Although I have become accustomed to disappointment with my final year at university, graduation arrangements have proved the final straw. Traditionally held in Swansea’s Brangwyn Hall, the graduation is supposed to be the highlight of our university lives. My parents both graduated from Swansea University (or University College, Swansea as it was back then) in 1981 at the Brangwyn Hall, as did Charlie last year. However, I will not.
Last week I received a letter from the university, explaining that due to “unforeseen circumstances” the Brangwyn Hall ‘is unavailable’ for the graduation ceremonies. After a bit of research it was discovered that it was affected by the planned national council strikes on 16th & 17th July.
We would instead be moved to a “marquee” on Fulton House Lawn on campus (360 degree panorama of the site – requires QuickTime). While I can understand the reasons for the strike taking place, and accept that the Brangwyn is unavailable – my problem is with the replacement location. There are plenty of locations in Swansea where a graduation could take place – the Liberty Stadium, the LC, or even in front of Swansea University’s Abbey. But Fulton House lawn is not a good solution – it’s the middle of a roundabout!
This place on campus is probably the ugliest part of the university. Fulton House is an eyesore and it is surrounded by building sites.
Again, Swansea University put its own profit ahead of its students – without whom, the university would not exist.
A bit later on, I found a Facebook group with many other students feeling the same way. I decided that someone needed to make a bit of a fuss. Charlie put together a press release which was sent to a number of news agencies, including BBC Wales and The Evening Post. Both ran stories on Monday this week (here and here).
The people at the BBC did a really good job -getting in contact with Unison, Swansea Council and the University. They discovered that earlier that week, Unison had agreed to exempt the Brangwyn Hall from the strike action so that the graduations could take place. There is no-longer any reason for the graduations to take place in a tent on the lawn. However the university had decided not to move the ceremony back to its traditional home – another appalling decision.
The university has defended its action, stating that Fulton House lawn is regularly used for ‘high profile’ events. However I wouldn’t exactly call the badly organised Fresher’s Fayre or Bierkeller ‘high profile’.
With the first graduation ceremonies starting on Monday (mine is on Friday), I hope that I am pleasantly surprised. With any luck the university will quash its reputation for bad organisation and piss-poor decisions – although judging by a friend’s Facebook profile which describes Fulton House lawn as ‘waterlogged’, I don’t hold out much hope.
Either way, the university’s insistence that the event will be a ‘memorable occasion’ will be provided true – although maybe not in the way they want.
We’ll see next week.