By Prisca Sam-Duru
When it comes to environmental issues, young Swedish environmental activist, Greta Thunberg is undoubtedly, a fantastic role model but at the moment, her £24,000 statue installed at a university in her honour, has sparked anger among students.
The students have branded the sculpture a “vanity project” but the University of Winchester according to a BBC News report, believes it is the world’s first life-sized sculpture of the “inspirational” Swedish environmental activist.
The students’ union opined that the funds used for the production and installation of the statue, could have been better spent, even when the university said “no money was diverted” from student support or staffing for the project.
Reacting to the art work, president of Winchester Student Union, Megan Ball described Thunberg as a “fantastic role model to everyone, as someone who speaks loudly and proudly about important global issues” but said the union could not support the sculpture.
“We’re in a Covid year, lots of students haven’t really had access to campus, and lots of them are trying to study online and are in dire need of support.
“We are calling on the university to match the statue cost by committing £23,760 in additional funding to student support services across campus.
“We urge them to publicly face the critical issues which students are highlighting and provide a transparent breakdown of additional and existing financial support”, Ball stated.
Winchester University and College Union (UCU) were also said to have passed a motion describing the statue as a “vanity project”.
The statue of Greta Thunberg, an 18-year-old Swedish who became famous for her environmental activism, was commissioned in 2019 and funded through money allocated to the construction of the £50m West Downs Centre development, where the piece was unveiled earlier.
The University said it wanted to have Greta’s statue installed ahead of the UK hosting of the United Nation’s climate change conference, COP26.
Responding, the university’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Joy Carter, said: “No money was diverted from student support or from staffing to finance the West Downs project. Indeed, the university has spent £5.2m this year on student support.”
In an email to students about the piece, the university added it hoped the statue would become a symbol of its “commitment to combat the climate and ecological emergency.”
According to Prof Carter, “Greta is a young woman who, in spite of difficulties in her life, has become a world-leading environmental activist. As the University for sustainability and social justice, we are proud to honour this inspirational woman in this way.
“We know that many find her a controversial figure. As a university, we welcome debate and critical conversations.
“We hope that her statue will help to inspire our community, reminding us that no matter what life throws at us we can still change the world for the better. That is a message we want all our students and all young people to hear.”
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