DTH Protest: College Response (3 July 2019)

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This is an archive of the College Response from 3 July 2019 for reference only.

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

Deptford Town Hall (DTH) is currently subject to a sit-in protest by a number of students at Goldsmiths, University of London. They protest under the name Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action (GARA).

The protestors’ concerns relate to issues of racism on campus and BAME student experiences. This page is intended to provide information about this ongoing situation and how Goldsmiths is responding. 

College response to protesters’ themes

Goldsmiths is proud of our diverse student and staff community. College management is committed to learning from student and staff experiences and good practice across the sector and beyond to help develop a genuinely inclusive learning environment, and to ensuring prejudice has no place on our campus.

Goldsmiths is undertaking a significant amount of work related to the themes raised by the protestors. Since the protest began, the College’s Senior Management Team (SMT) has made a range of additional commitments on how the College will accelerate and build on this work.

The College’s initial response of Thursday 14 March can be read here, but in summary:

  • A specific report relating to damage to a Students’ Union election poster was investigated as a priority, utilising all forms of evidence available including CCTV footage;
  • Mandatory training will be introduced for all student-facing staff on issues of diversity and race awareness, from next academic year;
  • An immediate recurrent investment of £100,000 has been made in additional specialist mental health and wellbeing staff, to be recruited this academic year;
  • College management has confirmed it will ensure 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.

A further response to the protestors of Monday 1 April can be read here. In summary, SMT additionally committed to:

  • Drawing on internal experts and external partners to conduct 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 ambitious 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.

In a further detailed response to the protestors of Monday 3 June (SMT Response to GARA 3 June 2019), SMT reiterated a number of the commitments above, responded to various questions from the protestors, and set out areas where they sought further clarification of the protestors’ position.

Following this, during lengthy talks with GARA over 25 and 26 June, SMT built on its previous responses with further commitments (set out in SMT response to GARA 1 July 2019), taking the total amount of investment to address GARA’s demands to more than £500,000 over the next academic year alone. Among the additional commitments, SMT pledged to:

  • Set up a task force to review how incidents of discrimination are reported and handled at Goldsmiths, with the group to meet at least three times a month and to include GARA and Students’ Union representatives;
  • Discuss further proposals for better representation of BAME students at department level, and ensuring such representatives are adequately paid and supported;
  • Commit an additional £20k of funding for Black History events and an additional £20k of funding for events organised through the chaplaincy for faith groups;
  • Identify a larger multi-faith prayer space on campus;
  • Gain a legal opinion on facilitating two Humanitarian Scholarships ring-fenced for Palestinian students.

Making immediate progress

The table below offers an overview of progress so far against some of the commitments made above alongside other demands made by the protestors. This is not an exhaustive list of the work being undertaken, and we will continue to update this table as different initiatives progress.


Progress so far

Review operation of Hate Crime Reporting Centre (signposting and support service)

First review meeting took place on 20 June, with Students’ Union representation. Further meetings scheduled. 

Review into how incidents of discrimination are reported and responded to on campus.

Initial meeting to take place w/c 8 July with Students’ Union and GARA representation.

£100k investment in student wellbeing services during 2018/19, rising to almost £300k in future years

A number of new staff posts approved and recruitment underway

Mandatory training package for student-facing staff on diversity and race awareness

Project plan for consultation and pilot phase of training drawn up, with aim of wider roll-out from end of autumn term 2019. Students’ Union, GARA and trade union representation involved in development of training. Additional staffing resource approved by SMT on 12 June to assist with project management. 

Increasing staffing resource for work to address the BAME attainment gap

Further investment agreed by SMT on 9 April to appoint additional staff members to support this work; and for Dr Nicola Rollock to spend an additional day per week on this work from September.

Facilitating consultation process on architecture of DTH

Lewisham Council contacted for information on process required for changes to listed buildings.

Transparent publication of updated statistics on BAME student lifecycle

2019 update published on 30 April

Insourcing of cleaning services by 1 May

Achieved on 1 May

Continue discussions about future of security provision

Discussions with UNISON have continued, and UNISON has held a separate meeting with their members in the CIS security team (7 May). Council will review options in September 2019, ahead of January 2020 contract end.

Extension of the Humanitarian Scholarships scheme for three years from 2019 entry

Legal advice to be sought on options for ringfencing scholarships for Palestinian students

Completion of investigation into a complaint relating to defacement of Students’ Union election post

Investigation completed and findings communicated to relevant student

Completion of investigation into a complaint relating to reduction of contact hours on a specific programme

Complaint process completed and findings communicated to relevant students on 3 May

Writing to Israeli Embassy to raise case of Hafez Omar

Letter sent from Warden to Embassy on 2 April. No response received to date.

Engaging with the protestors

Following a meeting with representatives of the protestors on the first day of the occupation (Tuesday 12 March), College management offered a prompt response to the protestors’ initial demands.

On Friday 22 March, members of SMT met with sabbatical officers from the Students’ Union and a number of students participating in the protest, sharing a constructive discussion around the issues raised.

A further detailed response - SMT response to GARA - was issued on Monday 1 April, making a wide range of commitments. The protestors issued a response to this on Monday 8 April, indicating they were not willing to negotiate on any aspect of their demands.

Following that correspondence, despite numerous requests from SMT, the protestors refused to resume discussions with College management in order to establish a clear action plan for addressing their concerns.

In order to try and resolve the impasse, SMT wrote a further detailed response to GARA’s letter of 7 April, and sent this to the protestors on 3 June. This was accompanied by options for three different specialist mediation organisations who could help facilitate further discussions.

While they declined the option of mediation, GARA did agree to meet with SMT, and they proposed an external chair and agenda for such a meeting. SMT agreed to these, and ten hours of talks took place over two days (25 and 26 June). Reflecting upon the protestors’ representations, SMT made a number of further commitments seeking to address their demands, particularly those that most directly speak to the learning experience of BAME students at Goldsmiths. SMT also made clear where it would not be able or willing to go any further towards meeting specific demands.

SMT sent written confirmation of their additional commitments to GARA on 1 July. It is hoped that in light of this final offer – which reflects agreement to the majority of GARA’s original demands – GARA will feel able to draw the occupation to a conclusion and enable the building to be returned to use by the whole College community.

Timeline of protest

After the protest began on the afternoon of Tuesday 12 March the College sought to continue using the building as usual. Members of SMT met with student representatives that evening to understand the purpose of the protest and the reasons for the occupation. 

On Wednesday 13 March, teaching was able to continue as usual. However, during Thursday 14 March, protestors began interrupting teaching sessions. As a result of this the Senior Management Team decided to temporarily close DTH and relocate or reschedule academic activities due to take place in the building.

During the temporary closure early in the protest (14-18 March), protestors were free to leave at any time and the College consulted with London Fire Brigade who were content with our evacuation arrangements.

The building reopened on Monday 18 March, with protestors free to come and go between 9am – 7pm. The College has ensured access during these hours since then, including during the Easter vacation when the building would usually have been closed completely.

Food and non-alcoholic drink have been allowed in via the front door of DTH throughout the protest.

Page last updated: 3 July 2019

For full transparency, a previous iteration of this page can be found here: 17 April 2019