Goldsmiths University students occupy departments to fight faculty cuts and protest for Palestine

Goldsmiths University is experiencing an unprecedented event of two separate student occupations on its campus.

Two separate student protest bodies, Students Against the Transformation Programme (SATP) and Goldsmiths for Palestine (G4P), have occupied Deptford Town Hall and the Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), respectively, fighting against faculty cuts and protesting in support of Palestine.

The occupation of Deptford Town Hall in the New Cross based university was launched on June 3, in response to Goldsmiths plans to cut 132 jobs – 17 per cent of the 769 academic roles at the university.

The redundancies affect staff across 11 departments including English and creative writing, history, music, politics and international relations and theatre and performance. 

Goldsmiths staff picket line outside the University earlier this year (Picture: Goldsmiths UCU)

The redundancies sparked industrial action led by members of the University and College Union (UCU) who began a boycott on marking duties on April 19.

The university said the cuts – which have now been approved after consultation – are part of a broader ​​“transformation plan” to save £20million due to a financial shortfall from falling student numbers.

A spokesman from the university said: “The actions we are taking are in response to the unprecedented challenges that Goldsmiths and other universities are facing from a funding system that is no longer fit for purpose and are part of a wider plan to ensure Goldsmiths continues to be a beacon for radical research and innovative teaching as well as an entry point for students.”

But, a spokesman for SATP said students feel “scammed” as they chose, paid for, and signed contracts for degrees which will look “fundamentally different” come the new academic year or will cease to exist. 

The spokesman said: “Whole programmes are likely to be cut with those focussed on queer, black, and environmental theory likely to be first in line. 

“The staff that are lucky enough to hold onto their jobs face a huge increase to their already busy workload. This is under the illusion of false financial necessity but is purely ideological.”

Portesters hang a banner which reads “Goldsmiths you have blood on your hands” in the CCA (Picture: G4P)

Since the planned redundancies were announced, Goldsmiths students have written more than 14 open letters, with more than 5,000 signatures in total, including the likes of Steve McQueen, Silvia Federici and Ali Smith.

Meanwhile, in the Goldsmiths CCA, students have entered their 16th day of occupation.

Around 30 student members of G4P occupied the CCA building on May 29. SATP have confirmed they “stand in solidarity” with the G4P occupation.

A gallery in the CCA is named after Zak and Candida Gertler, who funded the building. Mrs Gertler received an honorary fellowship from Goldsmiths in 2023. 

The couple are friends of  Israeli prime minister Benjamin  Netanyahu, having hosted his 70th birthday party at their home in Tel Aviv, and have funded part of his political campaign, according to G4P.

The occupied CCA adorned with Palestine flagss and banners which read “CCA occupied” (Picture: G4P)

The student occupiers are calling for the CCA to cut all ties with the Gertlers. 

This follows an occupation of the Professor Stewart Hall Building in March – which lasted 37 days – after Goldsmiths imposed protest guidelines following walkouts for Palestine in December. 

On Saturday, Gaza’s ministry of health said at least 37,084 people have been killed in Israeli attacks since October 7.  The revised death toll in Israel from Hamas’s October 7 attacks stands at around 1,200 with some 116 of people still held captive.

A spokesman from Goldsmiths said: “We strongly refute that Goldsmiths has any complicity in events in Gaza. Throughout the conflict we have made it our priority to ensure that all students and staff are safe and supported, recognising that there is a range of strongly held views among our community over this issue.  

“We are making progress on the commitments which were agreed with the group, such as increasing scholarships for Palestinian students and developing an institution-wide strategy for delivering meaningful support in the region. We are extremely disappointed to see a further occupation on our campus.  

“We have formally told the organisers that they do not have permission to be in the building and they must leave immediately. If they do not, we are prepared to consider appropriate legal steps and disciplinary action under our student conduct regulations. 

“Their presence means that the gallery is unable to insure works of art and meet health and safety guidance for visitors and cannot operate normally. The gallery is a very special place providing a cultural space for students, staff and our local community through a dedicated outreach programme.” 

Pictured top: G4P members gather outside Goldsmiths University (Picture: G4P)

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