Rent strike student protestors occupy Sheffield Hallam University building

By Jim Jefferies

A small group of Sheffield Hallam University students have occupied a campus building as part of their rent strike protest.

A protest sign in a window at the Cantor building

They are inside the Cantor building on Furnival Street. Initially three students started the occupation but a fourth has now joined them.

A spokesperson for the group stated: “The main goal from the occupation of the Cantor building is for Sheffield Hallam University management to meet our three demands, the first of which is to open a dialogue with management surrounding the rent strike movement.

“Our second demand is for management to threaten to break rebate nomination agreements with halls providers if they do not offer substantial rebates for term two.

“And lastly, we want sexual violence within halls and on campus to be taken with utmost seriousness by the university.”

We want to be taken seriously

Rent strike protestor

They commented that the group wishes “to be taken seriously,” by Sheffield Hallam University and that their first demand had been met.

During their occupation of the building, the students say they have been denied access to showers and food delivery services. However, through their collective determination, they were able to gain these basic privileges.

The students’ protest is a peaceful one, but a recording appearing to show security guards tackling students to the floor went viral. The spokesperson said they had not seen one of the security guards since, and the other had only returned once.

Sheffield Hallam University commented on the video on Twitter saying: “We are aware of the incident and are investigating it.”

Beyond holding universities accountable, the group aims to spread awareness of how students have been treated over the course of the Covid-19 outbreak. They say many students have not received rent refunds, leaving them in financial difficulty.

The rent strike movement started as a small, coordinated group of students who were withholding their second semester rent payment.

The group soon joined a national movement as other students from universities such as the University of Nottingham and the University of Manchester also occupied university buildings.

We want to support students who are understandably concerned

SHU spokesperson

A spokesperson speaking on behalf of Sheffield Hallam University said: “We fully support students’ rights to express their views through peaceful protest and are committed to continuing dialogue with the protesters.

“The University itself does not own any accommodation and is not a landlord. However, we want to support students who are understandably concerned about paying for accommodation they may not be able to use during the pandemic and have worked closely with accommodation providers on this issue.

“A Rental Hardship Support fund is available for students. Over the pandemic we have provided almost £4 million in hardship funds to students, plus more than a thousand laptops and a range of other equipment and food supplies.

The University has a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment and violence

SHU spokesperson

“The University has a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment and violence. Our Report and Support system is in place for both students and staff, who can choose to report anonymously if they wish. We also have a range of support services run by experienced staff at the University, who provide advice and support for our students whenever needed. We are committed to working with other universities across the sector to ensure that universities are safe places for all.”

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