The following letter has been delivered to protestors who have been staging a protest in Deptford Town Hall since the evening of Tuesday 12 March. The letter seeks to meet, and in many places exceed, the demands of the protestors as we understand them. College management is seeking to resolve this matter as quickly as possible, for the benefit of all users of Deptford Town Hall.
2.30pm, Thursday 14 March 2019
Goldsmiths’ Senior Management Team (SMT) is clearly aware of your ongoing protest in the Council Chamber and following discussions I am responding on their behalf.
Three SMT members (myself, David Oswell, Pro-Warden of Research and Enterprise, and Ian Pleace, Director of Finance) met with three students (two Students’ Union sabbatical officers and another student) on the evening of Tuesday 12 March, within a few hours of your protest beginning. These three students identified as part of the protest group and indicated they were relaying your demands.
We set out below the concerns as we understand them, and the action SMT commits to undertake. We should stress that many of these issues and actions were already under active consideration by SMT.
1. Responses to reports of hate crimes
With around 40% of our students identifying as black, Asian or ethnic minority, Goldsmiths is proud of our diverse and inclusive community, and prejudice of any kind has no place on our campus.
Any reports of racism or any other discriminatory behaviour are triaged rapidly and, where appropriate, referred to the police. We also actively encourage any victim of such crime to report incidents directly to the police.
Our joint role with the Students’ Union as a third party hate crime reporting centre requires certain protocols to be followed, and we acknowledge the need for greater clarity in how the College itself will respond in parallel to such reports. We commit to working with the Students’ Union on a review of the operation of our hate crime reporting processes to establish clearer protocols that avoid prejudicing potential legal proceedings.
The specific incident relating to comments added to a Students’ Union election poster was responded to formally within five working days and is being formally investigated. In the past two days, we have ensured that the student reporter has been supported and a face-to-face meeting has taken place to explain next steps. You will understand that we cannot comment further on a specific case.
2. Resources for student support services
SMT today announces significant new investment in student support services, with £100,000 to be spent between now and August on additional specialist mental health and wellbeing staff. This will include the introduction of daytime Campus Support Officer cover over the weekends, and additional faith advisor support, before the end of this academic year.
We will discuss further investment in student-facing support staff ahead of the next academic year: the detail of this will be consulted on with the Students’ Union.
3. Staff training on race awareness
We acknowledge the value of developing a mandatory training package for all student-facing staff on issues of diversity and race awareness, and how they can assist with addressing the BAME student retention and attainment gap.
We will be pleased to work with the Students’ Union and staff unions on the syllabus and best approach to delivering such training to both students and staff. SMT believes that such training should be a mandatory requirement for all academic and administrative student-facing staff.
We would hope to start rolling out such training from the start of the next academic year (September 2019).
To support this and enable an evidence-based approach to addressing historic disadvantage, we further commit to publishing a statistical update on the retention and progression of BAME students at Goldsmiths by the end of this month (March 2019). To our knowledge, Goldsmiths was the first institution in the country to publicly make available such a suite of data to encourage discussion and initiative change, when we released data in January 2018. We are underlining this commitment with today’s pledge to publish an update within the next two weeks.
4. Staffing resource for addressing the BAME attainment gap
The appointment last month (February 2019) of internationally-recognised expert Dr Nicola Rollock as Goldsmiths’ academic lead on College-wide efforts to systematically address discrepancies in the experience and outcomes of BAME students compared to their white peers was a major step forward in this area of work.
Dr Rollock has an extensive background in addressing and responding to BAME experiences in education and the workplace, including membership of the Wellcome Trust’s Diversity & Inclusion Steering Group, and is the lead author of The Colour of Class: the educational strategies of the Black middle class.
We acknowledge that the scope of the role is wide, and the challenges are complex. While Goldsmiths can never tackle societal issues alone, we know there is much we can do to address issues raised by student representatives and other feedback mechanisms in this area.
Dr Rollock is currently drawing up recommendations for a first phase of work focusing on BAME student retention and progression.
We acknowledge that this work is only one of the building blocks to secure a meaningful cultural shift across the institution.
We know that there will be resource implications to help deliver this wider work and SMT commits to consulting with the Students’ Union over the coming months.
5. Terms and conditions of cleaning and security staff
As you know, cleaning staff will brought in house on parallel terms and conditions to regular Goldsmiths staff from 1 May 2019.
Goldsmiths management are in discussions with UNISON, our recognised union for in-house support staff, about the future of security provision. As with all services, we will review options as we approach the end of the current contract, which ends in January 2020.
CIS staff receive statutory sick pay, statutory holiday pay, statutory maternity and paternity leave, and a workplace pension.
All security staff currently working at Goldsmiths are paid the London Living Wage.
It is untrue that security staff are barred from Goldsmiths canteens, car parks or use of the Library. We have a very clear open-campus policy to ensure College facilities are available for all. If there are any contemporary examples where any security or other staff are given a contrary impression, SMT would urge that this is reported to us in order that it can be addressed immediately.
Goldsmiths is committed to the values of free speech and the right to protest where it does not impact the rights of others. At present, the behaviour of protestors in Deptford Town Hall is impacting on the learning environment of other students and endangering the safety of security staff. We will write separately addressing these points.
We are hopeful that the comprehensive response set out above – that in places exceeds what we understand to be your demands – will lead to a resolution of the current situation so that your fellow students can resume classes in the building.
We therefore expect you to vacate Deptford Town Hall immediately.
We will be publishing this letter in due course to demonstrate the actions Goldsmiths is taking in this area and how we have responded rapidly to your concerns.
Registrar & Secretary