The Hetherington Research Club (HRC) occupation has claimed a ‘drunken rampage of vandalism and intimidation’ by members of the Glasgow University Union (GUU) Board of Management, culminating in destruction of property and the activation of the building’s fire alarm, following a recent intrusion into the building.
At approximately 03.30am, Monday 7, a group of eight members of the GUU gained access to the HRC building by reportedly pretending to be members of the Green Party travelling to Glasgow for a conference. Three of the men, said to be intoxicated at the time, were naked, using ‘Vote James Foley’ and ‘Vote Oliver Milne’ placards which were left over from the recent SRC elections to retain their modesty. One also sported a bright orange feathered mask in order to obscure his identity, eyewitnesses claim.
The reported damage to the Free Hetherington included destroyed signs taken from the front of the building, deliberately blocked toilets and a missing fire extinguisher, whilst two fire engines were dispatched to the Free Hetherington in response to the activated fire alarm. Strathclyde Police were also called to the scene.
It is believed that both present and former members of the GUU Board of Management were involved in the incident.
Chris Sibbald, incoming GUU President following the institution’s recent elections, visited the occupation following the incident in attempt to reconcile relations between the two organisations. The GUU subsequently issued a formal apology condemning the damage done.
It said: “Last night, various members of Glasgow University Union took it upon themselves to streak up University Avenue and enter the occupied Hetherington Research Building. Those members of the Board of Management not implicated in the event condemn the incident fully and would like to issue a formal and public apology to all those who were offended.
“This is an action that does not represent Glasgow University Union; it was an action committed by individuals. However, those individuals are aware that they hold a position of representation and responsibility at Glasgow University Union and they must, therefore, openly apologise.”
He went on to explain that those involved will face a disciplinary hearing.
He said: “Furthermore, and more seriously, a fire alarm was set-off in the middle of the night. This is completely unacceptable and the members responsible will be taken to a full discipline hearing.
“We have asked those who represent the occupation at the Hetherington Research Club to supply Glasgow University Union with as much information as possible with regards to the cause of the fire alarm, so that we can make as strong a case as possible.
“Glasgow University Union assures its members that it is taking this matter very seriously.”
On the same evening, a banner baring the words ‘Welcome to the Free Hetherington’, which was stolen from the front of the occupied building last week, was also displayed from the top of the GUU. Attempts to retrieve it were alleged to have been met by members of the current GUU Board of Management, who, it is claimed, threw drinks at occupiers on the steps below.
Speaking to Subcity Radio, Chris Sibbald denied that any drinks had been thrown, instead asserting that a glass had fallen from the balcony accidentally.
The GUU has been involved in a string of recent controversies centring on the destruction of ‘Vote James Foley’ placards on University Avenue, as well as allegations by Foley supporters that the GUU abused their position as a polling station during the SRC elections by supporting Stuart Ritchie as a candidate, although this was strenuously denied by GUU management.
SRC Vice President for Student Support, Fraser Sutherland, criticised those involved in the latest controversy.
He said: “We are disappointed that once again the actions of a few individuals acting in an irresponsible way has undermined what should be the main focus of students at the university – that being the threat to learning and support for students through cuts levied by the university SMG.
“Setting off a fire alarm in any premises is at least juvenile and at worst highly dangerous. It is disappointing to see people who are elsewhere in positions of responsibility act in a stupid and inappropriate way to those to those taking part in the HRC occupation.”
An eyewitness who was in the Hetherington at the time of the attack listed the accusations levied at participating GUU members.
They said: “Theft, vandalism, waste of police and fire service time, stress, sleep loss, intimidation, indecency, verbal abuse, lives potentially put at risk; I won’t call it a climate of fear, but personally I have hopes for better weather.”
This article was edited on 12th July 2011 to remove an inaccuracy. Please contact us if you have any queries.