Credit: Luke Chafer

The history of The Glasgow Guardian

By Niamh Flanagan

In celebration of our 90th anniversary, Niamh Flanagan takes us through The Glasgow Guardian’s extensive archive.

As you will have undoubtedly gathered throughout your perusal of this edition of The Glasgow Guardian, October 2022 marks our 90th anniversary, and in honour of such an occasion, I’d like to highlight some of the most remarkable endeavours and discoveries of the publication since its creation in 1932.

March 1979 marked a momentous juncture in the history of the university, as Glasgow University Union (GUU) moved to open the union to all genders. On 10 March 1979 the front page of The Glasgow Guardian reported on the somewhat scandalous details of an occupation of Beer Bar by activists in favour of the mixing of genders (think fisticuffs and a shock GUU presidential resignation). What is more striking is the opinion piece that followed on page two, however; in which the writer detailed the degenerating quality of service and provision of facilities offered across both university unions, and the inefficiency resulting from the refusal of key figures to give way to mixing, stating that: “there is no reason why they [women] should be denied laundry facilities or cheap eating places over the long holidays… In the face of such stark deprivation it is laughable that few still cling to ‘tradition’ as a valid argument against improvement”. Undeniably, The Glasgow Guardian positioned itself on this matter as a voice of progressive common-sense advocating for inclusivity amongst the student population.

A leap forward in our timeline brings us to the noughties, and to an exclusive story broken by The Glasgow Guardian that was both shocking and somewhat nauseating in nature. November 2004 was a rather eventful episode in the history of The Glasgow Guardian, and a downright sordid one for the GUU. On 1 November 2004, The Glasgow Guardian published a front-page reporting on shocking allegations that the GUU was spending a proportion of its budget on a pornography subscription. Distribution of said issue came to a prompt halt however, as the GUU issued a legal challenge to The Glasgow Guardian, following the suspected leaking of the front page by a member of the Student Representative Council (SRC) executive board. What followed was a two week ban on the distribution of said copies of The Glasgow Guardian, with the GUU eventually backing down from the legal challenge after being unable to prove that any allegations published were false. The Glasgow Guardian’s exclusive coverage of this story and the culture of gross misconduct it represented forced one of the university’s biggest institutions to take much needed accountability for its failure to serve and represent the student population.

In 2006, The Glasgow Guardian revealed that the university was rewarding donors with honourary degrees. Amongst such recipients were businessmen Sir Tom Hunter, a well-known proponent of a campaign opposing the repeal of Section 28 (a highly homophobic piece of legislation), and Dr Allan Baxter, a key figure from within the highly controversial pharmaceutical giant Glaxo Smith Kline. The shocking revelations contained in this piece drew to the attention of students and the wider community alike a dark truth: that in prioritising the satisfaction of their financial backers, the university had sacrificed the integrity of the values and principles it to this day professes are at the heart of its mission statement as an institution: diversity, tolerance, and acceptance.

In far more recent times, The Glasgow Guardian was responsible for breaking a shocking story concerning the experience of the ‘Murano 12’ in March 2021. A group of 12 students residing at Murano Student Village were billed for over £1000 worth of damages caused by a break in to their flat and externally held parties, and issued an informal eviction notice despite the extended eviction ban that was in place at the time because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Glasgow Guardian reported that the university had neglected to conduct any kind of welfare checks on the students involved, despite the traumatic ordeal they had undergone, instead choosing to persecute them for events that were completely beyond their control. This coverage provided a much-needed degree of transparency about the incompetence of the university in safeguarding its students throughout this time. 

This time last year Glasgow was preparing to host Cop26, the annual global climate conference. Over the course of the month of November The Glasgow Guardian provided extensive daily coverage of all happenings at the conference, from protests to keynote speaker events given by the likes of Barack Obama and Nicola Sturgeon. In the first week of the conference, the paper was named as one of the top 10 most influential media outlets at Cop26 – a remarkable feat for a student publication, if we do say so ourselves. The conference itself risked being fairly inaccessible to the actual population of Glasgow, student or otherwise – and The Glasgow Guardian endeavoured, and hopefully succeeded, to provide as clear of an insight into the details of what was an historic event in Glasgow, for as many people as possible.

Student journalism is frequently mischaracterised as the home of half-baked and overly indulgent think pieces, giving platform to the kind of rambling philosophical musings the average university professor would likely cut short in a seminar room. This deep dive of The Glasgow Guardian’s rich archive, spanning 90 years, will have hopefully left you in no doubt as to just how much of a far cry the standard of journalism and reporting here at The Glasgow Guardian is from such assumptions. As this edition highlights, in its coverage particularly of the student accommodation crisis and the recklessness of the university’s conduct relating to the crisis, what we do here in terms of providing accountability and taking seriously the concerns of students is more important now than ever.

Much has changed since 1932, but one key principle has endured: the protection of student’s interests is the founding principle of the publication and informs everything we do. We have a long history of standing up for students, and we intend to continue in this vein.


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