The University of Winchester has unveiled its almost £24,000 statue of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, angering staff who have faced years of cutbacks.
The £23,760 ($32,700) bronze monument to the teenager, who was elevated to international prominence by global leaders after she began skipping classes at her publicly-funded school on Fridays to protest a perceived lack of action on climate change, was slammed as a “vanity project” by staff at the university.
The Winchester branch of the University and College Union (UCU) said that although it “supports the role that Thunberg has played globally… This money should have been better used by preventing redundancies and other cuts at the university” after years of austerity.
“The university’s distinctive approach to commissioning pieces of art is to do so in unminuted meetings and/or avoid any committee scrutiny,” the union added facetiously.
“Not the ideal approach when spending university money.”
The university leadership, for its part, defended its expensive statue. “The university’s approach to art is to commission or purchase unusual and striking pieces which embody our distinctiveness and values,” pronounced Vice-Chancellor Joy Carter, insisting that “Greta is a young woman who, in spite of difficulties in her life, has become a world-leading environmental activist” and, “As the university for sustainability and social justice, we are proud to honour this inspirational woman in this way.”
The controversial move comes at a time when historic statues and memorials to Britain’s monarchs, prime ministers, war heroes, and great merchants and philosophers are being targeted by Black Lives Matter-inspired vandals, activists, and politicians, with some destroyed, some removed, and some “recontextualised” with plaques and information boards denouncing the figures they depict.