Students and staff occupying the senior common room at the University of Ulster in Coleraine yesterday had power and water cut off by the university as it tries to evict them.
The protestors, who have been there for 17 days, are attempting to halt plans to redevelop the non-profit dining area, and have attracted support from the critic Terry Eagleton and Dublin Senator David Norris.
Yesterday they said they awoke to find workmen blocking off some exits.
Former staff member Dave Campbell said that at about 7.45 yesterday morning workmen arrived with security guards, and then cut off the water supply.
The university confirmed that water and electricity had been cut off – though pointed out that both were available in rooms just yards away – but denied that it had blocked exits.
Mr Campbell, 38, said the protest had brought together a “bizarre” mix of people, from disabled students to retired chemistry professors: “There are people you wouldn’t expect to be supporting this – we’ve had the Rev Bach, the Anglican chaplain, the Catholic chaplain, Christian Union people, members of the Gay and Lesbian Society...”
Mr Campbell said the common room had been going since the campus was opened in 1968 and is “one of the few places left on campus where academics and students mix”.
He said it was being “crushed by a corporate drive” and claimed that a lot of academics could not come out to support the protest out of fear for their positions but supported the action.
He said that there were between seven and 15 people in the room.
Mr Campbell said that those involved had not yet decided whether to continue the protest over Christmas.
The university said it was disappointed that “a small number of people – fewer than 10” are trying to prevent a multi-million pound improvement to the campus.
It said that the room would be replaced by “high-quality meeting rooms and teaching facilities” and that a new free staff common room would be opened which would be “more inclusive” than the current system which requires the payment of a small fee.
The protestors have now appealed the decision to the university Visitor – an ancient appeal mechanism whereby the university’s affairs can be investigated. The current Visitor is Belfast High Court judge Mr Justice Weatherup.
A spokesman for Mr Justice Weatherup confirmed that he had agreed to hold a hearing but that the date had not yet been set.