António Rolo Duarte
The main entrance to the University of Manchester is currently no more than an improvised private parking lot crowded with lines of Mercedes, Audi and BMW. These belong to the university’s top officials, who are allocated a parking space right in front of their office door even though their office door is at the heart of the most significant and historical place on campus – the Old Quadrangle.
This is wrong for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is wrong environmentally and politically. Just last year the university witnessed some of the biggest student protests against fossil fuels in its history. Moreover, the university’s Environmental Sustainability Policy states that: “The University of Manchester is committed to inculcating the concept of environmental sustainability in all aspects of education, research, and business strategy and operations and, wherever possible, to influencing local, national and international debate and policies on environmental sustainability.” Looking at the Quadrangle’s current status, such a phrase seems like nothing other than empty words. If the university wanted to have a greener image and improve its moral record, then its main entrance should not be loaded with cars.
Secondly, the current use of the Quadrangle is wrong for historical and cultural reasons. The buildings around the Quadrangle have been a symbol of the University of Manchester for nearly 150 years. When illustrious alumni such as James Lovelock (who we interviewed this week) attended the university, students would often mingle at the Quadrangle chatting and relaxing in between lectures. Guests would be dazzled when they entered the area, awed by the magnificent gothic style architecture brought by Alfred Waterhouse, the man behind projects such as the Natural History Museum in London.
Modernization and redevelopment at times ask for change – the recent demolishing of the Oxford Road footbridge or the existing plan to dismantle The Tower being examples of just that. But the use of the Quadrangle for private parking spaces is neither modern nor redeveloping. It is unnecessary first-world personal comfort - or if you prefer a different word for it, laziness.
Evidence of that is the fact that staff parking is available at Booth Street West car park, just a two minute walk from the Quadrangle, and at Cecil Street car park, the largest parking facility on campus, about five minutes away. There are also a number of other parking facilities all around campus, where university staff can apply for yearly permits, the cost varying according to their pay grade.
For those who lead a freer lifestyle, there are even more options for travel. The Oxford Road/Wilmslow Road corridor is often said to be the busiest bus route in the Europe. Greater Manchester is served by 91 train stations – one of the main ones, Oxford Road Station, is only a 10 minute walk up the road from the Quad. There are taxi services, with Uber, the recent worldwide sensation of classy cabs, operating around the clock in the city. And there is always the good old bicycle, one of the most popular options on campus due to Manchester’s particularly suitable conditions for cycling.
Senior staff are an extremely valuable part of the university structure. They should be comfortable when commuting to and from their workplace, especially because of the tireless dedication with which they work for students and academics every day. But it is exactly because they are leaders of the university community that they should be the first ones promoting the historical and cultural value of Manchester’s campus, and be an example to follow in what concerns environmental awareness and fossil fuel consumption. Unfortunatly when one goes through the main entrance at the University of Manchester nowadays, it seems they are anything but. TMM
Comment The entrance to the University of Manchester is currently no more than an improvised private parking lot crowded with Mercedes, BMW and Audi. Why that should change