GREG (Goldsmiths Race Equality Group) letter responding to ‘Evolving Goldsmiths’

Dear Frances Corner, Dinah Caine and SMT,

We are writing as representatives of Goldsmiths Race Equality Group (GREG), the staff network including all Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) academic and professional services staff, to express our deep concerns about Evolving Goldsmiths. We believe that both the manner in which this plan was introduced, as well as the substance of the plans as currently outlined, pose severe challenges to advancing racial equality at this institution, a process that the College has already acknowledged is in its infancy. We are also deeply concerned at the treatment of some of our members who now find themselves so traumatised by the toxic work environment that they are in, they have had no option but to take sick leave. For Goldsmiths to have engendered such an environment, flies in the face of the pledges made after the Insider-Outsider report (2019). Although this report was ostensibly interrogating the experiences of BAME students at Goldsmiths, its concluding comments resonate with the experiences of our BAME colleagues:

Furthermore, Insider-Outsider found that BME students are faced with a challenge. They must both navigate the incidents of racism described in this report and try to succeed academically. They must decide whether this navigation involves avoidance, tolerance or fighting the racism with which they are confronted. This is an unreasonable expectation that thwarts their ability to succeed and has the potential to negatively impact on their well-being and mental health. Therefore, it is clear that institutional racism manifests itself within a plethora of key stages of the academic lifecycle, within the context of Goldsmiths College (Akel, 2019)

We are dismayed by the total lack of consultation with racial equality stakeholders, including Goldsmiths Race Equality Group (GREG) leadership, prior to the launch of Evolving Goldsmiths. This absence of consultation runs completely counter to the supposed commitment by the College to embed racial equality concerns more thoroughly in its governance and communication structures, at least as heralded by the launch of Racial Justice Goldsmiths earlier this year. If this is the version of ‘radical transparency’ the College proposes to embed in future, then we believe that it is fundamentally flawed, and certainly only functions to further marginalize BAME staff and students at this institution.

We note that the documentation available on Evolving Goldsmiths shows a marked lack of awareness of the significant range of negative potential racial equality impacts of Evolving Goldsmiths. We know that sector-wide the restructuring of higher education institutions similar to those proposed in Evolving Goldsmiths disproportionately affects BAME members of staff, who already experience discrimination and insecurity in their posts. We are skeptical that Goldsmiths would prove an exception to this rule, particularly when racial equality concerns seem so far removed from the core strategy and vision of Evolving Goldsmiths. Importantly, the proposed removal of student-facing administrative staff and the further integration of departments into a Schools-based structure would have obvious and severe negative consequences for BAME student attainment, retention and progression at Goldsmiths. Departments critically rely on their administrative teams to identify and communicate with vulnerable students, many of whom are from BAME backgrounds, and without this front-line staff then targeted pastoral care and academic support for BAME students would be severely undermined. Furthermore, we note that Evolving Goldsmiths’ proposed cost-reduction exercises through ‘module reduction opportunities’ flies in the face of #LiberateMyDegree and attempts to decolonize the curriculum at this institution. The impetus towards module reduction would certainly reverse any tentative gains only very recently made by individual departments to diversify their module offerings and include a broader array of non-Eurocentric subjects and approaches. We need a commitment to further advance, and not painfully reverse, curriculum diversity at Goldsmiths so that it can more accurately represent the needs and constituencies of the unique student body and local community we serve. We also note that any declining levels of curriculum diversity are not only at odds with the aims of Racial Justice Goldsmiths but would adversely affect recruitment of BAME students and negatively impact on BAME admissions numbers, which would further exacerbate the financial shortfall that Evolving Goldsmiths is supposedly meant to address.

The examples above represent only a small sample of the foreseeable negative impacts of Evolving Goldsmiths on racial equality at this institution. They contest the recent comments made by the College regarding the restructuring as having ‘net neutral’ or even ‘positive’ equality impacts, a superficial narrative we note that is not supported by any actual evidence. They also vividly illustrate how the platform of Racial Justice Goldsmiths would be comprehensively undermined.

We call on SMT and the Warden to show true commitment to race equality at this institution by calling an immediate halt to Evolving Goldsmiths. We demand a full and evidence-based equalities impact audit of the proposed plans, for phase one and any future ‘phases’ envisioned by SMT and the Warden, and that the results of this audit be publicly available for discussion. We want Evolving Goldsmiths to be replaced by genuine consultation without a predetermined end-result, with key race equality stakeholders including BAME students and staff, on how we can collectively address the financial and recruitment challenges facing this institution. This conversation must be framed alongside and in specific dialogue with the platform of, and communities represented by, Racial Justice Goldsmiths.

Best wishes,