‘You are killing the soul of Goldsmiths’ – angry students confront senior managers

A student speaks in front of Goldsmiths Warden Frances Corner (standing, first from left), Chair of Council Dinah Caine (standing, second from left) and members of the Council and Academic Board. Pic: Goldsmiths Community Solidarity

A group of angry students disrupted a meeting of senior managers from Goldsmiths, University of London, in protest against a financial restructuring of the Lewisham institution.

More than 15 students stormed the room at the Senate House Library building in Bloomsbury where about 40 members of the Academic Board and Council, the top decision-making body of the university, were having their first in-person meeting since 2020. 

Senate House Library belongs to the University of London of which Goldsmiths is a constituent member.

The protesters from the student-lead activist group, Goldsmiths Community Solidarity, stormed the meeting room at around 1.40 pm on February 16, chanting “no ifs! no buts! no education cuts!”.

The moment the student-led activist group passed through the meeting room’s doors. Pic: Goldsmiths Community Solidarity 

A student then appealed to the people at the meeting, including the Warden Frances Corner, for the reversal of the university’s financial restructuring that is putting about 50 jobs at risk. 

“We are here today as students of Goldsmiths, University of London, and we are calling on all Council members to rethink this catastrophic re-structure which threatens to put the future of the university in serious jeopardy. You have disrupted our education and our livelihoods, and so we have no choice but to disrupt your meeting,” the student said.  

The activists’ spokesperson delivers the speech. Pic: Goldsmiths Community Solidarity

A video shows the attendees of the meeting sitting at several round tables while Corner stood observing the scene while the student, who represented the group, continued: “To you, 48 might seem like just a number, a depersonalised unit you use in your financial calculations…

“These are real people, real people who have dedicated their careers, more importantly, their lives, to the institution and to education as a whole.

“They’re terrified. Terrified they won’t be able to find another job if they lose this one. Terrified they will lose their homes. Terrified of not being able to pay their mortgages. Terrified of not being able to put food on the table for their children.” 

The activists also asked for two students and two University and College Union representatives to attend the remainder of the meeting and work with senior managers to find an alternative answer to the university’s debt. 

As the request was partially declined, at around 2pm, the meeting attendees left the room, bringing an end to the meeting, while the protesters followed them outside onto the street. 

The activists’ organisation announced the action on Twitter:

A spokesperson for Goldsmiths, University of London, told ELL:

“We recognise this is a difficult time for our community as Goldsmiths has to make some tough choices in the face of a ‘perfect storm’ of financial challenges including an underlying deficit, impacts from Covid-19, government funding cuts, and a fall in student numbers in some subjects.” 

At the core of a budget that aims to dramatically increase the institution’s savings, is the review of expenditures for several courses and academic programmes which could end in their termination and in mass redundancies.

The university also said: “The reality is that Goldsmiths needs to save £9m in ongoing spending by 2023 to put the College back on a sustainable financial footing. As no one has been able to suggest viable alternative proposals which would deliver these savings, a number of staff remain at risk of redundancy. We will continue to support and advise those affected and work to minimise the number of redundancies across the College.”  

Meanwhile, Goldsmiths Community Solidarity said the group would continue to fight the cuts and redundancy plans “at every turn”. 

Protesters in Senate House Library. Pic: Goldsmiths Community Solidarity

“Management are pushing through destructive cuts that are financially illiterate and morally bankrupt. Instead of making 48 staff redundant, management should be cutting their obscene six-figure salaries,” the group said.

“It is especially sickening that the management is closing down the Black British History and Queer History MA courses, the first in the world in each discipline”. 

Goldsmiths has already said in its Academic Portfolio Review that while the proposal did not include the immediate closure of such courses, the Department of English and Creative Writing and the Department of History did not meet their saving targets, and a number of academics will run the risk of being made redundant. 

Goldsmiths Community Solidarity’s move is the latest effort by the group which is currently supporting a three-week industrial action by academic and administrative staff at Goldsmiths. 

The strike, organised by Goldsmiths University and College Union, aims to stop the redundancies planned by the institution’s senior managers. 

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