Protest against Pantycelyn closure to take place today

Follow live updates from the protest here.

UMCA, Aberystwyth’s Welsh Language Students’ Union have announced that there will be a peaceful protest outside the Visualisation Centre today, where the Finance and Strategy committee is held.

Pantycelyn  Photo by Tomos Nolan

Photo by Tomos Nolan

Protesters will leave Pantycelyn at 13:40 and make their way to the Visualisation Centre by 14:00.

This is in reaction to recent developments regarding the future of the Hall over the past few days when it was revealed that the Halls may close for a year in order for the University to undertake electrical work. There is no guarantee that it will re-open.

The UMCA press release stated that: “Students hope their message will be heard by the Committee Members, and that they will vote in favour of the recommendations made by the Future of Pantycelyn Working Group not the recommendations made by the University’s Executive.”

In September 2014, the University established the ‘Future of Pantycelyn Working Group’ to discuss the future of the Welsh Halls. The working group’s report will be submitted to the University’s Finance and Strategy Committee today, and is said to recommend that Pantycelyn remains open.

However, it has been revealed to ASM, that over the last few days, the University’s senior officers have submitted their own recommendations to the committee based on the report, which includes the closure of Pantycelyn as a student accommodation in September 2015, against the committee’s recommendations, and using the building as offices for a period while repairs are being made. There is also no guarantee that the Halls will re-open.

According to UMCA President, Miriam Williams:

“The students are obviously very concerned regarding the Hall’s uncertain future. This is during examination period for the students and the fact that they are willing to sacrifice their studies to show their disappointment should be a clear message for the University, and they should listen to our voices.”

“The Welsh community is vulnerable and it needs to be protected, not damaged. We call on the Finance and Strategy Committee to accept the recommendation of the Future of Pantycelyn working group, and to reject the senior officers’ plan to close the hall for any period of time.”

The university released this statement yesterday:

Aberystwyth University has always agreed and has ensured that there must be dedicated accommodation for Welsh speaking students in the University.

Over the past 12 months the University has been working with student representatives to develop proposals for the long term re-development of Pantycelyn. The Working Group’s report outlines a number of options for Pantycelyn to be renovated, including primarily as student accommodation. The report also recognises that all long term options require comprehensive redevelopment and significant investment.

The report will be considered by the University’s Finance and Strategy Committee on Friday 22 May with recommendations made for consideration by the University’s Council.

The Committee will consider the recommendations and arguments made in the report against the background of existing provision, demand, cost and quality of all the accommodation to be provided by the University.

In view of the need for significant long term investment and additional short term expenditure for its continued use as accommodation beyond June 2015, the Committee will also consider a proposal not to offer Pantycelyn as a student residence from September 2015, and will consider alternative uses for Pantycelyn from September 2015, which would crucially involve activities relevant to Welsh language and culture.

If the proposal not to continue to use the Hall as a student residence beyond the end of term is approved, the University will work with UMCA and student representatives to provide suitable alternative accommodation for September 2015.

In the meantime, the University will be meeting with members of UMCA later today to discuss the proposals.”

The university has also stated that students who have indicated that they wish to stay in Pantycelyn for the 2015/16 academic year will be offered alternative University accommodation if the Halls do close.

Pantycelyn Halls are the Welsh student Halls at Aberystwyth, opening in 1974 after a campaign for it to be established.

The recent concerns over the future of Pantycelyn come after considerable protests last year took place when a decision was made to close the Halls for the start of the 14/15 academic year. The university overturned their decision and the Halls remained open for this year.

A selection of photos from last year’s protests can be found below:

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Aber Student Media will bring you all the updates on this story as they become available.