Education

Goldsmiths University of London shuts down a day earlier because of student occupation

Occupy Goldsmiths students filling the main staircase with banners of Deptford Town Hall- the University's main management building. Image: Occupy Goldsmiths

Occupy Goldsmiths students with banners filling the main staircase of Deptford Town Hall- the University’s main management building. Image: Occupy Goldsmiths

Goldsmiths, University of London has shut down because of the impact of a student occupation protesting against ‘commercialisation’ of education.

In a message to staff Tuesday 31st March Registrar and Secretary Liz Bromley said that the Easter Closure was being brought forward a day earlier because:

‘A number of staff have been shaken and disrupted by student activities today including the use of chains and padlocks on doors and so, for the health and safety of our staff, we have decided to close a little earlier.’

The college closed all its buildings to staff, students and public at 5 pm last night.

The Occupy Goldsmiths group of students responded on their Facebook page by saying they had carried out a ‘flash occupation’ of a corridor of the Richard Hoggart Main building where student services offices are located.

The protesting students said they were opposing restructuring that ‘will affect the counselling and mental health service Goldsmiths offers its students.’

They argue that:

We did not shut down student centre, we purposely chose to keep the student centre free from any disruption, this was a decision taken by management and we condemn them using vulnerable students in this way.
We condemn the early closing of the university, occupiers are simply students who are concerned with the direction the university is going in. We are bewildered as to why management is so afraid of its own students that it can choose to close an entire university down.

However, a number of visitors to their Facebook page have condemned their actions and left comments such as:

‘The small number of students in this ‘occupation’ presuming to speak on the behalf of the rest of us are doing nothing but embarrassing Goldsmiths and screwing us all over with their ignorance. Students have lost valuable resources thanks to this poorly thought out demonstration and months of staff work have been lost. Stop acting like petulant children and let the students and staff get back to work.’

‘On behalf of most music students I would like to say, although we agree with some of your causes for occupation, we are deeply disappointed in your organisation and treatment of Deptford Town Hall (we have witnessed disregard for the grade listed building and for a £100,000+ piano). You say you do not wish to disrupt students, however, we have had interrupted rehearsal schedules, and have had to cancel rehearsals as a result of your actions. As our department is so heavily dependent on the facilities of DTH and the university (i.e. practice rooms, storage rooms, computer tech rooms, and the music tech office) it brings great disappointment and frustration that these facilities (at such a vital point in the year) are no longer available to us. I hope you think about the consequences of your future actions.’

The student occupiers are planning an ‘open party’ to take place in the college’s management centre of Deptford Town Hall on Good Friday.

The decision has been heavily criticized by students who disagree with the action.

One said on the Occupy Goldsmiths Facebook page: ‘How productive for student wants and needs – an open party in a listed building (normally used for classes and administration). Genius.’

Earlier the College had published ‘an open letter’ to the students involved in the Deptford Town Hall occupation.

It hoped that negotiations and the statement would persuade them to ‘leave the premises [..] in the safe knowledge that your demands have been heard and that there is a definite commitment to make progress on those issues not already in hand.’

The letter followed a meeting with the students by two members of senior management, Liz Bromley and Professor Paul Burrows on Monday.

The response of the College in its open letter included the following commitments:

  • We will consult students on their needs in relation to the changes to advice, well being and counselling services as soon as we can.
  • We will invite the Students’ Union to put forward students representing all ‘liberation groups’ for new project boards and working groups.
  • Feedback on proposed programme closures will be considered at our next Senior Management Team meeting after Easter.
  • We will ask the Warden if he would be prepared to have open meetings with students as he does with staff.
  • We will continue to keep you posted on our involvement in national issues through the student pages of the website.

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