Students launch protest over university’s ‘greenwashing’ Greta Thunberg statue

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

Students have accused university chiefs of “greenwashing” them in a protest over a £24,000 statue of Greta Thunberg. 

Protestors gathered on the University of Winchester campus to accuse the “upper echelons” of buying “meaningless statues”, instead of making concrete climate commitments.

The Hampshire university spent £23,760 on what it claims to be the first life-sized sculpture of the “inspirational” Swedish environmental activist.

Bosses told students that they hoped the bronze figure showed “commitment to combat the climate and ecological emergency”.

However, it was met with a backlash when it was unveilved in March 2021 from locals, the students’ union and lecturers, who branded it a “vanity project”.

But it has now emerged that the student Labour society, allotment society and sustainability society have staged a joint protest next to the statue to express their “discontent”.

‘Stop greenwashing us’

The demonstration, at the university’s West Downs Centre, had three main demands, including; stopping attempts to greenwash students, reinstating sustainability and social justice as key values, and making short and long-term commitments to these goals.

One of the protesters, 20, a third year archeology student, said: “They promised me they care about the environment and cared about social justice, neither of which have fully materialised my entire three years of being here.

“When I came here, they still had those two values as core values at the university, but those have since been removed for no good reason.”

The student said the university now needs to make a “meaningful commitment to making a difference” following the protest last month.

Take beef off the menu and replace it with chicken and fish if need be. Make your plant based meals affordable,” the student, who wished to remain anonymous, said.

“Focus on making the university buildings energy efficient and sustainable rather than wasting money on meaningless statues, the meaning of which have been completely wasted on the university’s upper echelons.”

University bosses told students they hoped the statue showed ‘commitment to combat the climate and ecological emergency’

Credit: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

The University of Winchester states that it “embodies social justice for people, animals and the planet”, with three key values of “compassion, individuals matter and spirituality”.

The university’s sustainability statement says: “To us, sustainability means living in harmony, acting with kindness, and caring for all living things, now and for future generations… sustainability is a way of life at Winchester and we incorporate it in everything we do.”

However, some students have taken issue with certain food outlets on campus, such as Tastes of the World, Cyber Italia and The Deli Bar, which serve red meat options.

Other universities such as Stirling have vowed to ban meat and dairy from campus and go entirely vegan.

The University of Winchester said it was “always happy to meet with students to discuss any concerns they might have”.

A spokesman added: “We are pleased to have now finished the important work to complete our project using £3.1m awarded from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme to make our campus more energy efficient and reduce our environmental impact.”