Hetherington occupation cost to University: £10,000

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The Hetherington Research Club occupation, in place since the beginning of February, has run up costs of almost £10,000 to Glasgow University

Nick Sikora
Guardian Exclusive

The Hetherington Research Club (HRC) occupation has cost Glasgow University almost £10,000 over the course of its three-month history, Guardian can reveal.

The occupation, which is provided with free electricity and washing facilities as a result of concessions made by University management, has resulted in expenses totalling almost £1,000 in utilities for every month the occupation runs and at least £3,500 in required campus security presence, according to information contained in documents released to the Guardian under a Freedom of Information request.

415 extra man-hours were logged by campus security during February and March as a result of security concerns attributable to the occupation and its associated protests, whilst elsewhere costs range from a one-off payment of £98 for a plumber to more than £100 every week for the building’s electricity bills.

In total, the HRC occupation has incurred running costs of around £6,500 to the University in the three months since the occupation began on February 1st of this year, a number that will grow as the student demonstration continues.

Protective boards inside the Gilbert Scott Building, put in place as part of a maintenance project on the building, were scrawled with graffiti by protestors. Photo: Olivia Vitazkova

Meanwhile, University estimates state that the cost of repairing damage to the 140-year-old Gilbert Scott Building following March 22, when a number of occupation members broke into the main building and forced their way through locked doors in a search for Principal Muscatelli’s office, may reach as high as £2,500.

Locks on several doors were broken by demonstrators and a number of temporary fixtures inside the building were scrawled with anti-management graffiti during the incident, while at least one window was smashed in clashes between campus security and demonstrators.

Other costs included repairing damage to University property in the Arts and Humanities building adjacent to the HRC, which was broken into from the Hetherington and vandalised on two separate occasions in the month of February. Occupiers later denied responsibility for the damage whilst offering to pay for repairs, although management denied this request.

A spokesman for the University stated that whilst they are willing to accommodate protests made by students on University property, the costs incurred by the demonstration were regrettable.

He said: “At a time of tight budget constraints, it is unfortunate that the University has incurred unforeseen costs as a result of the student occupation of the Hetherington Building. While the University respects students’ right to protest, we deplore costs incurred through damage to the fabric of buildings during recent associated protests.

“Since the occupation began, the University has been in an ongoing dialogue with the students to bring the protest to a peaceful conclusion.”

The released figures do not include the cost of the police presence during the events of March 22, in which an attempted eviction from the Hetherington building eventually included the use of a police helicopter, dog teams and up to 80 officers on the ground.

While Strathclyde Police have not yet released details of the costs incurred through the attempted eviction, the combined costs to both the University and Strathclyde Police are thought to push public expenses related to the HRC occupation into the region of several tens of thousands of pounds.

Student bodies condemned Strathclyde Police in the aftermath of the March 22 incident, with SRC President Tommy Gore branding the costly police response as ‘unacceptable’, ‘unjustifiable’ and ‘inappropriate’. Three protestors were arrested at their homes in the days following the eviction, but all charges were later dropped.

In a statement made to the Guardian, occupants of the HRC claimed that costs involved in hosting the demonstration were justifiable in light of the significance of the protested cuts to public services, whilst asserting that some of the University expenses would have been incurred regardless.

It said: “When the Hetherington was re-opened we found the lights on and the heating turned up full. These costs would have been paid whether or not we were in the building, and were being paid for a year by the University while they left the building empty.

“With the promises made recently by all major political parties at Holyrood concerning University funding in the run-up to the election, and in light of the broken promises at Westminster, it is more important than ever that students and other members of the community demonstrate that they will hold those making cuts and destroying our services and society to account.

“The day that we ban political protest because some claim it is too expensive is the day we can no longer call ourselves a democracy.”

The Hetherington Occupation, which was created to present opposition to cuts in public services at the University and across the country as a whole, has received support from union organisations such as the UCU and STUC, and individual figures such as activist Ken Loach and national Makar, Liz Lochhead.

HRC occupiers, who have now staged the longest-running University occupation in recent history, have no plans to discontinue their activities.