Halls and Accommodation: Our Concerns

We are not confident that the Goldsmiths is acting quickly or decisively in respect to containing outbreaks in accommodation.

It is our belief that:

  1. Many students were coaxed into expensive and exploitative accommodation contracts on the promise of face-to-face teaching, which broadly has not been provided and could never have been delivered safely - this is outrageously unfair and is a breach of students’ trust
  2. Halls are filled to a capacity beyond what is safe
  3. If there are outbreaks in accommodation, we are not confident that they will be contained and have concerns about how students will be supported

In recent weeks, we have been publicly clear about our concerns on the reopening of campus and accommodation - these concerns have been raised in regular meetings with the university since March.

Since students have been moving in, some of our concerns are being realised. 

We are hearing from students that not enough people are wearing masks, that there are big group gatherings every night, that some students who are having to self-isolate are unable to get food.

Now that cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed on campus, it is vital the college acts quickly and decisively to contain an outbreak, particularly in halls. We need transparency about cases and clear communication.

We have been asking the following questions*:

  • On Thursday 1st October, the Students’ Union were told that there were no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in halls. Later that day Goldsmiths announced less than five confirmed cases on campus. Can we confirm now whether any of these confirmed cases of Covid-19 are in halls? If so, what halls?
  • What percentage of capacity in halls has been filled? Could we please be provided with numbers? 
  • If there is a confirmed case / suspected case of Covid-19, will individual flats, rooms, or whole building shut down? Whole halls even? What is the chain of events for a lockdown?
  • In the event of a confirmed case, will other students in a flat / block / building / entire halls be notified? How will they be notified?
  • How are the Accommodation Team communicating with students in halls? How is the University itself communicating to them and the wider campus community? This builds on the instance of the first confirmed case at Goldsmiths back in March, where other people in the same halls reported not knowing anything about what was going on.
  • What are plans to monitor a lockdown if one happens? Are any elements of enforcement involved**?
  • Please can we get assurances that in the event of a lockdown: 1) students will not be fined at any point for leaving their accommodation (St Andrews), 2) no police or military will be called (thinking of police dogs at accommodation that has been locked down) 3) fire exits won't be locked to prevent students from leaving
  • Are international students receiving specific additional support?
  • How are Accommodation aware of students who are immunocompromised or who need to shield? Will these students be able to move residences if someone in their halls has suspected / confirmed Covid-19? How will they be supported in the event of a lockdown?
  • If there is a lockdown of a flat or halls, how will students with access needs be supported?
  • Have students' dietary needs been collected for food provision?
  • In the event of a halls lockdown, who specifically is responsible for making sure students get what they need: toilet roll, food, medicine. Could we be provided with names for the relevant people at each halls?
  • [A retrospective one] What happened to the belongings of students who left their accommodation pre-lockdown and couldn’t get back?
  • The NUS position is that students should have a ‘Right to move’ - that all students should be able to make decisions based on their safety and access to education, so if their situation changes due to the impact of COVID-19 they should be allowed to leave rental contracts, or delay taking them up’ - what is the accommodation position on this?
  • Students at the University of St. Andrews will be allowed to leave halls without paying a full year’s rent - will this be offered to Goldsmiths students?

Once we have received written responses to these questions, we will post them online.

While these questions are very halls-focused, we are also working on how students in private accommodation (for example, with a local landlord) will be supported by Goldsmiths.

Tomorrow, we will be meeting with the Goldsmiths’ Senior Management Team (SMT) to raise these concerns further.

We will never apologise for standing up for students and your safety - please stay in touch - our voices together are powerful and can’t be ignored.

Full solidarity,

The Sabbatical Officer Team

Fowsia Kadiye, Lauren Corelli, Niquella Simpson-West, Sara Bafo

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* Some have been answered, some are awaiting answers - we will post these online when we receive written responses.

** The Students’ Union position is that we do not believe in the enforcement and surveillance of students that we have seen at other universities. This has included: police dogs at halls; flats and fire doors being locked so that students cannot get out; £250 fines being given to students from universities themselves for leaving their halls (different to government fines). We believe that certain people and groups are targeted more than others when surveillance and enforcement happens (e.g. Black students)