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Mental health hotline for architecture students hit by Sheffield University occupation

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A dedicated mental health hotline has been set up for architecture and landscape students affected by the occupation of Sheffield University’s Arts Tower

Protests against proposed changes to staff pensions forced the cancellation of architecture seminars at the university for at least two days last week.

A counter demonstration was staged on Thursday morning, with architecture students demanding access to the building where they worked, saying their work deadlines had not been extended. The occupation ended last Saturday.

The mental health support line went live on Monday 19 March and will be available for a week, amid fears that some students were suffering high levels of stress from being unable to access their work.

Sheffield School of Architecture head Karim Hadjri said: ‘We have set up the mental health support as a precaution and as an additional support that will be available to students if required.

‘There are over 1,200 students in architecture and landscape architecture who were affected by the disruption, and we are naturally concerned that not all students will react the same way.’

A group calling itself Sheffield Student Worker Solidarity said it organised last week’s protest in solidarity with staff body the University and College Union. That Tuesday, the union had rejected a proposal to end an ongoing dispute over further education pensions. The university said fire exits had been barricaded and teaching would be disrupted.

Architecture student Ellie Piper said on Facebook: ‘I don’t think you understand that as architecture students we work every day in the Arts Tower and need it facilities … We are being completely messed up here and are being punished. We all support the strikes but this is directly affecting our education, which isn’t fair.’

Masters architecture student Matthew Forbes-Yandi told the AJ this week: ‘I had my interim review cancelled, and now it is likely my work won’t be reviewed until the mock exam reviews in over a month’s time.

‘The arts tower is our main building, and lots of students keep materials, work, laptops, medicine there. These were all denied to us, due to an occupation where furniture was used to barricade doors.’

A university spokesperson said: ‘The university is pleased that the occupation of the Arts Tower has now come to an end after the occupiers left of their own accord. The university is now working hard so that the Arts Tower can be open as normal to staff and students as soon as possible.’

The dedicated mental health support line is 0114 222 4096. 

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