Open letter to Goldsmiths students and staff from the Acting Warden

DTH occupation ends following agreement, 29 July 2019

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Dear students and staff,

I am writing to let you know that the student occupation of Deptford Town Hall was brought to a mutually-agreed end over the weekend.

The welcome move came after Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action (GARA) and the Senior Management Team (SMT) agreed an extensive Statement of commitments made to GARA (PDF) to address racial justice at the College.

This includes committing an additional £500,000 over the next year alone to support this work, with actions including reviewing how reports of racism are handled and providing race equality training for all staff.

I would urge you all to read and absorb the commitments held in this document. This is because they speak to all of us at Goldsmiths and illustrate our shared responsibility to address racial justice. It is vital that we all take on the labour of this work.

With the occupation now over, it would be helpful to briefly note how we arrived at the agreement.

While GARA and SMT have been in extensive dialogue during the occupation, including more than 10 hours of talks, the agreement was reached late on Friday evening following a final round of discussion.

During this discussion GARA signalled their willingness to drop some of their longstanding demands, which had been the remaining sticking points, while SMT agreed to further ways of ensuring that GARA can hold the College to account on progress towards improving the experience of BAME students on campus.

GARA then agreed to leave Deptford Town Hall – a move which ensured SMT would not have to conclude the proportionate legal steps it had begun in order to regain possession of the building ahead of the new academic year.

There is of course great relief that we did not have to take this path and I am pleased that we were ultimately able to reach a compromise forged in the spirit of Goldsmiths. At a time when societal divisions are widening all the time, I also hope this conclusion shows the value of us working together for the good of the College.

In practical terms, DTH is currently closed so that it can be made ready for the new academic year.

There is no doubt that the last four months have been a challenging time on campus. For those students and staff whose study or work was displaced by the occupation, I would like to thank you all for your understanding.

I would also like to acknowledge the passion and commitment of GARA. While SMT cannot condone some of their means of protest, they have provided us with a wake-up call to take action by sharing their experience and insight.

We must also accept the deep frustration these students felt, to the point where direct action became the only way they felt their voices would be heard. For an institution with the values of Goldsmiths, this was not acceptable. We are listening and responding now.

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.

With best wishes,

Professor Elisabeth Hill
Acting Warden