MThe heritage campaign to try and protect the student space at University of Queensland including the Schonell Theatre is appealing to graduates to suspend giving donations to the university.
The university management is moving to demolish a set of buildings making up the student area of the campus, including the Schonell Theatre, the UQ Union Building, the Refectory, the Relaxation Block and the Forum area.
“We are asking people who receive messages from university fundraisers to hold off on any contributions until and unless the heritage dispute is satisfactorily resolved”, said Jeff Rickertt, chairperson of the steering committee for the heritage campaign.
“This appeal will be sent directly to as many individuals and funding organisations as possible.
“We do not believe graduates would want their money mis-used to erase a part of their experience as students, and reverse the spirit of inquiry and free association the student precinct represents.
“This action was proposed at an open forum at the university on 25 February and received good support.”
The buildings were architecturally designed for fostering a student culture, they were paid for mainly with student money, and they still function as a student-controlled space.
The demolition plan is being opposed by many students, staff and alumni of the university, who have heard about it, as an attack on the legacy of the St Lucia Campus over decades.
The precinct was the most important site in Queensland for defending civil and social rights during Queensland’s long period of authoritarian government during the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
The university management’s scheme to raze the precinct outlines spending of some $300-million for a vaguely set-out plan. It includes a lot of so-called entrepreneurial teaching stations, indicating the university wants to take over much of the area for its teaching and learning facilities – squeezing out many current uses.
There is no guarantee that the traditional academic and social freedoms of the campus as a place for association and democracy will be preserved; none that the university management won’t appropriate control of the area from student bodies, and none that it won’t be commercialised on the lines of ordinary shopping malls off campus.
The university states that it is getting $67.6 million p.a. from all “Philanthropy Donors”. It says it has contact information for 204087 living former students, of whom 16688 are “engaging with” the program in Australia and an additional 3547 are former international students. Large amounts are being gifted from trusts and foundations, but a 2017 telephone campaign resulted in more than 1400 gifts. A promotion called The University of Queensland in America Inc has granted more than $7.4 million to the university. The gifted money goes to student scholarships, research, and teaching and learning projects. http://www.uq.edu.au/about/docs/annualreport/annual-report-17/9_Engagement.pdf
“The best solution at this time would be to leave the space as it is or upgrade it in ways that would retain its quality as a main part of the university, in the tradition of free universities going back well over a thousand years”, Jeff Rickertt said.
31 March 2019