Students Union criticises university management over Evolving Goldsmiths plan

Beth Lowe, left, said senior management treated the SU like children Pic: Beth Lowe

A Goldsmiths Student Union sabbatical officer has accused the university of treating the SU like “stupid annoying children that are getting in the way of their proper adult work” in a row over how a scheme to claw back a £10m deficit was announced.

According to Campaigns and Activities Officer Beth Lowe, the SU was only informed about Evolving Goldsmiths – the university’s name for its plan to make up the funding shortfall through cuts and voluntary redundancies – two hours prior to the official announcement on January 28.

Official documents released then described Evolving Goldsmiths as “an evolution not a revolution” and added: “our current students are demanding it”.

But Lowe said the SU did not feel as though their views were included at all. She said: “It’s performative. They’ll have meetings with us, they’ll sit with us, but they won’t actually listen to what we say.”

In its announcement, the university said it was pursuing “a series of significant cost reduction exercises” over the next 12-18 months. This includes a voluntary redundancy scheme for all staff and cuts of 15 per cent across academic and professional services.

In documents published about the programme, the university said the changes were needed to secure a lasting legacy for Goldsmiths and described the plan as a “historical opportunity”.

It went on: “Evolving Goldsmiths is our commitment to securing a bright future and a lasting legacy so that a renewed College exists to build on our heritage of social change.”

As part of the programme, Club Pulse, the campus gym, is also set to close and Lowe says the SU were not told about this.

According to Lowe, the space where the gym is will likely be used to expand the law department or create more design rooms. 

Lowe said: “A lot of this is like a cloak like they are wanting to mask stuff that’s going on under the surface that they’re masking really slyly.”

Lowe believes the warden Frances Corner and other higher management will attend meetings with the SU, but they won’t listen to what they say. 

She said: “We’ve tried to bring stuff up with Frances in meetings that we’ve had with her and she’s been like, this isn’t the space for me to answer that question and it’s like where is the space then. Where is the space?”

Lowe claimed the deficit was caused by bad financial decisions. She said: “They’ve made drastic financial mistakes over the last few years and they are just brushing them under the rug and acting like this £10m deficit has come from students not coming to… Goldsmiths anymore. But that’s not true. You don’t get £10m debt from a lack of students you get £10m debt through messing up your finances.

In the announcement the university appeared to attribute some of the £10m shortfall to declining student numbers, a situation which it said has “serious implications for our mission and finances”.

Lowe also expressed concern that while cuts were being rolled out, Corner was creating two new executive-level posts.

In the announcement the university laid out these roles, saying: “The new structure will set three Executive Dean positions replace the existing Pro-Warden roles, two Deputy Wardens rather than the current one, and a Dean of Students who will be responsible for moving forward improvements in student support.”

A spokesperson for Goldsmiths, University of London said: “Providing an excellent student experience is the purpose of Evolving Goldsmiths so the views of all of our students are incredibly important. We are developing meaningful opportunities to ensure students are at the heart of the programme. 

“This follows a range of initial engagement with colleagues and stakeholders including student and staff unions during the last month.”

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