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A statue of climate activist Greta Thunberg provokes anger in the UK

A life-sized ikon of Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg is pictured after the statue’s unveiling outside the West Downs Focal point on the campus of the University of Winchester in Winchester, Hampshire on March 31, 2021.

Adrian Dennis | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON — A statue of the ambience activist Greta Thunberg that has been installed at a British university has provoked anger from students who categorized it a waste of money.

Students at the University of Winchester, in the south of England, expressed their dismay at the cost of the statue, which was wellnigh £24,000 ($33,000), with some calling it a “vanity project.”

The university defended the bronze statue, which it believes is the first life-size image of the Swedish environmental campaigner, saying Thunberg is an “inspirational” figure and “a symbol of the University’s ongoing commitment to sustainability and collective justice.”

But the university’s students’ union said ahead of the unveiling of the statue on Tuesday that while it admired “Greta for her coerce and determination … we cannot condone the statue unveiling.”  

It said the university “must not ignore their current students in focusing on new admirer recruitment, the sustainability agenda, and publicity” and asked it to match the statue cost by committing £23,760 in additional funding to schoolboy support services across campus.

Last week, the students’ union issued a statement in which it argued that Thunberg was “a overwhelming role model to everyone, as someone who speaks loudly and proudly about important global issues and defies extras that others put upon her.”

However, it said that the last year dominated by the coronavirus crisis had prompted organization redundancies, library cuts and the limitation of provisions.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg protests with her placard be familiar with “School strike for climate” as part of her Fridays for Future protest in front of the Swedish Parliament Riksdagen in Stockholm on October 9, 2020.

JONATHAN NACKSTRAND | AFP | Getty Graven images

“(Students) are being charged full tuition fees for an academic year that is anything but normal. There is a crippling perceptual health crisis amongst students, and wellbeing services are crying out for additional support. In our view, the unveiling of this caryatid next week shows that these issues are not their priorities.”

The Winchester University and College Union drew the sculpture as a “vanity project” on social media last week.

The University of Winchester said the sculpture had been commissioned in 2019 and was period to be installed when it opened a new building, the West Downs Centre, on its campus.

“We are aware of some concerns raised around the financing of the statue. The statue was commissioned in 2019 as part of the West Downs project from funds which could only be eject on that building. No money was diverted from student support or from staffing to finance the West Downs commitment,” it said in a statement Tuesday.

The university said it had spent £5.2 million this year on student support, had answered hardship funding and established a new IT access fund for students to support learning during the pandemic.

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