Anti-racism campaigners have ended a long-running occupation on a university campus in London, saying the institution has met their demands.
The activists took control of Deptford town hall on the campus of Goldsmiths, University of London in March and demanded a series of measures be taken. Relations between the two sides became severely strained as the university sought and won a high court order against the occupation.
In an open letter to students and staff on Monday, the acting warden, Prof Elisabeth Hill, acknowledged the “passion and commitment” the activists had shown. “While [university management] cannot condone some of their means of protest, they have provided us with a wake-up call to take action by sharing their experience and insight,” she wrote.
The 137-day protest ended at the weekend after hours of talks that dragged into Friday evening despite a court order having been granted in the university’s favour that day. The campaigners from Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action said they had “won extensive demands to combat institutional racism at the university”.
In her letter, Hill said both sides had agreed to make compromises and that the university would introduce mandatory “race awareness” training for staff and review its anti-discrimination and harassment procedures, among other measures.
The activists had also sought to tackle gentrification, outsourcing and cuts to course provision. The parties agreed that the local community should be allowed to use the occupied building, which the university bought in 2000, and that security staff should be brought in-house and lost contact hours should be reinstated.
Moreover, the two parties agreed that scholarships for Palestinian students, won by a previous student occupation 10 years ago, should be reinstated. The document said the two scholarships would return for the start of the academic year 2020-21.
The document was peppered with disclaimers from the activists, who said further protest action would follow if the university failed to live up to the promises made.
The campaigners occupied the building on 12 March in protest at what they described as the “lack of anti-racist action from senior management” after a candidate in student union elections was allegedly subjected to racist abuse.
The institution was granted a possession order over the building by a judge at the high court on the same day the parties eventually reached an agreement.
Goldsmiths was criticised over the move, including by the local MP, Labour’s Vicky Foxcroft. She told the university that the “legitimate concerns of the students need to be heard in a dignified and transparent way” and implored the institution to cancel the legal action.
After the protest ended, the campaigners derided Goldsmiths’ “reputation for ‘progressive’ politics”, claiming the university had pursued the court action to force the activists to back down.
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