Glasgow University is to rename buildings on its campus after women and people from ethnic minorities after campaigners complained they only honoured “dead white men”.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has given her support to the controversial move and could even find herself celebrated at her alma mater.
The move means buildings that are dedicated to legendary innovators such as James Watt and Adam Smith could be renamed in favour of women’s rights activists and black academics.
The changes have been championed by the University’s Student Representative Council (SRC), which claims the existing building names reinforce sexism and inequality.
However, the switch has sparked a campus backlash, with other undergraduates branding it offensive, patronising and unnecessarily politically correct.
The SNP leader has called on other seats of learning to follow Glasgow’s lead.
Ms Sturgeon, who graduated from the university with a law degree in 1993, described the initiative as “hugely important”, adding: “Women have done great things and fantastic things, but you struggle to find the evidence of that. If the university’s looking to do that, that’s fantastic and I hope others would follow her example.”
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The university, which was founded in 1451, has a host of buildings on its campus which are named after distinguished male academics and benefactors.
They include the Adam Smith Building, named for the father of modern economics; the James Watt North and South buildings, in honour of the steam industrial revolution pioneer; and the Pearce Lodge, named after the shipbuilder and philanthropist Sir William Pearce. As Scotland’s first female First Minister, the Nationalist leader could find herself being officially recognised by her old university as part of the drive.
The SRC confirmed that campus officials had accepted their proposals.
A spokesman said: “Following successful lobbying from the SRC, the university has agreed to begin naming and renaming buildings on campus to reflect the diversity of the university community.”
The initiative is the idea of activist Liam King, who feels that campus buildings are disproportionately named after men – a situation he describes as “Patriarchitecture”.
The SRC vice president issued a statement saying: “Currently only one building on campus is named after a woman; the Queen Margaret Union. This is despite the enormous contribution that female and other alumni from marginalised groups have made to the university.
“The SRC raised this with the Principal and other senior managers before bringing the policy to the university’s equality and diversity committee and estates committee.
“The policy was unanimously adopted and will form a central part of the campus redevelopment.”
However, the decision has generated a backlash from some students who have taken to social media to express their disapproval.
One wrote on the SRC website: “Is that what we are focusing on now? Naming and renaming of buildings. All it does is to add to admin costs. It is time that the SRC does what it is meant to do and focus on student welfare and fight against excessive accommodation charges.(This) is ridiculous.”
Graduate Allan Matthews wrote on Facebook: “The honour should go to the most deserving, not just because they fit a model of ‘diversity’. What a waste of time and a huge offence to those the buildings were named for.”
A university spokesman confirmed they had agreed to adopt the SRC’s proposal, but said it was too early to comment on which names might be considered.
Individuals who have been put forward by the SRC for inclusion include female education campaigners Jessie Campbell and Janet Galloway, and Andrew Watson, the first black Scottish football internationalist, who studied mathematics and engineering at the University in the late 19th century.