Consultation on the future of the Hetherington

The Free Hetherington, the occupants of the old Hetherington Research club, contend that this institution was a valuable asset to the University of Glasgow. We are certain that it can and should be once again. This first meeting in an ongoing discussion will try to identify possibilities and problems, and set the terms and framework of the process that will result in its return. We want this to be an open and democratic process, in which there are no presumptions and all can participate as equals. You are invited to attend and bring your ideas and experience.

Wednesday 13th April 2011, 5.30pm
Lecture Theatre 1, Boyd Orr Building

From 1954 – 2010 the Hetherington Research Club was the only dedicated facility for postgraduates and mature students in Scotland. For decades it was a much loved feature of campus life.

Last year the club was forced to close amongst financial difficulties. An interim committee was formed which submitted two different business plans, but as it states on the University’s website: “This attempt was not successful – the university was not interested in reopening the club.”

Since February 1st, a group of activists consisting not only of PG and mature students, but also undergraduates, staff and members of the local community, have occupied and re-opened the HRC, as the Free Hetherington.

The FH has garnered widespread support from students and staff, with many lecturers donating their time to give free talks in the building. Free education is a reality within the space, as educational events are open to all from the community to attend. It has also garnered the support of significant cultural figures as the new Scottish Makar Liz Lochhead, poet Tom Leonard, singers Billy Bragg and David Rovics, comedian Mark Steel and noted film director Ken Loach, to name just a few of the figures that have brought the building back to life.

On the 22nd of March 2011, the University management ordered security guards (with the assistance of Strathclyde Police) to evict those in occupation of the FH. Later that day management was forced to allow them to return to the building. An investigation into the 22nd is ongoing.

The occupiers now believe the time is right to discuss the long term future of the premises. Management have put forward several different ideas, the latest of which is to transform the building into office space, practice rooms for the music department and language labs. It is the contention of the occupiers that this would be a gross waste of resources in a time of austerity. Music and languages already have existing facilities, and the money that would be spent on gutting 13 University Gardens would be better put to use upgrading their existing facilities. In fact, moving academic activity into the smaller premises at number 13 could be considered part of the cuts agenda.

We believe there is widespread support of campus for the continued creative use of the building for a facility that takes the best of the old HRC and what has been achieved by the FH occupation. This could include:

  • A space that engages the University with the community in which it resides, where it’s recognised that alumni, students, staff and members of the local community should be able to engage as equals. Given the current context, Glasgow University needs to take steps to prove to the wider city and Scottish community that it is a space of lifelong learning and community engagement, and this could help significantly.
  • A space that utilises the insights of popular education to allow all those taking part, wherever they come from, to educate each other, rather than just viewing education as a process of filling “empty vessels” with information.
  • A space that is a centre for interdisciplinary academic activity. One of the most refreshing aspects of the FH has been the fact that students from, for example, social sciences have attended and participated in free lectures and seminars from the physics department. Interdisciplinarity could help with ensuring Glasgow University remains an internationally renowned institution, and the Hetherington could provide a space where free and open discussion takes place away from the pressures of applying for research funding, key performance indicators, etc. etc.
  • A space that is a centre of critical social and cultural thought, and that attempts to embody in direct, democratic ways a model of how academic engagement with society can contribute towards processes of positive social change.

Those are some ideas. We are not experts, and we can’t do this on our own. If the Hetherington is to re-open then it needs the help, support and expertise of those who see in it something important about education.

The meeting details are as follows: Wednesday 13th April 2011, 5.30pmLecture Theatre 1, Boyd Orr Building.

The Free Hetherington

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One Response to Consultation on the future of the Hetherington

  1. Jim Biscuit says:

    Personally, I’m not sure I see the issue with using the building for academic purposes (whether it’s the music department, a language centre, or whatever else). That seems a better use of resources than using the building for a largely social purpose – and, as much as there were certain educational elements to the old HRC, it was still primarily social.

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