A controversial life-sized bronze sculpture of environmental activist Greta Thunberg has been unveiled by a university after being branded a “vanity project”.
The statue of the “inspirational” Swedish climate change protester has been created by the University of Winchester to reflect its values on “sustainability and social justice”.
But the Winchester University and College Union (UCU) posted a motion of censure on social media calling the sculpture a “vanity project” and stating the £24,000 cost should have been spent on preventing redundancies and cuts following a period of sustainability at the Hampshire university.
It added: “To be clear: our concerns are about the expenditure and transparency of decision making by the university, which have long been opaque, not the subject of the statue.”
The university’s vice-chancellor Professor Joy Carter said that no funds were diverted from student support or from staffing.
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She said: “The university’s approach to art is to commission or purchase unusual and striking pieces which embody our distinctiveness and values.
“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 reasoned debate and critical conversations.
“We hope 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.”
The sculpture, titled Make a Difference, was created by artist Christine Charlesworth.
She said: “It is hard to deny her courage and determination.
“As is often the case with people on the autism spectrum, social interaction is difficult for her.
“It is therefore even more remarkable that she has been able to forefront the mobilisation of young people in support of global environmental protection and to address world leaders on a face-to-face basis.”
The University of Winchester declared a climate and ecological emergency in 2019 and has eliminated all unnecessary single-use plastic across and aims to be carbon neutral by 2025.
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