Letter to GARA protestors occupying Deptford Town Hall – 17 May 2019

Article

The following letter has been emailed to student protestors representing ‘Goldsmiths Anti Racist Action’, following various exchanges of correspondence. Updates on the protest can be read here.


Dear GARA,

Thank you for your note from last Friday, which continued our extensive email correspondence over the last two months. The message helped me and my SMT colleagues to further understand the level of intellectual and emotional care with which you are addressing these matters.

Today, I make a fresh appeal on behalf of everyone at Goldsmiths that you meet with us to continue discussions. There is considerable consensus across campus that this situation has reached a point where we must return to talking in order to start properly addressing race and racial equality at Goldsmiths.

SMT has previously made seven specific offers to meet with you, with no conditions attached to these meetings, alongside an ongoing open invitation. You have repeatedly refused to take up these offers and have responded by stipulating an escalating range of conditions before discussions can begin.

These conditions have evolved over the last few weeks, but now appear to include a demand for a detailed response from SMT to every point made in your 15-page letter of 8 April. Observers could be forgiven for concluding that this is an attempt to further delay meeting with us, rather than a constructive stance to progress your important cause.

We have already provided a detailed and considered response to your initial demands as set out in our two substantive written responses of 19 March and 1 April. To be clear, these responses offered the following commitments:  

  • Investigating a specific report relating to damage to a Students’ Union election poster as a priority, utilising all forms of evidence available including CCTV footage (now completed);
  • Introducing mandatory training for all student-facing staff on issues of diversity and race awareness, from next academic year;
  • Making an immediate recurrent investment of £100,000 in additional specialist mental health and wellbeing staff, to be recruited this academic year;
  • Ensuring appropriate resources to address the findings of Dr Nicola Rollock’s current work on the discrepancy between the outcomes of BAME students compared to their white peers;
  • Expanding Nicola’s brief to embrace a comprehensive audit of the experience of BAME students and staff and our current procedures for tackling racial harassment, to provide an evidence base from which to devise a properly resourced action plan;
  • Working with the Students’ Union to clarify the role of the Hate Crime Reporting Centre on campus and how it operates alongside the College’s disciplinary process/system;
  • Facilitating a proper process of consultation across the College, Lewisham Council and community groups, about how best to respond to concerns around the historic iconography on DTH;
  • Continuing with plans to open up DTH for wider community use by increasing physical accessibility through a ‘lift and bridge link’, as part of the renovation of the College-owned shops on New Cross Road;
  • Extending the Humanitarian Scholarships Scheme, which offers bursaries for MA students from countries which are affected by political and military strife;
  • Conducting an audit of the usage of the multi-faith prayer space throughout the week with a view to finding additional/alternative accommodation if necessary.

You may disagree with and dispute all of the above, and take issue with how we propose to deal with your concerns. But without meeting for talks it is profoundly difficult to understand this, or see how progress of any kind can be made.

To help resolve this impasse we suggest that we should consider entering into mediation. We are contacting a number of organisations with expertise in racial equality and mediation and would welcome any suggestions of additional organisations we could approach. We would suggest that the Students’ Union could help both GARA and the College in appointing a group to undertake this work.

We recognise that you view your continued occupation as proof of your commitment to achieving racial equality at Goldsmiths. Goldsmiths is committed to the values of free speech and the right to lawful protest where it does not impact the rights of others.

However, as we have previously advised, this does not constitute permission to remain within the building. Continued occupation remains a restriction on our ability to offer teaching relating activities and other services to all students.

I have deep respect for your cause, and for your dedication in ensuring progress is made and that the College is held to account on delivery.

Indeed, as I prepare to leave Goldsmiths, I know that I will carry with me the dedication our students have to the issues they most care about.

But surely, it is now time to further demonstrate this commitment by using your energy and experience to move this work onto the next stage by joining with us and the wider College to effect real cultural change at Goldsmiths and beyond.

Yours sincerely,

Patrick Loughrey
Warden
Goldsmiths, University of London