DTH Protest: College Response

Article

Deptford Town Hall (DTH) is currently subject to a sit-in protest by a number of students at Goldsmiths, University of London.

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;
  • 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.

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 seek further clarification of the protestors’ position. SMT also offered three different mediators for the protestors to review, in order to help take forward face-to-face talks.

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.

Commitment/activity

Progress so far

Review operation of current hate crime reporting processes and how they relate to internal complaint procedures

First review meeting scheduled for w/c 27 May, Students’ Union representatives invited to participate

£100k investment in student wellbeing services

A number of new staff posts approved for immediate recruitment, and will be advertised by the beginning of June

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

Meetings held with HR to scope project. Unable to include perspectives from the protestors at this stage due to their lack of willingness to discuss with SMT.

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 by end of 2019, ahead of January 2020 contract end.

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

No progress due to lack of agreement from protestors

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.

Since then, despite numerous requests from SMT, the protestors have refused to engage in sustained discussions with College management in order to establish a clear action plan for addressing their concerns.

In light of the commitments undertaken by the College and the progress towards the protestors’ aims since their occupation began, SMT does not believe that continuing extensive written correspondence with the protestors is a constructive way forward.

However, 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.

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 June 2019

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