Students of the University of Winchester are retaliating against the university’s decision to install a £24,000 bronze statue of Greta Thunberg, a Swedish climate activist. While the students’ union demand an equal amount be spent by the university for student support, the university is busy taking pride in the installation of the bronze sculpture.
The President of Winchester Student Union, Megan Ball stated that they hold Greta Thunberg in high regard but clarified that the union does not support the sculpture. A statement released on The Winchester Student Unions’ official website stated, “The year in which this artistic piece is being delivered is one that has seen unimaginable financial impacts. Students have seen staff redundancies, library cuts and limitation of provisions. They are being charged full tuition fees for an academic year that is anything but normal. There is a crippling mental health crisis amongst students, and wellbeing services are crying out for additional support. In our view, the unveiling of this statue next week shows that these issues are not their (university’s) priorities.”
The union also released a 5 point motion describing the statue as a ‘vanity project’. The statement released highlighted that the funds should have been spent to prevent redundancies and pay cuts. The union also condemned the lack of transparency in the decision-making process.
We have just passed the following motion regarding @_UoW’s decision to spend £24k on a statue of Greta Thunberg after years of austerity @winchestersu @dailyecho @hantschronicle: pic.twitter.com/CeDOCCqJe4— Winchester UCU (@WinchesterUCU) March 24, 2021
Some students took to Twitter to register their protest against the statue and condemned the financial management done by the university.
The fact that the University of Winchester can put money into a statue of Greta Thunberg instead of taking care of their students and their staff genuinely appalls me, I currently attend the uni and their handling of everything at my three years of attending has been awful (1/?)— TJ Howard (@TJHowardUwU) March 26, 2021
I’m Meg. I attend the University of Winchester and I’m a first year undergrad student. Our uni is currently in the press for paying £24k for a statue of Greta Thunberg. Greta is an inspiration but has nothing to do with our uni (continued)— Megan🏳️🌈 (@Edgar_AllanHoe) March 27, 2021
Apart from the students, some locals and other users too expressed their displeasure over the decision.
The new Greta Thunberg statue in Winchester might be the worst thing I’ve ever seen— George Rolls (@gwrolls) March 28, 2021
As per a BBC report, the statue was commissioned in 2019 and funded through money allocated to the construction of the £50m West Downs Centre development, where the sculpture stands currently.
Clarifying about the cost incurred in the making of the statue, the university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Joy Carter said, “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.”
While Professor Carter agrees that Greta Thunberg is a controversial figure, he says, “We welcome debate and critical conversations.”
The statue is the first life-sized depiction of the 18-year-old Swedish school drop-out, who gained international attention after protesting against climate change in 2018 with the help of a widespread PR campaign. She enjoys widespread media attention, to the point of adulation and reverence, while never offering any ‘solutions’ and refusing to answer questions about practical solutions to the climate crisis.
Recently, Greta faced stark criticism after she voiced support for the politically-powerful Indian farmers who have been opposing the Indian government’s long-sought farm reforms. Many experts worldwide questioned the irony, because the ‘farmers’ she was supporting are staunch adherents of environmentally harmful and high-emissions practises of stubble burning, overuse of fertilisers, water-level depletion and much more.