Throughout the pandemic, the University of Manchester has been at odds with their students over several things, leading to a student occupation and protest in November. This was triggered by the erection of metal fences to keep students in their halls during lockdown, and the refusal to acknowledge faults when students such as Zac Adams were racially profiled on campus.
The students occupying one of the university’s high rise buildings demanded a meeting with Nancy Rothwell, the vice-chancellor of the university. Since then, there has now been a campaign created called Nancy Out, which instead demands that Nancy, and her senior leadership team (Patrick Hackett, Simon Merryweather, April Macmahon and Luke Georgihiou) all resign. This has led to a student referendum, which took place on the 11th March. 89% of the vote was in favour of the SLT’s resignation. And yet, there has been no action by the SLT or the Board of Governors. Instead, they have actively spoken against the referendum. This is where Nancy Out comes in.
What is Nancy Out?
Nancy Out is a group of students who want the University of Manchester to honour the referendum, and the poor management they feel they’ve been subject to, and make Nancy (and her team) resign. They want to ‘democratise’ the university, and make their voices heard. When it became clear that the university were not going to act on the referendum, the group staged a sit in at the historic entrance to the campus. They donned cardboard masks of the SLT and a huge sheet banner.
What else are they doing?
The group have also been very active on Instagram and Twitter, and are regularly posting about the issue. They’ve got an interview with ded_ucation today (March 25th) to discuss the referendum and the results, and what they think.
What has the university said?
In direct response to the sit in, a spokesperson for the University of Manchester said: “We fully acknowledge these are challenging times for students and the University is fully committed to freedom of expression”.
The university’s Board of Governors has also issued a response statement, and have said:
“We have seen the result of the student referendum and note that the turnout was 13% of our student population.
“The Board has been fully briefed throughout the period of the pandemic, holding additional meetings as and when required. Having been rigorous in holding the senior leadership to account, the unanimous position of the Board is that we have full confidence in them to lead the University forward, and in particular in Nancy Rothwell, who has led the University with vision, compassion and distinction for the past 10 years.
“The last year has been unprecedented for this University, the HE sector and wider society. None of this has been easy for our students or staff. The Board recognise that students have not had the experience they would have hoped for and have had to deal with unprecedented, difficult and rapidly changing circumstances. The Board also appreciates that staff have had to adapt quickly and deal with many uncertainties and have done so with remarkable success. Collectively, as a University we have been faced with difficult choices and decisions, and unpredictable events. Whilst our senior leaders haven’t got everything right, where that has been the case, they have led from the front by apologising and have always taken action to ensure lessons are learnt and improvements are made.
“The University remains focused on delivering the best learning experience possible and supporting the wellbeing of our students, staff and wider local community. Students are at the heart of our University”.