Warden addresses racial injustice after black staff member QUITS

In an open letter to the students Professor Frances Corner, the Warden of Goldsmiths, has promised to ‘tirelessly work to bring about change’ regarding the racial injustice felt on campus.

Amid growing pressure from the Black Lives Matter movement, Corner issued a statement on 19 June addressing students’ demand for a more inclusive college.

 In the statement issued, Corner said: “Over the last 12 months we have not progressed along this road as far as we should have. I want to personally apologise for this and for not meeting the standards our community demands of the College.”

The Warden’s statement came 4 days after Evan Ifekoya, the only black staff member permanently employed in the art department quit.  The artist announced their leave via an open letter entitled ‘Withdrawing my Labour’.

In the letter Ifekoya said: “I refuse to carry the burden of being the only permanently employed black member of academic staff within the Art Department at Goldsmiths…To be so within a team of 70+ people—a tiny fraction of whom are people of colour—in 2020 is not acceptable.”

In the days following the letter, pressure had been mounting on the Senior Management Team (SMT) to extend the fixed-term contacts for employees. Five out of six black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) workers in the art department program are on such contracts, according to Ifekoya’s letter.

The demand for racial equity has also grown within the University following the events of George Floyd’s death in the US.

Image credits: Photo by James Eades on Unsplash

Corner said: “I also do not want to use recent events as a springboard to action for the College. The killing of George Floyd and the subsequent global impact of his death has raised the wider awareness of racial injustice, but the pain and anger felt by our own community was clear before the events of 25 May 2020.

“In my recent letter to the US ambassador I said this was a moment for his country to pivot. This principle applies to Goldsmiths – and I now ask for our community’s consent that we review, reset and redouble our work in addressing racial injustice.”

These events also, mark almost a year since the occupation of Deptford Town Hall by GARA, a student led BAME group. The occupation gained national recognition and lasted 137 days.

The activists occupied the town hall in protest of a ‘lack of anti-racist action from senior management’ after a candidate in the Student Union elections was allegedly subjected to racial discrimination.

In a letter in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Goldsmiths sabbatical officer team said: “In our own Union, Black people’s experiences are invisibilised (sic), delegitimised, and concerns are not acted upon. They are not understood as systemic.

“There is a culture of micro aggressions; poor BAME staff retention and representation; a systematic centring of whiteness, felt by both students and staff internally; a lack of training and political education; inadequate support and resources offered to Black students.

“Our Union cannot ignore the positions of power repeatedly held by white people. When this is the case, who is truly included or represented in our Union?”

Evan Ifekoya has been approached for comment but has not yet replied.