Strathclyde Students Occupy Graham Hills Building

27 Jun

Strathclyde students occupy the Graham Hills Building

Reporting by Dennis Fallon and Myshele Goldberg

Students at Strathclyde University have occupied the Graham Hills Building to protest proposed cuts to four departments – community education, geography, music and sociology. This forms part of Principal and Vice Chancellor Jim McDonald’s plans to close or “streamline” key areas in social sciences in an attempt to turn the university into “an MIT on the Clyde” – a reference to the world class Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

However, Noam Chomsky, a respected and well known academic from MIT, found McDonald’s plans “quite odd“, and argued that social sciences are necessary to contextualise a technical education. He said

If the goal is to turn Strathclyde into the MIT of Scotland by curtailing programmes in the social sciences, it is the MIT of half-a-century ago that is envisioned, if even that.

Chomsky went on to say that there has been a “sharp attack” on higher education across the Western world, based on dubious economic motives.

In their haste to pursue financial and strategic aims, managers have forgotten that a university does not exist to produce profit. The wealth created within university walls is not easily measurable  – but it is nonetheless important. All students in higher education develop new ways of thinking and engaging with the world. In the social sciences, students learn to question the world around them and understand how that world is deeply interconnected. The skills of identifying patterns, seeking evidence for claims and thinking independently are not only useful for workers in an information economy, they are also crucial for citizens of a democracy.

Management’s zealous enforcement of its ‘strategic plan’ only underlines its own short-sightedness. A ‘technological university’ is pointless if we lack the capacity to understand the meaning of that technology for human beings. Our world’s most pressing problems cannot be solved by technology alone, and technology certainly cannot help students understand their place in the world.

Geography and Sociology at Strathclyde maintain a strong focus on public interest research, examining topics of concern beyond university strategy. These topics include issues of inequality and social justice, culture and identity, the privatisation of public services, lobbying and spin, media and political power, ethnicity and migration, environment and sustainability, globalisation, and even the social and cultural aspects of technology. This department helps students to develop critical and creative ways of thinking about the world and its problems.
One of the strengths of social science at Strathclyde is that students are able to study a broad range of social science disciplines. However,  high-quality programmes that have been under-funded for years and are now being replaced by a narrow ‘social policy stream.’ Maintaining a diverse range of learning is being sacrificed to the whims of finance and strategy, which have been determined by the values and priorities of business.  Running universities as if they were businesses damages not only the experience of students and staff, but also the usefulness of a university in meeting the needs of the society it serves.

Ultimately, we need to consider who and what a university is actually for – is it a profit making enterprise, or a vital educational and intellectual resource for society?

Public meeting

Campaigners feel that the cuts are an ideological attack on the students and staff, and that McDonald has refused to engage in a meaningful capacity. Management have attempted to push through cuts when the majority of the student population are on holiday for the summer, highlighting the undemocratic procedures and lack of consultation. The occupation opposes all cuts and aims to highlight the undemocratic procedures being pushed through by McDonald.

  • No to course closures.
  • No to staff redundancies.
  • No to cuts.

There is a meeting to discuss the occupation tonight, with speakers from UCU, Unite, PCS, Save the Accord, Free Hetherington and students from courses affected.

27  June at 7:30pm

Level 5

Graham Hills Building

50 Richmond Street, 40 & 50 George Street,

Glasgow

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