5 thoughts on “Forum to save UQ union buildings from demolition

  1. Listen to the Paradigm Shift 4zzz FM 102.1 Fridays at noon says:

    Listen to the Paradigm Shift 4zzz FM 102.1 Fridays at noon.

    The Forum at UQ

  2. Professor Peter Høj says:

    As the University embarks on its biggest capital investment program yet, we are at a crossroads. To keep pace, and remain in the top 50 global teaching and research universities, we need to make significant investments over the next five years in spaces that work better for our students, staff and partners. As part of this investment we plan to build more student-focused teaching areas; new collaboration and innovation spaces; and more inclusive recreational environments and services.

    World class universities such as Columbia, Manchester and Singapore’s Nanyang, along with ANU, Melbourne and Monash in Australia, continue to invest heavily in similar facilities because they are committed to the very best for their students. At UQ we share this sentiment. We also know if we don’t make this investment now, we will start to lag behind our Australian and global counterparts in attracting and retaining the best and brightest students, staff and researchers.
    So, we need to be wise about where and how we invest in this ambitious program – prioritising what will most benefit our students and staff, and help deliver our strategic vision.

    Our consultations with students and staff called out the urgent need to prioritise investment in a new student complex and a contemporary performing arts space. In response we ran some preliminary workshops with the UQ Student Union, representing the student voice, and our staff to better understand their views and what is needed.

    As a direct outcome of these workshops, the University is considering two major infrastructure projects to submit to Senate, costing in excess of $300m – a new Student Hub and a new performance venue annexed to the UQ Art Museum.

    The proposed new Student Hub would replace the existing student complex, and provide a vibrant eastern gateway to the campus. It would include:
    • more than 1400 new informal learning seats for students to hang out, work together on ideas and projects, and partner with industry on joint opportunities
    • an employability service that showcases career opportunities and prepares students with the skills for tomorrow’s workforce
    • additional 1500 student learning spaces, to provide innovative and collaborative environments necessary for new approaches to teaching, which will prepare students better for an ever changing workplace
    • dedicated space for student support services in key areas such as health and wellbeing, accommodation and specialist workshops, and 1800sqm for the UQ Student Union and their clubs and societies, to create a more vibrant, supportive and inclusive environment
    • an entrepreneurship studio supporting students to turn ideas into reality
    • improved choice of food and retail outlets to enrich the student on-campus experience.
    The proposed new performance venue would be a shared facility to accommodate space for teaching, along with student performances and broader community events. While further conversations with staff and students are planned, we know the precinct will need to include facilities that allow for music concerts, theatre performances, films and lectures.

    These projects are in addition to the development of new student leisure and services space at Building 41, including a new home for the Red Room, and the upgrading of the nearby Natural Amphitheatre, which we announced last September.

    To make these essential investments possible, the new student complex would need to replace the existing student complex and Schonell Theatre.

    The existing complex was originally built in 1960 when our student population was less than 10,000. Even if it were upgraded, it could not accommodate the needs of the 53,000 Queensland, interstate and international students that choose to study at UQ each year.

    We have considered alternative options. These have included upgrading the current complex but, this would not sufficiently meet the needs of future generations of students. It would not deliver the connected and integrated experiences students expect today, and it would not provide the much-needed contemporary teaching and performance spaces.

    If Senate allows these projects to proceed, we will continue to partner with our students and staff to co-create two new facilities that meet the expectations of entrepreneurial and hyperconnected learners, and provide enhanced cultural experiences for students, staff and the wider community.

    We know many people feel strongly about the Schonell Theatre and the student complex, and we would like to better understand their views and how we can acknowledge these as we continue with our planning.

    We have a responsibility to the future generations of students to make the right investments today to deliver a world-leading learning environment for decades to come. I believe choosing to replace the current student complex with a new Student Hub and a new performance venue to be the right way forward.

    So, to the 11,000 new students joining us this week, our existing students and staff, I ask for your support of our University on this ambitious journey. In the coming weeks we’ll be engaging further on these proposed projects.


    Professor Peter Høj AC
    MSc, PhD DUniv FNAI, FTSE
    Vice-Chancellor and President

    Office of the Vice-Chancellor
    The University of Queensland
    Brisbane Qld 4072 Australia

    T +61 7 3365 1300
    E vc@uq.edu.au W uq.edu.au

    1. What should Universities be? says:

      Open Letter in reply to Professor Peter Høj
      Vice-Chancellor and President

      Office of the Vice-Chancellor
      The University of Queensland
      Brisbane Qld 4072 Australia

      Re: UQ Union Complex

      Dear Peter,

      I refer to your letter dated 25 Feb 2019 to UQ students and staff, particularly your fear that UQ will “lag behind our Australian and global counterparts in attracting and retaining the best and brightest students, staff and researchers.” Should universities act as competing firms run by profit-maximizing managers as your letter suggests?

