Response to claims made in the Glasgow Guardian

The Free Hetherington sees a number of problems with the allegations, recently published in the Glasgow Guardian, that the occupation has ‘cost Glasgow University almost £10,000’ .

When the Hetherington was re-opened we found the lights on and the heating turned up full. These costs would have been paid whether or not we were in the building, and were being paid for a year by the University while they left the building empty.

However even this is small change in light of the £14m misspent on the Student Lifecycle Project by senior management, and it also represents only a few days of their wages. Costs to Strathclyde Police resulted when Secretary of Court David Newall authorised the poorly planned and violent eviction attempt on March 22nd, a major over-reaction to protest. The Free Hetherington also condemns these costs and waste of police time.

As noted on Newsnight Scotland on the 22nd March (video), as in many other national media outlets, we have constantly run social and educational events in what is now the longest-running University occupation in recent history. It has also attracted leading cultural figures to Glasgow University, such as Ken Loach, Makar Liz Lochhead, Jeremy Hardy and Mark Steel. Rather than celebrating this, management chose on their part to react with violence. Since the attempted eviction their actions have been condemned in unanimous motions by the lecturers union (UCU), the Scottish Trades Union Congress, and hundreds of members of staff in an open letter. Our support has increased markedly since these events.

With the promises made recently by all major political parties at Holyrood concerning University funding in the run-up to the election, and in light of the broken promises at  Westminster, it is more important than ever that students and other members of the community demonstrate that they will hold those making cuts and destroying our services and society to account.

The day that we ban political protest because some claim it is too expensive is the day we can no longer call ourselves a democracy.

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11 Responses to Response to claims made in the Glasgow Guardian

  1. Roscoe Occupation says:

    You’re all such a massive inspiration.

  2. A good response, even if the claim of £10k holds water 🙂

  3. Graham Baines says:

    Holes can be picked in individual arguments, but I don’t think you could seriously argue (not that you’re doing so above) that the occupation hasn’t incurred any cost to the university at all. For instance, saying that the lights and heating were on when you occupied the building is one thing, but it would be another thing entirely to argue that having a building full of people, which hosts regular events, doesn’t run up a higher cost in utility bills than an empty building would.

    Therefore it would be sensible to present your own research on how much you believe the occupation has cost the university – if £10,000 is too much, then what is the actual figure? This is in your interest because even if you want to make the argument that ‘you can’t put a price on protesting’ or that other costs (the Student Lifecycle Project) are bigger wastes of money, you still leave that £10,000 hanging in the air for your opponents to use. The only way to get rid of that £10,000 figure is to show, in detail, why it’s incorrect and put your own figure on it.

    • D N says:

      I’m sure the occupiers would come to such an arrangement if management handed the building back.

      The figure is incorrect because it is a result of management’s response to the occupation. Otherwise we are victim blaming, saying “you have to pay the bill for police kicking your door in.” The argument isn’t about quibbling over the number, but about whether it is even a legitimate question at all (note that the University doesn’t think so, this story has been constructed by the Glasgow Guardian to pull in some headlines).

  4. eddie says:

    Hear that? That was the sound of a point going over mr baines’s head. The GG have made their claims and should back them up with evidence or withdraw. Your pathetic attempt to shift the burden of proof is disingenuous and dishonest.

    • Graham Baines says:

      I think you can address arguments a bit better than that, Eddie.

      I’m not interested in defending the Glasgow Guardian, or arguing about who has “the burden of proof”, I’m simply saying that there’s an argument here about how much the occupation has cost the university. If the Glasgow Guardian is wrong (which they probably are given they exaggerate figures/stories on a regular basis) then a good argument against that is to put forward your own figures.

      You might not personally view the cost of the occupation as particularly relevant (perhaps for you it’s solely about the principle and you can’t put a pound sign on a principle) but for many students the actual cost can be the dividing line between support and opposition. To be honest, I’m one of them: I agree with your cause but not if it’s doing more harm than good in terms of financial cost to the university. How much it’s costing is therefore a pretty reasonable thing for me and others like me to be concerned about. If the costs are fairly minimal I might be inclined to say it’s worth it; if the cost is excessive then I’d be less likely to agree with it.

      Either way the actual figure is important and it can’t just be shrugged off by attacking the Glasgow Guardian (or anyone that asks the question).

      • Back of an envelope says:

        If we consider that the occupation is ‘using’ the heat/leccy that was left running, and perhaps running a few laptops, then I’d imagine the £100/week for bills (~£1000 over the life of the occupation) is reasonable.

        The security guard smashing a window is a one-off cost. It is dubious whether we consider this a liability of the occupation, which I doubt any court would. I wouldn’t add it in.

        The plumber is apparently a result of the building being left empty over winter, and would have to be paid anyway. But okay, £100.

        As for security presence: There has been none since the second week. They have not been needed (and in fact, when needed, have not helped, especially concerning the assault) since the second week, and were not needed when the HRC was running. Despite a few incidents that were a hot media topic the occupation seems to be as well self-policing as any social centre/student union.

        I’d say the total costs directly attributable to the running of the building might be a thousand. This is perhaps (at a push) double what is required to keep the building ticking over while closed. Of course all this is moot, because to charge these fees management would be recognising the legitimacy of the ownership of the building by billing the occupants. They cannot impose fines, a court would have to order that.

        Of course there is an argument that the police presence etc was the ‘fault’ of students rather than management. But that is very much a live argument.

  5. jo shaw says:

    Hi Guys,

    Do you plan to pay these costs back?

    Obviously you can’t at the moment and I think the student population appreciate that, but if we see a solvent HRC in the future, would you consider doing so? Could you make it a part of your business model?

    It would be a great gesture of goodwill to the Uni, but more importantly the Student Body, who may feel angry as a result of seeing ‘their’ money spent on your overheads.

    Also, utility and security costs take up a huge chunk of the GUU, QMU and SRC budgets. If you cannot find a workable solution to, or justification for these costs with the Uni, is there a way that they or the other student bodies can realistically work with you to achieve your goals?

    • Variant says:

      Given the unanimous UCU vote of no confidence in university management as mentioned above, if the student body are truly looking to spend ‘their’ money wisely then the answer is strikingly obvious : in solidarity with lecturers demand the principal and senior management go and go now.

  6. Beth Kahn says:

    The hetherington research club used to receive financial assistance from the university as as the GUU, QMU, SRC and GUSA do. I believe it was part of the block grant. The new set up – is much cheaper to the university than the research club used to be. The Free hetherington costs the university much less than the QMU or GUU. It is a valuable resource for staff and students and therefore should be eligible for university funding – not just electricity, and heating bills being paid. The reseacrhc club was closed because it was making a defecit even after funding. The Free Hetherington is using the space (donated for the use of staff and research students) for a valuable purpose and at very little cost. Inspirational.

  7. Stephen says:

    The FOI release in question is:
    FOI 2011/93 – F0137492
    Issued 20 April 2011

    A copy is available on the discussion list:

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