On the 26th October the University opens the new Gilchrist Postgraduate Club, the only one of its kind in Scotland and one of only a handful in the UK. The club is open until 11pm most nights and features barista coffee, a bar and a different menu from what is currently available around campus. It’s a place to relax and socialise with friends and colleagues.
It is hoped that eventually the Gilchrist will be shaped by the character and ethos of the postgraduate and staff community, a process that can only happen with time, and so here are some suggestions for how it could develop, why the name is important, and why community is king.
The University is an academic community; the community’s body of knowledge is fluid and constantly evolving, and in its DNA are the papers that we write, the theses we construct, the presentations we give and the feedback we receive from other community members. Fundamentally our community is built on networks, a connection of enquiring minds that send out information, which is in turn digested and fed back into new networks both here in Glasgow and further afield. We may all be categorised into subject areas, Schools and Colleges, but these sometimes hide the unifying aspects that University-wide organisations like the Gilchrist will bring to the fore.
By establishing the Gilchrist Postgraduate Club, the University is recognising the need for neutral ground on campus, a space where we can make social and academic connections between these networks and strengthen those that already exist, hopefully making the College or School boundaries less significant. We all bring different skills, experiences and questions to this community, but if we collaborate we can improve our own experience of University life and help generate the ideas and research of the future.
What is in a name? The fact that the University chose to attach a prominent figure to a new postgraduate space instead of some benign and impersonal corporate tag is positive, not least because there is an absence of University buildings honouring prominent Glasgow women. By naming it in honour of Marion Gilchrist, the first female to graduate from the University of Glasgow, the hope is that the club will come to embody her progressive spirit and foster it within our community of postgraduates.
After graduating in 1894 with a Bachelors in Medicine and a Masters in Surgery, Marion Gilchrist went on to serve the local community as a prominent ophthalmic surgeon and ran her own practice in the West End, not far from where the club is situated. Gilchrist also took part in a wider social cause as a suffragette and was willing to put herself forward in the name of sexual equality as a member of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Association for Women’s Suffrage, the Women’s Social and Political Union and the Women’s Freedom League. She also represented her community in the British Medical Association and took a prominent part in many clubs and societies during her days as a medical student.
As the example Marion Gilchrist shows, community and the building of associations on the basis of equality is key. As members of this community we all bear responsibility in ensuring that the new club is a success. At its heart it is a grassroots organisation where you get out what you put into it. Do you think the space is lacking something? Contribute your ideas. Is there an event you’d like to see? Organise it. Don’t like the services on offer? Show the club how to make it better. It is not every day that the University commits its energy and resources to such a positive end – this is our opportunity to show them it was money well spent.