Calls for Manchester University vice-chancellor to quit after racism row

Anti-racism campaigners are calling for the vice-chancellor of Manchester University to resign after a student was left “traumatised” after being allegedly racially profiled.

Dozens of students took part in a demonstration at the university’s Fallowfield campus on Monday night amid growing anger at its handling of the coronavirus lockdown.

Zac Adan, a 19-year-old first-year student, said he was accused of “looking like a drug dealer” by the university’s security officers who held him up against a wall and demanded to see his identification on Friday night.

The University of Manchester, which is part of the prestigious Russell group of universities, has launched an investigation into the incident and suspended the security officers involved.

However, it has brought renewed focus on an institution that has battled a series of controversies, prompting almost daily protests from students, including the installation of metal fencing around its Fallowfield campus, which cost £11,000 to install and was torn down by students.

Nahella Ashraf, the chair of Manchester Stand Up to Racism, said on Tuesday that the only reason Adan was stopped was because he is black. Ashraf said she was aware of other students who had similarly been stopped while walking around the halls of accommodation and urged them to come forward.

She added: “It sends a clear message that this university and the people employed by the university – the security firm – see black people as the other, that they don’t belong on campus. That is just unacceptable.”

Ashraf called for the vice-chancellor, Nancy Rothwell, to resign. “I think I speak for lots of people, not just across this city but the parents of the students stuck in this campus, to say that we think she should step down,” she said. “She is not fit to do the job she is doing.”

Manchester University has been contacted for comment. In a statement released on Sunday after video emerged of Adan being stopped by security officers, it said: “We are deeply concerned by these images. We have spoken to the student concerned, launched a full investigation and have suspended the security officers (without prejudice) pending the results of this investigation.”

The university on Tuesday outlined a new pledge on accommodation, including a two week (or 20%) rent reduction for students during the first semester, after protests.

Since last week, a group of students have been occupying Owens Park tower in Fallowfield accusing the university of “putting profits before students” and asking for rental fees to be reduced by 40% after being locked down and told to study from home due to Covid-19. It is part of a wider protest against the university’s response to the pandemic, including mental health support.

As well as fencing off most entrance points, with students only able to leave through a single exit guarded by security, the university disabled students’ swipe cards that granted entry to buildings other than their accommodation.

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