HUNDREDS of University of New England students will march in protest this morning against the closure of Robb College next month.
More than 500 students representing each of the university’s colleges are expected to turn out for the rally, sparked by last week’s shock announcement that Robb College would be closed at the end of trimester two and its residents relocated to Drummond and Smith.
The university’s administration said it had had no choice but to close the college while the Heritage Council of NSW considers the building’s heritage listing, delaying essential safety compliance works.
But UNE Student Association president David Mailler labelled the sudden announcement a “kneejerk reaction” and said the university risked losing the opportunity for a “win-win” with the affected students.
“College students are key stakeholders and they have been badly treated,” Mr Mailler said.
“That (management) haven’t chosen to listen and include usin developing a solution before (making the announcement) has angered normally easy-going and conservative students and pushed them to protest.
“A management style in recent years of neglecting or ignoring student ideas and aspirations, as well as the impact of trimesters, has pushed down on student goodwill, and this runaway decision was a step too far.”
Mr Mailler acknowledged there were hurdles to negotiate when it came to the refurbishment of the ageing college buildings, but a consultation process would have created respect on both sides.
Adding to student concerns is the uncertainty around just how long Robb will be closed and the impact on both colleges’ cultural heritage.
Mr Mailler said Robb College had built a proud history since its founding in 1960, and was known for a strong connection to the rural community, with an emphasis on leadership and integrity, while Drummond and Smith traced its roots back to 1930 and the Armidale Teachers’ College.
“The proposal to co-house Robb students in Drummond and Smith College has alarmed Drummond and Smith residents,” he said.
“The UNE administration has failed to communicate a vision and strategy for the future ofthe colleges and their rich heritage and contribution to theuniversity.
“Students are mystified and in search of answers (and) want a change from the autocratic governance of the recent past.”
The protest will start at 9am on Queen Elizabeth Dve and will culminate in a rally at Booloominbah at 10am.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.