Freshers from Block A, Pennsylvania Court went on protest after being told they must relocate to make way for quarantined students returning from Italy, before the University backtracked on the decision.
An email was sent to the 27 residents on Tuesday 10 March informing them that they needed to meet with the Residences Management team, and asked students to move into alternative accommodation the following morning.
One student living in Block A told Exeposé that they would be relocated to Birks Grange whilst somebody was quarantined in their room. They believed it was better to co-operate given the gravity of the situation.
Another resident, Chris Murrin, told us that “the overall mood was that people felt the mental health of Block A was totally overlooked and the University was acting very rashly”
He also explained how “people kicked off” during the first meeting because the Residences team “had no idea what was going on but had a list of new rooms people were being allocated to.”
At 5pm residents met with Peter Scargill, Director of Campus Services, at Lopes Hall to discuss the decision, where he claimed that a communication error had occurred.
Scargill said that his preference was to quarantine people in The Depot, but the development may not be finished in time. If flights from Italy came back before construction is complete, then Pennsylvania Court would need to be used. Exeposé reported on the construction delays to The Depot in September, which meant hundreds of students had to find new accommodation. A sign outside the project on Belgrave Road still reads “Coming September 2019.”
However, when questioned on this a University spokesperson explained that this was also a communication error, and whilst it was considered as an option there are currently no plans to utilise The Depot.
A third meeting occurred on Wednesday, where the University went back on their decision, claiming that it was a precautionary measure and there are no plans to evict residents anytime soon.
A further statement was then released, saying “We apologise for the upset and frustration caused yesterday when we communicated our developing plans for the relocation of residents in Pennsylvania Court A.
“We have reviewed the situation this morning and we will no longer be asking students to relocate today. We have been considering options for some time as part of our planning, and yesterday we communicated too soon, which should not have happened.
“We are planning and preparing at pace in a rapidly changing situation and need to consider our public and community responsibilities. There may be times when we need to inconvenience staff and students over the coming weeks, but we will always try to communicate clearly and fully support anyone affected.”