Statement from the Free Hetherington

On the 23rd February all students and staff at Glasgow University received an email from senior management detailing events that have occurred surrounding the student occupation of the Hetherington Research Club.

This email is seriously misleading and potentially defamatory and we at the Free Hetherington feel you, the students and staff of this university, deserve a comprehensive explanation of these events.

University management have seen fit to send a campus-wide email condeming the student sit-in of the Hetherington, feigning reluctant necessity as a result of recent events. This email is their first and only response to the student and staff call for negotiation regarding the Hetherington and planned cuts to university services and courses.

We hope through the following to inform you of the truths behind the statements the senate and court have made, and we would be happy to hear your views over a cup of (free!) tea or coffee at the Free Hetherington.

We contacted university management at the beginning of the occupation with our demands and did not receive a response. We remain keen to meet with them. Prior to their general email communication a process had been initiated by security staff on 23rd February and we expected to be meeting imminently with security staff. However the occupation has had no direct communication from university management at any point. We were therefore surprised to receive an email from the Senior Management Group of The University of Glasgow directed not at the occupiers, but at all students and staff. We have not had any direct communication from them outlining the issues as they have perceived them, any formal requests from them, nor any suggested means of entering into a dialogue with them.

We reiterate our demands:

  1. Maintained freedom of access to the building, on the terms of the occupants.
  2. The Hetherington Research Club to be returned to democratic control by students and staff, with the return of the block grant. All those who lost their jobs as a result of the closure should be offered their jobs back.
  3. Anton Muscatelli should condemn the cuts and student fees and take the average wage of university staff, or resign.
  4. No cuts at Glasgow University. We demand no job cuts, no course cuts, no cuts to student services, no cuts to teaching budgets and an end to the voluntary severance scheme.
  5. Glasgow University must become a democratic place of lifelong learning for all residents of Glasgow.
  6. We demand investment in higher education and wider public services and an end to the Government’s programme of austerity.

We do not believe these demands impossible or unreasonable, in fact we consider them essential to any decent society. We are still committed to highlighting and campaigning against the destructive nature of multi-million pound cuts at Glasgow University, as proposed by senior management, and as announced by the Herald (senior management did not consider these proposals important enough to warrant an email to all staff and students.) We have also shown support to the union which most academic staff are members of, the UCU, and support them in their defence of all our courses and jobs, and will continue to do so during any industrial action they may choose to take.

Since opening on Tuesday 1st February the Free Hetherington has hosted a range of successful events attracting a wide range of different people. We have been glad that so many people have found us a useful and stimulating venue – as detailed by reports in newspapers, radio and on the television – and have given us support with their time and other contributions. These events have included guest lectures, tutorials, student society events, discussions, workshops, film showings, pub quizzes, poetry open mic nights, and cooking demos. As well as these events many hundreds of people have used the Free Hetherington to study, to read and to have a coffee and a chat. All the while we have endeavoured to highlight the effects of the cuts on campus and beyond.

As regards the facts of the matter, which at points differ from the claims made in the Court email:

– Our demands, as restated above, have at no point, in versions publicised or those delivered to management, included anything concerning Egypt and the ongoing issues in that country. We are against cuts to courses at Glasgow University, in wider society, and the attempted full-scale reconfiguration of the nature of education in this country.

– On the 3rd of February an event occurred which will be familiar to everyone who has run a student venue, or a pub anywhere in the country. A drunk man unknown to us attempted to gain access to the Free Hetherington, and we refused him entry, as the university would expect of us. When he persisted he was stopped from doing so by members of the Free Hetherington’s own security team. He became more aggressive, and a member of the campus security guard intervened. Those involved have co-operated with all requests for witness statements from the police. Other such events have been dealt with without issue, including verbal abuse and violence from a minority of the student body towards those in the building at the time.

– On the 21st of February security staff informed members of the Free Hetherington that damage had been caused to doors between 13 and 11 University Gardens. The members of the Free Hetherington strongly condemn the damage done to the doors, and the space upstairs. Incidents of this nature have occurred in the past and by no means is the Hetherington exceptional amongst university establishments in this regard. In the past, large club-nights repeatedly had similar problems as a result of the internal door between 13 and 11 university Gardens being a fire escape.

– We have evidence that suggests this event is connected with a similar event which occurred on our second day in the building. The occupiers informed the university security staff of the damage, and offered to pay for any repairs, but this offer was refused by management. In this latest incident nothing was taken, however it was understandably distressing for the occupants of 11 University Gardens that their office space was subjected to such an attack. In addition paperwork from the Hetherington was left around the vandalised offices. It is certainly an odd way for a random vandal or thief to act, and we believe it to have been done by someone antagonistic to the occupation as a potential act of sabotage. We are currently investigating whether we have any witnesses and, as we have previously stated, we will work with any police investigation.

On being informed of the latest event the Free Hetherington organised an emergency meeting to discuss the incident and the steps that could be taken to avoid it. This meeting was well attended and lasted nearly two hours, highlighting the seriousness with which we view the incident. Since being informed we have worked with the staff of 11 University Gardens to ensure that the issue is resolved. Action has been taken which includes installing an alarm on the door, and placing people permanently on the door until the alarm is installed. The Free Hetherington has also reviewed its general security policy and will continue to review this policy regularly. These actions reflect the desire of those involved in the Free Hetherington to continue to operate it as a free open space both for those involved in the occupation and the staff working in adjacent buildings, as it has been over the past three weeks, and will continue to be.

