Four students are preparing to go on hunger strike from midnight in a protest with Manchester University over its ties with the fossil fuel industry.
The group are among about 16 students who have occupied a university building for seven days.
The students, from People & Planet UoM, have called on university authorities to divest what they say amounts to nearly £12m from fossil fuel companies.
The group said it had expected to meet university authorities today to discuss the protest. But a spokesperson said they were told at 8am they would not be allowed to attend the meeting while the occupation of a board room and corridor in the John Owen building continued.
Senior university managers had offered another meeting this afternoon if the group agreed to end the occupation, the group said:
“We will not be agreeing to this unless the SU [student union] officers get written confirmation that that University of Manchester will commit to divest.”
The spokesperson said:
“In the meantime, four of our members are continuing to prepare to go on hunger strike from midnight tonight if the University fails to meet with us to commit to divestment.”
People & Planet UoM said on Twitter this morning that a letter from the university authorities had implied the expected meeting would happen, whether or not they were still in occupation.
“We have stayed here all weekend believing we would meet on Monday. We feel betrayed, used, and deeply angered by this development.
“Our trust in the University, which was tenuous to begin with, has now deteriorated even further. This trust can only be rebuilt if the meeting goes ahead as planned: a meeting during which a commitment to full divestment is achievable.
“We would like to engage with the University, but meaningful engagement must happen on both sides. We need the University to engage with us as we have been engaging with them, including a genuine attempt to meet our demands. This has been sorely lacking thus far.
“We urge @OfficialUoM to reconsider their conditions for a meeting. Four of us have been preparing to go on hunger strike. If this meeting doesn’t happen + does not contain a commitment to full divestment, we will start at midnight tonight, in addition to other escalation.”
University of Manchester sent us the following statement
“We welcome the chance to meet with students as long as they are raised with us through the appropriate Students’ Union representatives. We have offered to meet on that basis.
“The University recognises that students have a right to protest peacefully, providing that this does not unduly disrupt the conduct of the University’s normal business. However, by occupying the corridor and meeting room they are causing significant disruption.
“On the issue of divestment, our policy is clear and in the public domain as part of our Socially Responsible Investment Policy (SRIP). We no longer invest in companies with more than 5% of their revenue from thermal coal (the type of coal used in power plants) or oil sands (also known as tar sands).
“We sincerely hope that the students will accept our offer and we look forward to meeting them in due course.”
A near-identical statement was given four days ago to the Manchester student website, the Mancunian.