‘Keep Calm and Ask Anton’

Published

Amy Mackinnon & Oliver Milne

Monday’s open meeting with the Principal was a marked improvement for Anton Muscatelli, with only one call for his resignation. In stark contrast to the packed meeting in March, around 30 students turned out to put their questions to Principal Anton Muscatelli, and Vice Principals Andrea Nolan and Frank Coton.

Students were asked to submit questions to the Glasgow University SRC prior to the meeting. The three main areas for discussion were: the University’s relationship with Eden Springs – a supplier of bottled water which operates out of illegally occupied Golan Heights; the erosion of Slavonic language teaching; and the University’s priorities with regards to learning and teaching. After these areas were covered, questions were opened to members of the audience.

On the issue of Eden Springs, a member of the Glasgow University Palestine Society asked whether the University would reconsider its contracts with Eden Springs, whose contracts with the Glasgow are worth around £50,000 a year. Principal Muscatelli answered that water contracts are part of a bulk procurement tender with all the other universities and colleges in Scotland, and that the university is bound to its contract with the supplier until its expiration in 2012, at which point he would be happy to bring forward the concerns raised by the members of the Palestine society. The Principal agreed to meet representatives from the Palestine Society at a future date to discuss this.

A number of questions were raised around the design and implementation of MyCampus, including the difficulty that had been experienced by visually impaired students who had difficulty using the system as it stood currently. Vice Principal Learning and Teaching, Frank Coton, described the issues surrounding MyCampus as “unfortunate” and insisted that many of the usability errors would be fixed in the future claiming that next year they system would be “MyCampus, but not as we know it”.

A number of graduate teaching assistants raised issues regarding payment for work done and what was described as an obsession with the university’s rankings in world league tables at the expense of the quality of education and to the university’s role to the local community. Senior Vice Principal, Andrea Nolan, defended the University saying:

“I don’t think we are obsessed with tables and rankings…but I think that having a world class university on their doorstep is good for the local community”

Concern was raised in advance of the meeting that Glasgow University Student Television (GUST) and the Glasgow Guardian had not been permitted to broadcast or record the event. SRC VP Media & Communications Iain Smith, who chaired, apologised at the start of the meeting for the lack of media access to broadcast from the event, afterwards saying “there were a number of factors which came together to make broadcasting difficult, including my own oversight of not involving the student media during the planning of the event. The Principal’s Office were also unconformable with the event being broadcast and with the requests coming at the 11th hour of planning it was not made a priority, for which I have to apologise. We’ll be working to ensure that this does not set a precedent for future events in order that as many students as possible can participate.”