Sunday, December 12, 2010

Goldsmiths Occupation Comes to an End

The occupation of the library at Goldsmiths College in New Cross has come to an end as of midnight last night. The occupation started last Monday, one of many across the country. They issued the following statement at the start of the occupation:


We have occupied the university library in opposition to the increase in university fees and cuts in education as a whole. We act in solidarity with all those facing cuts across the social sphere.

We stand against the proposed change in fees structure and the cuts to teaching subsidy across education in the UK – which will include a 100 percent cut to funding for teaching in arts, humanities and social sciences. The proposed changes in Higher Education represent a historically unprecedented attack on society.

We have taken over Goldsmiths’ Library, the most publicly visible and accessible physical space in the College. We are opening it as a centre for organisation, available 24 hours a day to students and all those on the receiving end of the government’s assault in the Lewisham community. We offer our support to recipients of the EMA grant, benefits and services, all of which are being attacked by local and national government. We support library staff at Goldsmiths and public libraries across Lewisham.

Until our demands are met, there will be no business as usual at the College.

We act to support and intensify the efforts of all those involved in the nationwide wave of occupations.

We demand that Goldsmiths’ management:

• Immediately make a public statement opposing fees and the vote for their increase due in Parliament on 9th December. We refuse all current and further cuts at Goldsmiths.
• Implement no further cuts to departments and budgets at Goldsmiths, nor any further redundancies.
• Steps forward to defend all those from Goldsmiths arrested or in other ways victimised during the current struggles against the cuts. We condemn the police’s violent and heavy-handed tactics used against students, staff and their supporters.
• Do not penalise library staff in any way, nor dock their pay during the occupation.
• Ceases its campaign of cuts against the Goldsmiths Nursery.
• Retract their threat to charge Goldsmiths’ Student Union £15,000 in response to the occupation of Deptford Town Hall. This occupation, like that one, is independent of the Student Union.
• Do not take any disciplinary actions whatsoever against those involved in this occupation.

The library remained open during the occupation, although without staff on the first day as the occupation orginally decided not to have staff working in the building - a policy changed following a lengthy debate at a meeting on the Tuesday night.

When I went along along on Tuesday, it was a busy space with various meetings and activities going on on the ground floor. A group of students were doing life drawing of a couple of men in their underwear, while another group were getting some practical training on resisting being kettled by the police. A delegation from Lewisham Anti Cuts Alliance came down, and news was exchanged on local campaigns, including Council cuts and the proposal to turn Tidemill school in Deptford into an Academy. Some practical things came out of the discussion, including a local teacher advising the occupation's 'outreach working group' the best time and places to leaflet local schools, which they were planning to do in relation to the demonstration on Thursday. Later on there was music and poetry from Excentral Tempest and others.

With most occupiers going on the demonstration, Goldsmiths management retook control of the library that day. On Friday, Management announced that they would be closing the library for the weekend, and so the library was partially reoccupied on Friday evening. The occupiers argued that 'Management’s unnecessary decision to close the College Library until Monday for stock-checking and cleaning is an attempt to punish students for protesting against their policies'.

Yesterday afternoon I gave a talk on New Cross radical history as part of an occupation teach-in. The atmosphere felt very different from earlier in the week, with the occupation confined to the reception area of the ground floor only - the rest of the building, including the upper floors where the books are kept, being locked. By the end of the afternoon Goldsmiths management had agreed that they would re-open the library today (Sunday), and in return it was agreed to end the occupation. They say: 'This is a victory for the occupation, which did not accept the SMT’s reasons for closing the library building to students for the entire weekend. As such we will withdraw from the library building... We will continue to struggle with students and academic staff against the withdrawal of educational goods in general and against fees and cuts in Higher Education in particular. The movement continues to grow'.

As well as welcoming the determination of the Goldsmiths students and staff opposing cuts, it was also great as a bibliophile local resident to have a look around the library - I even managed to do a bit of research. I have been living nearby for almost 15 years and had never set foot in it before. A point well made in the following film is that the public library in New Cross is tiny and under threat of closure.

More details at:

See also the report at 853: 853 also has an interview with students taking part in a 24 hour work-in this week at the new Greenwich peninsula campus of Ravensbourne College - with a rather fine 'Rave Against the Machine' banner outside.

1 comment:

henafr said...

Just to mention that anyone can use the library for reference purposes, in principle. A day ticket is easy to get; for an annual card you had to explain a bit more why you needed it - they've tightened up a little recently I think. But it is a very good library - especially, of course, for art, cultural theory, politics & philosophy - theory, eh! I can only encourage people to use it, as I do. Terms here:

PS. Thanks, TP, for a very interesting blog!