We believe that the university’s actions in sending this email, not to those it addresses but to the whole student body, with a series of distortions, and after three weeks of refusing to discuss any way to move forward, shows a lack of even perfunctory consultation or an authentic desire for reconciliation. We are not here on the sufferance of the university; the building remains open.

The Free Hetherington

Advertisements
This entry was posted in official statements. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Statement from the Free Hetherington

  1. Anon says:

    A fair rebuttal, but you have missed out two important points; namely the ‘kettling’ of Aaron Porter and the manner that (either directly or indirectly as a result of the occupation) some members of staff do not feel comfortable working close to the Hetherington.

    Yes, I’m sure the old HRC had the exact same problems with damage and vandalism. However, Newall’s point is that once you agreed H&S and other terms with the University, the student body inside the Free Hetherington took on full responsibility. Whether the damage was done by your supporters or somebody else is irrelevant; if you weren’t there, it wouldn’t have happened.

    This comment will get shot down or snarled at, I’m sure. I’ve remained anonymous to protect my privacy, but I for one welcomed Newall’s email, and I’m certain that a large proportion of the staff and student body at the University felt the same.

  2. Crasp says:

    I would be interested to see the email, as a native Glaswegian who is not enrolled at the University. I feel the post lacks context without it – pastebin, perhaps?

  3. Alvaro says:

    A bureaucrat from the university plainly lied to all the student community and staff in an official communication. It is remarkable how this is so easily overlook. I find that a lot more serious than damaging a door.

  4. Lauri says:

    The original email may be viewed here: http://pastebin.com/feSVvcxx

  5. The original email should be visible here: http://bit.ly/fOPfvQ

  6. welshboi says:

    Link doesn’t work for me.
    Here’s the full text of the email.
    Sorry if the formatting is bad. I just c+p’d it from my inbox.
    Dear Student

    On 1st February 2011 students occupied the old Hetherington Research Club, University Gardens, to protest about a range of issues including support for re-opening the Hetherington Research Club, supporting the Egyptian uprising and supporting the Anti Cuts protests.
    The University management supports the rights of students to peaceful protest and agreement was reached with
    the students and staff occupying the space in relation to basic Health and Safety issues and freedom of access.
    Those occupying the building stated that they would police the space to ensure no criminal acts were committed.
    On 2nd February, a door was forced open from the occupied building into the adjacent Arts and Humanities building. Damage was caused to University property. This was repaired at Public expense.
    Those organising the occupation once again gave a firm undertaking that no further criminal acts would be committed.
    On 3rd February a member of Security staff intervened to deflect a drunk and aggressive man from entering the occupied building. The Security Officer was punched and knocked to the ground as a result of this intervention.
    On 12th February, a number of students surrounded, intimidated, confined and abused a fellow student visitor to the campus. Security staff once again required to intervene to prevent a more serious incident occurring.
    On 21st February, staff within the Arts and Humanities building once again reported that the adjoining door to the occupied building had been forced open from within the occupied building and five Arts and Humanities locked doors had been forced open or badly damaged, locks smashed and a fire extinguisher had been discharged. Signs were torn from walls and doors and paperwork strewn about.
    As a result of this criminal act the Police have been contacted and they are now actively making enquiries to identify those responsible.
    Following this escalation of events staff working in proximity to the occupied building have written to University management to express their concern at the climate of fear for some staff working near to the occupied building.
    As a result of all of the circumstances outlined above, today the University management have asked the students to conclude the occupation and leave the Hetherington.
    The management of the University has supported the right of staff and students to protest effectively but peacefully and within the law. A small minority of protestors have repeatedly failed to do so.
    The protest is now affecting the safety and wellbeing of our staff and students.
    It is hoped that the occupiers will consider the views of others and end their protest in a dignified fashion.
    The management of the University is examining all options to end the occupation.
    David Newall
    Secretary of Court

  7. Apologies if my link was bad. All documents publicly released should be viewable here: https://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0B_xU_nC2ydVaOTFjY2EzYTAtMmY5Yy00ZDU5LThmZWMtOWFjZGExODFiZDMx

    And if that doesn’t work, well I’ll have to poke around some more.

  8. Pingback: Free Hetherington Statement « Glasgow University Magazine

  9. Thank you for putting this up – I tried to reply to the email from David Newall when I first received it, stating my surprise at his reference to Egypt and enquiring as to whether we could see some evidence of these events…but unfortunately it was impossible to reply to the email. Hardly surprising.
    At the anonymous poster…I don’t really know about the kettling, but I don’t think you can directly relate it to the Free Heatherington. The individuals who carried it out would surely have acted in a similar way regardless of whether the FH was running or not. And about the atmosphere of fear amongst staff? Really? Who? All the staff I’ve spoken to have been very supportive. Granted, I haven’t spoken to every member of staff, but I’m sure you haven’t either. If there really are some members of staff who feel intimidated, you at least have to balance this against all the staff who support the FH, have given lectures there etc.

  10. M says:

    @Anon: The students of the occupation have been in contact with the staff next door throughout. They have not demanded

  11. M says:

    @Anon: The students of the occupation have been in contact with the staff next door throughout. They have not demanded the end of the occupation.

  12. Diotima says:

    @ Anon

    The worst that happened when the old HRC was open was cigarette butts and bottles left outside HATII. There was never any vandalism of any staff offices.

    @M At least one member of staff has put in an official complaint.

    Having said this, I think that this email from David Newall was done in a very unfair manner. In particular, I find it abominable that it was apparently sent without prior communication with the Free Hetherington and without allowing them the right of reply (unlike Newall, the Free Hetherington are not able to mass email all staff and students).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s