Students are protesting against a £24,000 statue of Greta Thunberg, arguing that the university should use the funds for better cause.
The University of Winchester has premiered, what is believed to be, the world’s first life-sized sculpture of the young Swedish environmental activist. However, the University of Winchester’s Student Union has argued that the budget could have had better use.
While Megan Ball, the President of Winchester Student Union, believes Thunberg is a “fantastic role model to everyone, as someone who speaks loudly and proudly about important global issues”, she asserted that the union could not support the statue.
Ms Ball said: “We’re in a Covid year, lots of students haven’t really had access to campus, lots of them are trying to study online and are in dire need of support.
“We are calling on the university to match the statue cost by committing £23,760 in additional funding to student support services across campus”.
“We urge them to publicly face the critical issues which students are highlighting and provide a transparent breakdown of additional and existing financial support”, she added.
Winchester University and College Union (UCU) passed a motion branding the statue as a “vanity project”.
The university responded that “no money was diverted” from staffing or student support for the sculpture.
We’re in a Covid year, lots of students haven’t really had access to campus, lots of them are trying to study online and are in dire need of support
– Megan Ball, President of Winchester SU
Professor Joy Carter, Winchester university’s vice-chancellor, insisted “no money was diverted from student support or from staffing to finance the West Downs project. Indeed, the university has spent £5.2m this year on student support”.
The statue was commissioned in 2019 and funded through money assigned to the construction of the £50m West Downs Centre development, where the piece was revealed.
In an email distributed to students, the university wrote it anticipated the statue would become a symbol of its “commitment to combat the climate and ecological emergency”.
They wanted to have the statue installed ahead of the UN’s climate change COP26 conference, which will be hosted in the UK this year.
“Greta is a young woman who, in spite of difficulties in her life, has become a world-leading environmental activist. As the university for sustainability and social justice, we are proud to honour this inspirational woman in this way,” Professor Carter stated.
“We hope that her statue will help to inspire our community, reminding us that no matter what life throws at us we can still change the world for the better. That is a message we want all our students and all young people to hear”, he added.