      Recently I attended an electric vehicle conference at the convention centre in Brisbane. There were no representatives from the corporate world, no engineers or scientists from Ford, Toyota, or BMW; no alumni from Columbia, Manchester and Singapore’s Nanyang Universities.

      The people at the cutting edge of this important clean energy technology were people my age, enthusiasts genuinely committed to renewable energy. A local doctor spoke about the cancerous effects of vehicle emissions from burning fossil fuels.

      From what I saw at the rally to save the UQ Union Complex last month, overcrowding seems to be a real problem for the university. This helped attract greater interest in the excellent forum organised by Save the UQ Union Complex.

      Reading between the lines, Peter, you may have realised that current student union office bearers do not represent everyone’s views especially those of the alumni (past students & staff).

      The UQ student union has always been corruptible, otherwise how did it spend all that student money on the Schonell without gaining title to buildings funded by student members fees? Likewise with the Refec and Relaxation block. How did the student council surrender leases to the University Administration without first consulting with their members? The Union building, Refec, Relaxation block, forum area, and Schonell Theatre should all be preserved and left under control of the students and their union.

      It is entirely appropriate that the eastern gateway to UQ campus remains in the hands of the Student Union and not directly under your control. This space has always attracted people to its diverse and stimulating cultural life providing radio, theatre, Semper Floreat, music venues, and art facilities to the university population. There is no reason why students should not continue in this tradition.

      Under these circumstances WBT calls on alumni to boycott the university, to desist from donating, or giving bequests to UQ until the Schonell and surrounding buildings are heritage listed and protected from the University administration which did not provide any funds to build it.

      The university administration is undeserving of receiving any gifts while it accepts monies from Dow Chemicals and the Ramsay Centre. Your administration is irresponsible and unethical in accepting such bequests. The failure of the University has not come from the Left, it has come from people like you, in the ‘sensible centre’. All the bad things have been done, corporatisation, student fees, voluntary student unionism, decline in standards of scholarship have been done under your watch and those that preceded you.

      Ian Curr
      B.Sc. (UQ) 1975
      Grad. Dip. ATAX (UNSW) 1999
      Education Vice-President UQU 1976-77
      Past employee (casual) UQ 1967-1975

  3. Student Union response says:

    Dear students,

    UQ’s Vice-Chancellor, Peter Høj, has recently released a statement regarding the replacement for Schonell at UQ. It is my firm belief that students should continue to run the theatre on campus, as outlined below in my press release responding to the Vice-Chancellor’s statement. If you want to discuss Schonell or the UQU redevelopment, please feel free to email me at president@uqu.com.au.

    Students must continue to operate replacement Schonell Theatre

    The University of Queensland Union can only support the replacement of the Schonell Theatre on the condition that the new performing arts space is operated by UQ Union.

    In the original Student Complex redevelopment plan, Peter Høj and UQ were silent as to the future of Schonell.

    The attitude of Peter Høj and UQ only changed when student union representatives presented them with 8,000 signatures on a petition to ‘Save Schonell’ and what it represents at UQ.

    Since UQU constructed and began operating the Schonell in 1970, the theatre has been a bastion of creative arts, critical debate and political independence at UQ.

    Throughout the 70s and 80s, Schonell housed 4ZZZ, a radio station unafraid to expose the corruption that was rife within the Bjelke-Peterson government.

    In the present day, Schonell showcases UQ’s vast and diverse performing arts scene, presenting student-run plays that often speak frankly about UQ and its associates.

    The Union fears that UQ does not share our willingness to engage the student body in discussions around controversial topics, like the Taiwanese Film Festival that we facilitate.

    Even if UQ were willing to showcase critical and independent material, we fear that a donor or external interest who disagrees with a production could pressure UQ to shut it down.

    The Union believes that the independence, critical thought and genuine student voice which has flourished within Schonell’s four walls will cease to exist within a theatre operated by UQ administration.

    In light of this, the Union will only support a replacement of Schonell Theatre on the condition that it continues to be operated by UQU, the independent student union elected by students every year.


    Kind regards

    Georgia Millroy
    University of Queensland Union | UQU

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