GARA protest in Deptford Town Hall: College response (July 2019)

A comprehensive action plan will help address the BME degree attainment gap and wider racial justice issues highlighted by a recent student protest at Goldsmiths.

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This is an archive of the College response last updated in November 2019 for reference only.

See the commitments to Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action and updates on work done.

Partly in response to the student campaign, Goldsmiths is committing an additional £500,000 over the next year alone to support this work. The College’s management team has published a Statement of commitments made to GARA (PDF) on how the College will accelerate and build on its work in this area, including:

  • Developing mandatory training for all student-facing staff on race awareness, to be rolled out during the next academic year;
  • Additional staffing to support Dr Nicola Rollock’s work on addressing the degree attainment gap and her wider audit of the experience of BME students and staff;
  • A number of new staff roles across areas including student wellbeing and counselling, project support, and chaplaincy services;
  • A review of current procedures for tackling racism and other forms of discrimination and harassment, and the operation of our Hate Crime Reporting Centre;
  • Discussing further proposals for better representation of BME students at department level, and ensuring such representatives are adequately supported;
  • Committing an additional £20k of funding for Black History events and an additional £20k of funding for events organised through the chaplaincy for faith groups;
  • Identifying a larger multi-faith prayer space on campus;
  • Reinstating two scholarships for residents of Palestine who intend to return to help fellow Palestinians after their studies.

Colleagues and student groups from across Goldsmiths will be engaged with this work, including members of the student protest group Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action (GARA). This group occupied Deptford Town Hall on New Cross Road for four months from mid-March 2019.

This direct action was brought to a close on Friday 26 July 2019 after the College and the campaigners established a mutually-agreed Statement of commitments made to GARA (PDF).

Following the agreement, on 29 July 2019 Acting Warden Professor Elisabeth Hill wrote an open letter to all students and staff emphasising the collective effort required to address the issues raised by the campaigners.

Professor Hill wrote: “While the occupation has been brought to a close, GARA has stated clearly that its campaign will continue and I again stress the need for each and every one of us to reflect on how we can contribute to the collaborative work to tackle racial justice.”

Updates on commitments

Progress continues to be achieved on a number of the commitments made to Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action (GARA) in summer 2019.

The College worked with GARA to agree and publish a statement on institutional racism. This was shared directly with all students and staff in an email from the Warden and publicly via the College’s social media channels.

A refreshed multi-faith prayer space has been opened, increasing this provision by more than 650 sq ft.

Senior colleagues have attended race equality training provided by AdvanceHE, to ensure that College leadership is equipped to address these issues. More sessions are booked before the end of 2019 and in early 2020 with further work being undertaken to address all-staff training in the New Year.

The College has made it easier for community groups to use our estate, with a focus on Deptford Town Hall through a new online booking form.

Representatives from Historic England visited campus to discuss appropriate responses to historic statuary on Deptford Town Hall, with members of GARA and Goldsmiths Students’ Union part of this discussion. Information about this statuary is also to be included in the next iteration of the prospectus.

Humanitarian Scholarships are now open for application and are being publicised through College channels.

The College has successfully recruited extra resource to support the experiences of our students, with new colleagues joining in Student Support Services and a researcher to work alongside Dr Nicola Rollock.

A number of commitments to GARA as set out in the College’s agreement on 27 July have been met, with work ongoing across College to support all of the pledges.

As agreed, a “drop-in” service at Deptford Town Hall has been set up to support community access to the building including a dedicated Community Booking Enquiry form which is available at the building’s front desk.

In addition to this, plaques detailing the history of the statuary on Deptford Town Hall have been installed outside the building as an agreed temporary measure ahead of the appointment of an academic to lead further research and community consultation. The information from the plaques is also online.

Representatives from Historic England are also visiting campus later this month to discuss appropriate responses to historical statues, particularly in relation to listed buildings like Deptford Town Hall.

Further progress of note includes the decision to insource security provision, with this process already underway, Humanitarian Scholarships opening for applications this month and two new Wellbeing Advisors joining College by the end of this month.

Read a further archived, more detailed page about the protest and the College’s response.