Students at Glasgow University will hold an Austerity Auction today (Wednesday 15 June) to help their Principal’s cause.
Said a student spokesperson: ‘Principal Anton Muscatelli and other members of senior management’s recent £20,000 in bonuses seems rather small. So we’re having an auction to raise funds.’ With tongue firmly in cheek, the spokesperson added: ‘We feel that around 20 or 30 pence will be enough.’
This action is part of a campaign leading up to the Anti-Cuts Action Network (ACAN) demonstration on Wednesday 22 June. The date coincides with the meeting of the University Court which will vote on Muscatelli’s austerity proposals.
The students are based in the Hetherington Club building in University Gardens where there has been a sit-in for 135 days. What started as a protest at the loss of the Club building to post graduate students – to whom it had been gifted – has grown to be the leading students group protesting at savage cuts being programmed by the University.
The Free Hetherington protesters were evicted on Tuesday 22 March, by campus security and around 100 police officers in a heavy handed action that was publicly condemned by many staff, MSPs including Patrick Harvie and the public. On eviction, a massive crowd of students immediately marched to the Senate offices and occupied them. Within a few hours the outcome of round table discussions with University management resulted in the students returning to the Hetherington and continuing their sit-in.
The campaign has already built considerable momentum, with a picket inviting the Principal to quit his addiction to austerity, a stall giving away cake to publicise the demonstration and most recently, a clowning rally. (see photograph)
Cuts still likely to happen include the axing of – Social Work courses, Humanities at the Crichton Campus in Dumfries, Slavonic Studies, The Centre for Drugs Misuse Research and other research projects. DACE – the adult and community learning centre and entry point to the University for many mature students – is likely to be privatised as it generates £1.8m profit a year. Nursing has been given a one year reprieve but is unlikely to be saved as there is an over-abundance of nursing study places in Central Scotland. Courses saved include Archaeology, Classical Studies, most languages and Anthropology.
The local branch of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) recently passed a vote of no confidence in the Principal. First Minister, First Minister Alex Salmond has openly criticised him.
Commented a student spokesperson: ‘The Senate, the academic governing body of the university, has been angered over the last six months by Muscatelli’s disregard for their decisions. Issues such as £13.2 million being spent to replace a perfectly functional IT system is widely viewed as an unnecessary expenditure.’
A spokesman for the University of Glasgow said: “Following an extensive consultation process, the University Court will meet on June 22. Court will decide on the recommendations made through the consultation panels into the re-shaping exercise that is taking place across a number of areas within the University of Glasgow, in line with our strategic plan. A full range of views and opinions have been taken into account, and the aim throughout has been to ensure that the University of Glasgow continues to deliver a world class experience for our students and staff.”
On day 121 of protests at University Cuts, students at the University of Glasgow held a ‘NO CUTS’ demo on Wednesday 1 June.
They were joined by students from their Crichton Campus in Dumfries which is also under threat.
The University Court is due to make a final decision on Wednesday 22 June. And in a series of ‘Wednesday Warm-ups’ for a major rally planned for that date, around 50 gathered with banners outside the Senate to make their voices heard.
Said spokeswoman Suzanne: ‘This is the start of a month long campaign. Many students have now gone home after the exams but an impressive number has stayed behind to fight to save courses in Glasgow and at the Crichton Campus in Dumfries.’
Originally around £20 million worth of cuts were flagged up by the University. But a four month campaign by students and staff, a contentious 3000 strong demonstration and the longest running student occupation in UK history has brought much success to the campaigners.
Courses which have been saved from the axe include: Archaeology, Classical Studies, most languages and Anthropology. Nursing has been given a one year stay of execution. The department of Adult and Continuing Education (DACE) which generates £1.8 million in profit annually, has been privatised.
Students first occupied the Hetherington Club building off University Avenue on 1 February this year. A heavy-handed eviction by Strathclyde Police and campus security was severely criticised by students, staff, members of the public and local MSPs. Within hours, the student protesters had re-occupied the Club premises with the agreement of the University management, to continue their peaceful sit-in protest.
Continued the student spokesperson: ‘The campaign has been successful, so far, in saving a number of courses but many are still under threat. We will intensify pressure on Principal Anton Muscatelli with our series of protests culminating in a march on the University Court on Wednesday 22 June. Our message is clear – NO CUTS!’
Alternatives to the cuts, as proposed by the students, include scrapping the £13.2 million IT consultants’ proposed spend on a website.
Said Ceris Aston a 3rd year Liberal Arts student from Glasgow University’s Crichton Campus: ‘Our website has not been updated since May of last year. But the proposal to withdraw Liberal Arts (Humanities) from Crichton is a slippery slope to closure of the campus.’ She said that 75 of the 200 students in Dumfries were Liberal Arts students. ‘We consider all the cuts are unjust and unnessary both in Glasgow and Dumfries. So we are in Glasgow in solidarity with students and staff here.’
Katy Ewing, a class colleague of Ceris’s added: ‘Our course is amazing and consistently achieves high quality passes but the marketing of Crichton Campus is shoddy.’
As well as the Crichton Campus courses, others in Glasgow still under threat are: Social Work, Slavonic Studies, Scottish Training on Drugs and Alcohol (STRADA) and several research projects.