Skip to content

#SaveGoldsmiths Open Letter to Professor Frances Corner, OBE, Warden of Goldsmiths, Council & Senior Management Team (London, UK)

October 23, 2021
#SaveGoldsmiths
#ADegreeIsNotABrand

We are academics, researchers and artists who have in various ways collaborated with members of the Goldsmiths community over the years or have been members of staff or students ourselves – or are simply acquainted with the College’s stellar reputation.

Goldsmiths, University of London, is internationally renowned for its progressive and critical education, its commitment to social justice and for hosting some of the most respected and creative scholars in the world. Its researchers, writers, musicians, performers, artists and media producers are world-leading; its alumni go on to outstanding achievements, in all areas.

Goldsmiths serves the needs of some of the most diverse communities in the UK, with a high proportion of its students coming from ethnic minorities and socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Currently, many of these students and their families live in boroughs hardest-hit by the Covid-19 crisis.

We are writing to express our utmost concern at the plans for radical restructuring, which threaten not only the jobs of staff members at a time of grave economic crisis, but also the very identity of Goldsmiths as we know it.

We were dismayed to read about the jobs already lost last year through voluntary severance, and are appalled now by the 52 redundancies recently announced for professional and academic staff.

We are distressed to discover that the detailed and crucial expertise of administrative staff central to departments is being disregarded and will be lost, through a misguided centralisation and drastic reduction of the number of posts.

We understand that academic redundancies are confined to the departments of English & Creative Writing and of History in this first round, but that there will be more. If they go ahead, these cuts will irremediably damage research capacity, academic practices and cultures, the student experience, as well as the viability of important and world-renowned departments, home to leading, and often unique, research hubs such as the Centre for Caribbean and Diaspora Studies, the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, the Decadence Research Centre, the Centre for Comparative Literature, the Centre for the Study of the Balkans, the Centre of the Body, and the Centre for Queer History.

We are shocked to hear that the redundancies are being managed by external consultants with no disciplinary expertise, and who do not understand the immediate, middle- and long-term consequences of their decisions.

We hear with consternation that academics with high specialisation are under threat of redundancy even when their area of expertise is being retained – as though Black British and Caribbean Literature, Queer and Black British History, or Critical Theory were mere adornments on a portfolio rather than fields built upon rigorous training and deeply rooted scholarship. Presumably, their posts will be filled by cheaper, precarious staff; or staff with different expertise, asked to take on their (“redundant”) colleagues’ work. But a discipline is nothing without expertise; a degree is not a brand. Yet it appears that Goldsmiths’ management sees its core mission as no different from fast fashion, as a business built on precarity and the misguided flexibilization of a labour force rendered unable to develop long-term commitment to their discipline; in this, Senior Management show utter disregard for the integrity of the education they want to sell.

We are outraged that the Warden, Frances Corner, OBE, and Senior Management appear determined to pursue this damaging course of action instead of, with the same determination, proactively fundraising and lobbying the government for assistance as peer institutions have done – while also making a powerful case against the present ruinous and bankrupt system of funding for Higher Education, and in favour of the recognition of the immense contribution of the humanities and the arts to society and to the economy.

We call upon Frances Corner, upon Council, and upon Senior Management to halt the decimation of the departments of English & Creative Writing and of History, the redundancies within professional services and the current restructuring plans, and to find, in collaboration with their staff, more sustainable and more effective solutions that will protect not only the livelihood of their dedicated and loyal employees, but also the reputation of the institution.

Yours sincerely,

*A current copy of this letter and its signatories is being published at https://we-are.gold/2021/10/14/open-letter-to-frances-corner/

UPDATE

The public pressure that you have helped us put on our management is beginning to make an impact, as the consultation phase for departments and staff at risk of redundancy has been extended. In the meantime, UCU members at Goldsmiths have overwhelmingly voted in favour of strike action (86% on a 70% turnout) and decided to withdraw their labour for 21 consecutive days starting 23 November. 

This is an unprecedented move forced on us by the unprecedented attack against the arts and humanities brought about by our misguided management. But this is also an unprecedented show of solidarity. Hundreds of staff members will go on strike to defend their colleagues in the English & Creative Writing and History departments who risk being made redundant.

The College has announced that wages will be deducted from anyone who participates in strike action. It won’t be easy for union members to sustain the strike financially but we do know that if we don’t mount a strong defence now, management will announce further redundancies in more departments and push through very damaging cuts through the restructuring.

To help members cope with the financial losses they will face, Goldsmiths UCU has created a local strike fund. We are asking everyone to donate whatever they can. Every donation makes a huge difference.

You can donate online here:

Find out more about the dispute here: 

Follow updates on the dispute and the strike here:

https://twitter.com/GoldsmithsUCU, here https://www.facebook.com/GoldsmithsUCU and here https://we-are.gold/ 

And finally, if you are in a position to pass a motion in solidarity with the dispute, the model motion is here:

No comments yet

Comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: