Last week, we, the Sabbatical Officers - Lauren (President), Sara (Welfare & Liberation Officer), Niquella (Campaigns & Activities Officer) and Fowsia (Education Officer) - released a statement in which we called for the College to not reopen until it was safe to do so, and highlighted our concern that we do not think it is currently safe to. You can read that here.
As your Students’ Union, we don’t think you should have to choose between your health and your education, which is why we’re calling on the College to not fully re-open campus until it is 100% safe to do so…
We received a mixed reaction to our statement and wanted to address some of the feedback and questions we have had. We welcome your feedback and have tried our best to listen to all points of view. We know the timing of our statements is difficult, afterall loads of you will be excited to join Goldsmiths for the first time, however as things are very fast moving at the moment we will do our best to adjust our stance in accordance only with the facts and the experience of the rest of the sector.
So why shouldn’t campus fully reopen at this current time?
We don’t believe it’s safe to reopen in the way that is currently happening. The truth is, most scientists and the government agree we’re in the midst of a second wave of the pandemic and that is why you’re now seeing huge swathes of the country being forced into lockdowns. As of last week, 45 Universities had confirmed cases. In Manchester Met alone 1700 students are self-isolating. we’re not immune at Goldsmiths. As of today, there have been around 5 confirmed cases of Covid-19 on campus.
We’ve not seen the reassurances from the college that they have a solid and robust contingency plan to protect our community and the rest of Lewisham from the risks. It’s our job to stand up for you and your interests - and that is what we are doing. We know that a lot of teaching is able to be delivered online and this is the safe, risk-free way of doing so.
What about those of you on practice based courses?
We understand there are lots of you on courses where it is next to impossible for them to be delivered completely virtual and we appreciate you’re probably very worried that closing the campus threatens your ability to partake in education. We believe these should go ahead, and should be in person but only if they can be done safely. Obviously if you’re a Fine Art student and you’re in studios, then how can you do your degree? However, we would like to see the college publicly reassure students on these courses that they have the right measures in place, along with a plan for what happens if an outbreak occurs. If a course can’t be delivered because face to face is required and it isn’t safe to do so, students should be allowed to defer or get a refund.
Do we think the whole of campus should be closed?
No - and we apologise if this wasn’t clear in our previous statement. We understand that there might be circumstances where online teaching isn't possible, where it proceeds with safety measures being put in place... but these should only be exceptional circumstances. We also believe the Library and safe spaces to study should be available. However the vast majority of courses offered at Goldsmiths should be online.
What’s our stance on PGCEs?
With placements, there should be special mitigations - they should go ahead as long as the placements themselves are safe. You’ve told us about the professionalism and skill of staff leading on these sessions - we don’t doubt it for a second. However we would also point out that staff themselves have been very vocal about their own concerns for the safety of everyone.
But what about the SU Building? Why should that be open?
As the SU building is part of the campus and the campus is now largely open, our building has been opened too. We’ve put lots of mitigations in place to ensure that the areas of the SU that are still open, are safe. The majority of SU Staff are currently working remotely and while the SU Bar and Cafe are open for you to pop in, there’s a robust health and safety plan in place. Crucially, students will always have the option of visiting the SU or not, it is not mandatory like some face to face teaching could be.
Do we think you should have to pay the full tuition fee?
No - definitely not! If you aren’t getting the full student experience you deserve refunds - partial or otherwise - and opportunities to retake if you wish to do so. You should not have to choose between your health and your education. However we know this would put the university in a difficult financial position, which is why we agree with NUS and UCU that the government should support universities financially to do the right thing instead of basing decisions on their financial position. The government have massively let us down and not dealt with these issues. This isn’t just a Goldsmiths issue - it’s a national issue. But you have every right to hold the institution and the government to account - your concerns shouldn’t be ignored. Please trust us when we say we will continue to advocate and fight on your behalf. Together our voices are very powerful and cannot be ignored.
We welcome your feedback
We hope the above answered some of the questions we have received in the last few days. While we urge you to join us in asking Goldsmiths to change their approach immediately, we would also encourage you to fill in our feedback form to let us know of any other concerns you may have at this time.