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Graduates bought stranded students’ festive food packs

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

Only Hillhead Xmas lunch was funded by University

By: Jake Roslin

"Serving Christmas Dinner" by biberfan is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

It has been revealed that it was generous graduates of UoA, not the University itself, who paid for holiday food hampers, which were presented on 22 December to students staying in halls over the winter break.

An appeal on social media by the University of Aberdeen Development Trust was answered by 17 alumni, who donated money to fund five ready meals for each grounded student, intended as Christmas Eve dinner until tea on Boxing Day. These included festive perennials such as turkey, salmon and mince pies, and a cracker. Only students who signed up by 8 December, via an AUSA social media campaign, were eligible for the free gift.

The altruistic alumni each wrote a message to be included in the relevant hampers. Though these were anonymised to the donor’s initials, they showed the givers completed their studies between as far back as 1961 to as recently as 2018, and in a range of disciplines.

The University itself paid only for the sit-down Hillhead Christmas lunch, also held on 22 December, leading to some consternation among students that a charity operating independently of the institution itself had to step in to provide a semblance of a traditional winter feast to beached residents. In a semester which has seen UoA under fire multiple times for its financial priorities and matters relating to the coronavirus, it has been suggested it should have used its own coffers instead.

Aberdeen Student Tenant’s Union were unhappy with the food box arrangement: ‘At Christmas time when there are so many good causes looking for charitable support, Aberdeen University has decided to put the responsibility of protecting their students’ welfare onto alumni,’ their spokesperson told us.

It has also been left to the Development Trust to reach out to graduates of the University to subsidise ‘digital copies and licenses’ of academic material increasingly needed by students due to the ongoing pandemic, via an ongoing Digital Library Resource Appeal. The Trust’s website encourages visitors to make donations of £20, £50 or £100.

Message card from a donating alumnus - Courtesy of UoA

‘The free food hampers are being given to students during their free Christmas lunch,’ a UoA spokesperson told The Gaudie, ‘and are a new additional gift to try to bring some festive cheer to those in halls over the winter break. The University of Aberdeen Development Trust – a separate charitable organisation – organised the hampers.’

Meanwhile, various online festive activities including “Bake-Off”s and an “Among Us” game party have been organised by the student’s association, which will continue to function over the vacation, for what is thought the first time ever. A 24/7 support helpline for students will also operate through the academic closure.

In a story broken by The Gaudie in October, campus bosses were revealed as having attempted to charge students quarantined in Wavell House £75 for a week’s groceries, before an outcry led to the boxes being provided free. The University were subsequently criticised in mainstream media for both overpricing the food and boasting of their generosity on social media after the silent U-turn. It also emerged that former Principal turned UK National Statistician Sir Ian Diamond, was not to be pursued for failing to return £119,000 overpaid to him (part of a £601,000 payment he received from the University in his final year as Principal), with students and commentators critical that campus chiefs were happy to write off such a sum.

With new Covid-19 lockdown rules and sweeping travel restrictions announced on 19 December, it is believed many additional students will now be unexpectedly spending Christmas in halls, without having applied for a festive hamper.


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