Campus trade unions expressed their extreme concern today at the University’s decision to co-host an event in the London Velodrome together with the British government, where David Cameron used his office as Prime minister to set out his case against independence. Widely trailed on the BBC and other broadcasters the day before as a major intervention by the Prime Minister into the independence debate, Court members were only informed the night before the event, that the speech – promoted as a ‘business development’ opportunity – would even take place.
Following public criticism of the university’s action by social media commentators Derek Bateman and from pro independence website NewsnetScotland, the GCU student VP Education and the Daily Record, the university subsequently issued a statement explaining its actions, including its inability to give notice due to ‘an embargo imposed by the Prime Minister’s office in the light of security issues’
According to the Campus Unions who issued the attached statement today, they had been ‘inundated with messages of disbelief’ from members of staff’ about the decision to co-host the event. Amongst the points made by the joint unions were: ‘This was not an academic seminar on the benefits held on the University Campus. This was not a debate on the upcoming referendum. This was David Cameron MP setting out his case against independence using his office as Prime Minister – the speech was published by the Cabinet Office’.
The statement goes on to say: ‘Independence is a contentious issue in Scotland. Amongst the unions and workers at Glasgow Caledonian University there are mixed views on how people should vote in September. One of our unions, the UCU actually organised a debate amongst their members on the referendum this week.’
The campus unions have put a number of questions to university management regarding the decision to co-host this event, and the prominent use of the university image. They have also sought more information on the ‘Global Leadership Seminars’ and their future, and also on the associated costs of the Velodrome event.
In a communication to the joint unions, the university’s head of communications Charles McGhee has re-iterated that ‘The University has publicly stated that it will continue to maintain a neutral stance on the referendum and other political issues. However, GCU encourages open and robust debate on a wide range of issues and sees it as part of its role to help facilitate such discussions’.
The combined unions and the staff they represent will be watching this space closely to see exactly how such discussion facilitation will proceed in the immediate future in order to regain the perception that Glasgow Caledonian does take a neutral stance – something which would not be the public view at the moment.