nancy Rothwell’s office. This occupation only lasted twenty-four hours as a result of the University’s management denying access to food, water, and toilets.
The group say they are more prepared this time, with double the number of participants and huge support from a range of organisations across the Greater Manchester area. Amongst these supporters include the Manchester branch of the University and College Union (UMUCU) and the Manchester Green Party.
Lucy Bannister, Green Party PPC for Manchester Withington and University of Manchester alumnus, has spoken out on behalf of the students. “I am heartened to see the energy on this campaign, which started whilst I was a student, continue at the University of Manchester.
"But I am disappointed that the University has made little to no progress and has failed to act on this urgent issue and recognise its responsibility as an anchor UK institution.”
The group intends to occupy until the University of Manchester commits to full divestment from fossil fuel companies. The University of Manchester has issued a statement.
Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist. This article is based on a press release from People and Planet Manchester.