McGregor Building: unsafe and unacceptable

Alistair Thomas
Deputy News Editor

Dozens of PhD students are having to work in squalid and hazardous conditions by the University of Glasgow to complete their theses.

The Glasgow Guardian has been made aware of the appalling state of the McGregor building, where post-graduate research students from Social Sciences and Political Studies (SSPS) have been allocated office space.

The students claim the building, situated in the Western Infirmary, has a long list of serious health and safety issues, which led the students situated there to make an extensive complaint to the SRC about their working conditions.

According to students working at the McGregor building, the ground floor is semi-derelict, featuring a large number of asbestos warning signs. The buildings entrance keypad often malfunctions, causing students to be locked out, but more startlingly, has upon occasion allowed violent intruders into the building.

Another complaint the students made was that the McGregor building houses the Western Infirmary’s mortuary, which will remain active for at least another year. Upon investigation, the Glasgow Guardian found that to reach the ladies bathroom students must pass several disused labs with potentially hazardous medical waste and debris, as well as the aforementioned mortuary. This has led to a number of highly distressing incidents for students working there. One student told the Guardian: ‘Colleagues working in the office have found themselves several times asked for directions to the mortuary by doctors and relatives seeking to view the body of a loved one’. Students had not been made aware beforehand of the mortuary’s closeness to their offices.

The tap water in the building is not safe to drink, as it is not from the mains. NHS staff located there informed the student that even boiling the water does not render it safe. The building’s water cooler, which is stocked up by bottled water, is often neglected and in one week, students were left without any drinking water on two occasions.

The windows of the building are sealed shut and students claim the air conditioning system is inefficient, meaning in summer, temperatures reach over 30C (86F). Conversely in winter the heaters are unable to heat the large and draughty building.

Due to the hot, humid conditions and its aging structure, the building has been host to various infestations of cockroaches and silverfish. The students claim that attempts to treat the infestations have been unsuccessful.

The McGregor building also suffers from inadequate staffing and resources. Students told the Glasgow Guardian they have seen cleaning staff resorting to using paper towels and water to clean the toilets, raising concerns over the buildings hygiene management.

In addition, the janitorial presence is limited to seven months a year and only in term time, which leaves post-graduate students, who often spend more time at the university through summer, without any staff onsite.

Post-graduate students have to had to perform administration duties within building which have proven extremely time consuming. When they first moved in, students were expected to set up phone lines and printers, duties normally undertaken by employed administration staff.

The initial relocation process to the McGregor building, which took place in September 2013, also proved problematic. Students were reluctant to move in, due to the poor quality of the building and the extremely short notice they were given, which resulted in a consultation process between the SSPS School Executive and the students.

Reportedly, the School promised students that by moving into the building, there would be a strong chance of more favourable relocation in the future to the Adam Smith building. However, since then students have heard nothing further on relocation to the Adam Smith building, and more students have been moved in. Representatives of the students working at the McGregor building accuse the School of “failing to acknowledge, manage and follow up” on the problems that have been highlighted.

In a statement issued by the students to the Glasgow University Student Representative Council, the students expressed their anger over the situation they have been placed in: “This demonstrates either poor management or complete disrespect from the School to its PhD students. “It is against common sense to create any work space next to a mortuary, and certainly not suitable for social science students without any staff or support.”