When announcing its sudden closure last year the Capuchin Order stated that it was shutting Greyfriars due to a lack of friars and financial problems. In a statement, Brother James Boner said, “We have had to consider the implications of the reduced number of Friars available to be involved in the work of the Hall and also, as with every area of our ministry, future financial obligations.”
But the most recent accounts, which have not been made public, show that the Capuchin Order was taking in more money from Greyfriars than it was spending, making a surplus of around £80,000 in 2005, and £20,000 in 2006.
Hudd said that the Capuchins hadn’t accounted for the 2007 financial year when the decision to close the Hall was made, but that the Order expected to make a loss, and that the figures in the accounts did not take into consideration other costs incurred to the Order, including maintaining student accommodation. “There was a very high level of hidden subsidy,” he said, and adding that “the decision to close was essentially due to dwindling numbers of friars.”
There has also been anger at how the friars revealed the Hall was to close. Last October, they announced their decision to a joint meeting of undergraduates, graduates and fellows. “It’s completely absurd that the fellows should find out at the same time as the undergraduates,” David Cochrane said. “It’s pretty underhand that this was done without the knowledge of the fellows.”
The Hall’s first years had been at Greyfriars for less than a month when it was announced that they would have to leave.
Many students have been left unhappy about having to join Regent’s Park, which is a Baptist institution, having applied to Greyfriars due to its Catholic traditions. Ellaine Gelman, a second-year law student and former JCR President, said, “A lot of people are angry about this, they’re not going to take this lying down.”
Letter from Rupert Abbott, Deputy Director of the Greyfriars Society to the Hall's studentsDear all,I write further to my email of 30 October, to provide an update about the decision to close Greyfriars.After updating you and receiving your messages of support, I wrote to the Capuchin Order and University on behalf of the Greyfriars Society to express the alumni’s dissatisfaction with the way in which the decision to close Greyfriars was made without consultation with Fellows, students or alumni. The Order has stated that it has no obligation to consult. The University has blamed time constraints and a lack of access to alumni lists for its failure to consult (I have rejected these excuses), though states that it was the Order and not the University that made the decision. […] The only way that Greyfriars can continue is if the Order retains its licence, though I understand that their involvement in a new Greyfriars would only need to be minimal.The reason for my lack of correspondence since my last email is that the Order agreed to consider a proposal which is in place to save Greyfriars and secure a wonderful future. This proposal includes significant investment, a relocation to the former site of Greyfriars, and a focus on providing opportunities to the underprivileged. However, in hindsight it seems that the Order’s assurances were a stalling tactic. The Order led the Fellows to believe that the alternative proposal to closure would be considered, and then disregarded these assurances to the extent of denying that they had ever been made.Last weekend, the Order was given an ultimatum, on behalf of students, Fellows and alumni, which gave it until last Tuesday to reverse its decision and provide time for consultation and consideration of alternative proposals to ensure that the decision on Greyfriars’ future is made properly.The Order has agreed (again) to consider the alternative proposal at a meeting of the Difinitory on 10-12 December. The Order’s assurances may of course be another stalling tactic.[…]Students, Fellows and alumni I have spoken to are united in their desire to fight the Order’s decision to close Greyfriars. We have sought the assistance of influential contacts to put pressure on the Order and University. Please note that if the Order fails to reverse its decision, legal action will be brought (in the form of an application for judicial review of the way in which the decision to close was made). The media will then be told of everything that has happened (recently and in the past) and of the wonderful opportunity which has been ignored.I am sure that many of you will be amazed at how the Order has behaved. On this note, I must inform you that there is much opposition to the decision from within the Order itself. One influential member refers to the “scandal”, and another blesses the proposed action outlined above. I understand that one member is considering leaving the Order due to the events of the last few weeks.I must also inform you that the Greyfriars Secretary and law tutor Maggie Faulkner, who has done so much for the students of Greyfriars over the last few years and who helped to organise the wonderful 50th Anniversary Celebrations, has resigned over this matter.[…]Kind regards as ever,
Rupertby David Matthews, Deputy Editor