By Gillean McDougall
It was a wild and stormy day, the day of the Great Hand Over, Monday 4th April. After the hectic weeks of the Save DACE campaign collecting as many signatures and testimonies as possible, three of us met in Byres Rd for a quick cup of tea before handing them to the University. Hazel Clark, Dr Mairghread McLundie and myself had spent many hours discussing the proposed cuts to the Department and the Open Programme; the previous evening Lawrence D’Mello and I had been emailing each other furiously as we prepared both electronic and hard copy submissions.
‘Furious’ is the appropriate term, too. What’s been obvious over the last few weeks is that those of us who were angry at the prospect of our lifeline, lifelong education being taken away, had retained that anger. If anything, it had been fuelled by witnessing the ‘consultation’ process, the shortcomings of which need to be addressed.
So in that cafe on that rainy morning last Monday, we drew breath and prepared for the next step in the journey. By the time we’d walked up to The Square in wind and lashing rain, we were a bedraggled but proud little group. The University was quiet (the timing of the consultation process has, I believe, been specifically chosen in the hope that as few people as possible will take part) but we still managed to coerce a passing student into taking a photograph of the occasion for us.
Prof Coton’s office is the last house in the square before the Principal’s residence, and once inside the heavy panelled door, it was like another world. Hushed, reverential. We had phoned ahead to tell Prof Coton’s PA, Mary Ramsay, to expect us, and she received the petition and testimony documents politely as we shook water all over her immaculate carpet.
And that was it. Five minutes later we were out in the rain again, and adjourned to another coffee shop in Byres Rd for the PM. Two things struck me about the experience. One was the quiet interior of that office. The Professor sits there, beautiful view of the West End on one side, the historic Gilbert Scott architecture on the other. The Square itself is enclosed, grand and proud. An ivory tower if ever there was one, a place where the real world seems very far away.
The second thought that’s with me is the power of the documents we held in our hands in tough new Jiffybags. Lawrence and I had seen all those signatures and testimonies come in day by day, and the strength of feeling contained there is DACE’s greatest asset. Now we have to see if the University will listen.