Make Goldsmiths University Art Department Accountable For Systemic Racism

Make Goldsmiths University Art Department Accountable For Systemic Racism

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In response to the global pandemic Goldsmiths, University of London, have decided not to extend the contracts of 472 precarious academic staff. 75% of staff on fixed term contracts are BAME.

Frances Corner, Warden at Goldsmiths university, has made statements in support of the Black Lives Matter movement whilst dismissing hundreds of black and POC staff. 

We are Goldsmiths Fine Art Alumni and we are writing to express solidarity with Evan Ifekoya and the BAME teachers and students working and studying at Goldsmiths University. We are writing this letter to call on Goldsmiths Art Department, as an institution, to take responsibility and be accountable for the upholding of systemic racism:

We demand: 

  • The fixed-term contracts of the five BAME tutors within the Art Department be extended with the view of making these permanent
  • A commitment to diversifying the teaching curriculum to include non-white and non-euro-centric perspectives
  • A commitment to diversifying the faculty at every level of seniority
  • A zero tolerance policy for harassment and bullying
  • The introduction of mandatory anti-racism training for staff and students
  • A department-wide action plan committed to tackling institutional racism

Goldsmiths University Art Department has a reputation for fostering a critical and intellectually rigorous environment for its student body. With its white-dominant faculty and student body, this 'criticality' became a breeding ground for casual and violent racism especially in the discussion of BIPOC work. This came at great emotional cost to BIPOC students who felt alienated, silenced, antagonized and bullied while simultaneously shouldering the burden of educating staff and students ignorant in race and identity discourse. 

Furthermore, the critical studies component of the course was overwhelmingly white-eurocentric, a practice which remained unquestioned and unchanged during our time as students and a default through which students were encouraged to develop their artistic practice. It is not enough to have a single dedicated module that deals with race and identity discourse. Rather, the Fine Art department should work to de-center the focus across all modules from a white-eurocentric perspective. 

In the light of recent events, Evan Ifekoya, the only black lecturer in the Fine Art department on a permanent contract, made the incredibly difficult decision to withhold their labor. Five BAME teachers on part-time contracts have been told that their contracts will not be reviewed due to financial cuts in light of the Covid-19 crisis. These cuts are detrimental signifiers of the racial injustice within the Fine Art department and will have a significant impact on BIPOC students for whom contact with non-white staff is essential to their work and well being.