Students protest university pandemic response in Bristo Square

On the 24th October, a group of students gathered in Bristo Square to protest against the lack of support they have received from the University during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The protest follows an open letter to the university, listing demands such as on-campus coronavirus testing, that was signed by thousands of students.

Arriving at the protests, students were encouraged to join the organizers in front and were given signs with sayings such as “Liar” and “We are not your cash cows” written on them.

One of the organizers at the forefront of this event is Django Evans, who stood alongside his peers with a megaphone, discussing recent issues that students here have faced.

He voiced their demands and named Principal and Vice- Chancellor Peter Mathieson as one of the leading contributors to the current situation.

When speaking to The Student, Evans thanked the people who showed up today. “I think its brilliant, I am so happy for anyone who’s turned up today, I’m just so pleased, it warms my heart.

“The real reason that we come out and protest is to show that we are here, and I would have been happy with one person, I would have been happy with a hundred people.” When asked about the turn out, Django pointed out that this wasn’t just about first years. 

“There is a more undergraduate feel to it, but it’s all students here and teachers and lectures who are present and here to show their anger.

“They are upset over the university lying and deceiving their students. Those are the people who have come out today.” Laura Swaim, a second- year American student studying International Business and Chinese, spoke to The Student about her struggles as an international student.

“I’m paying 20,000 pounds a year on tuition fees alone and it’s just frustrating to get no support from the university and no acknowledgement for their mistakes.”

Lara McGowen, 2nd year Business and Marketing, chimed in: “For me, my biggest concern is freshers. “Moving away from home for the first time is one of the hardest things you go through… that was shackled for these students.”

When asked if their disappointment with the university was centred on the pandemic, Laura responded by saying, “COVID has just highlighted issues that have already existed.”

Students at the protest were also joined by citizens of Edinburgh.

One anonymous protester wished to speak up against what she believed to be wrongdoings against students by the University. “I think it is totally out of order. International students come to Edinburgh and the University.

“They are drawing people here; they should treat them fairly.” 

Earlier this week, Evans and his fellow organizers wrote to Peter Mathieson in an attempt to have their demands be heard and for a resolution to be reached. When asked about Mathieson’s response, Evans stated:

“They’ve completely denied that there has been any wrongdoing, they basically told me off and said that you are at an incredible institution and this degree is going to matter equally regardless of the teaching methods… it is just despicable.”

“I was completely shocked by what he said and directly offended; it makes me ashamed to be a part of this University.” 

Evans commented that he will be releasing Mathieson’s email, along with his own reply, later this week.

Image: Richard Cross via RichardXPhotography

By Ece Kucuk

Ece Kucuk served as President of The Student in 2021/22 and is currently a regular contributor to the paper. She was previously Head Editor-in-Chief and Features Editor, she has also been a writer at The Student for over two years. She is going into her Fourth Year of a Master of Arts with Honours in English Language and Literature and plans to do her Postgraduate in Education and Child Development. She has written for every section of the paper as well as written for The Rattlecap and other publications. Some of her favourite works include her reflection on being the child of an immigrant, her piece on introducing ice hockey, as well as her interview with children’s author Mariam James.