Image may contain: Coat, Clothing, Overcoat, Apparel, Suit, Flame, Fire, Person, Human, Accessory, Accessories, Tie

Opinion: How dare Sheffield Uni’s hypocritcal bosses lecture us on climate change

They take us for fools

The Tab Sheffield editorial

When Sheffield University’s vice-chancellor Koen Lamberts took to the stage at a climate strike in September and became the first nationally to roll out compulsory climate change lectures, he was lauded. Crowds in Sheffield city centre roared as he pronounced: "We want our students to be equipped with the tools that they need to work and live in a sustainable way."

But he took us all for fools. What Lamberts did not tell onlookers was that he and his nine deputies who form Sheffield’s University Executive Board (UEB) are rank, shameless, gas-guzzling hypocrites.

First he splashed out £9,000 on a chauffeur car in his first six months in charge. Then he was handed a mansion for free as the uni funded his excessive use of gas and electricity, despite his £285,000 salary. And today we reveal that one month after his speech, Lamberts jetted in business class from Heathrow to Shanghai and back to give a keynote, his £4,600 ticket fully paid for by the uni, with the UEB collectively splashing out £55,000 – 187 tonnes of CO2 – on flights last year. Another heavy jet-setter was deputy VC Gill Valentine, who preached about an "urgent need to cut emissions" in the university's virtue-signalling 'climate survival plan'.

The denial from the top echelons of this institution is breathtaking. Their claims to be "leading by example", while themselves generating a carbon footprint ten times the national average, are insulting. Their attempts to defend these 24 flights – half of them business class – as essential to being global-facing are laughable. The many students and staff here who are changing their own habits to become more green and producing world-leading research to encourage others to follow, will rightly be angry at how their efforts are being undermined by those at the top.

There’s also a great irony here. Lecturers in Sheffield are set to strike again for 14 days this month over pension changes and casual pay being imposed upon them by the same bosses who are lavishing in high-polluting luxury. It’s not the uni bosses who are impacted by this – it’s us, students. Cancelled classes; exams and dissertations thrown into jeopardy, while we continue to pay thousands for the privilege. And then when we ask for compensation? Rejection and costly legal battles.

And yet what's troubling is the silence from our students’ union. The development officer provided us a comment when we emailed, but all it shows is spinelessness. There was a time when SU officers would stand up to university officials’ greed – now they are hand in glove.

We, students, cannot be expected to change anything until the university bosses start practicing what they preach. Dear Koen Lamberts and co: you go to the lectures, you need them far more than us.