Goldsmiths University continues to fail survivors

After we launched the Take Survivors Seriously campaign yesterday we received a massive and amazing show of solidarity from staff, students and the community, with nearly 500 signatures in 24 hours. Late in the evening the University released a statement that denied they had defunded the campaign, contained misleading statements and most importantly failed to address the central ask of the campaign. 

The University continues to ignore the wishes of the community, and continues to not take survivors seriously. We say to the university: return the full funding, make an apology to the community and allow us to both focus our energies on survivors and tackling a historical culture of sexual harassment on your campus. We should not be forced to fight for the survival of this project. 

Below we quote the University statement (you can read in full here) and respond to each part point-by-point. This is a link to our original statement.

 

They say: 'Goldsmiths has committed to more than £160,000 of ringfenced funding to the Students’ Union to deliver Against Sexual Violence training over four years, with the College currently in the third year of this agreement.'

We say: It is true the college has funded the campaign in the past. Right up until this year. The funding ended in October 2020 and we have since not received any funds from the college for any ASV related activity, despite repeated requests over summer. Without funding we are unable to pay for any staff or project costs and the project becomes non existent in the SU. The University knows this and they are masquerading this as a ‘delay’, knowing full well the devastating impact it will have on our team.

 

They say: 'This student training has not been defunded. There has been a delay in sharing this year’s funds due to ongoing discussions between the College and the Students’ Union about how training will be delivered safely and effectively during the Covid-19 pandemic. The College has asked the Students’ Union to submit detailed plans to ensure training will be delivered and funds will be shared once this has been agreed.'

We say: Over summer we made the suggestion to the college on how they could deliver online training and it was in fact the SU who took the initiative to suggest the ‘Consent Matters’ package of online training. As early as July we put forward a solid proposal of how this could be funded and properly staffed without incurring an increase on last years budget. The college in their latest correspondence, perhaps sensing a public campaign was coming, offered us only a part time staff member to run just the Consent Matters training. This was a massive reduction in funds and would have rendered the project unworkable. We made clear this was not workable and we would not tolerate a reduction in the modest budget the project had the previous year. For reference the project last year had 1 full time staff member, 1 part time staff member and 6 student facilitators. The University this year has only suggested 1 single part time student administrator. This is not a serious suggestion becoming of an institution which takes this project seriously, hence why we were moved to launch a public campaign. 

 

They say: 'We fully recognise that survivors’ needs must always be at the heart of this work and hope a shared agreement with the Students’ Union can be reached quickly in order for training to take place.'

We say: We have not heard from the college directly since the campaign launched. The University did not pass this decision by the Against Sexual Violence Board and it was made privately, with no student consultation or explanation. If we had not launched this campaign, students and survivors would be in the dark about this. University Senior Management have only communicated via this public statement defending themselves. We ask that they accept the modest requests of the campaign. We do not wish for any more protracted negotiation like we have had over summer. We want to get on with the project - please stop acting as a barrier and do not delay this any further.

 

They say: 'It has always been the responsibility of the Students’ Union to allocate funding for advocacy work across all issues. This advocacy work is paid for using the block grant given by the College to the Students’ Union which was £1.2 million in academic year 2018/19, the last year for which College accounts are available, and which is separate from funding for initiatives like Against Sexual Violence training.'

We say: This is a very misleading statement that we would ask the University to withdraw. The ASV project has always, since its inception, been funded as part of a separate ring fenced budget to the general SU grant. This was at the Universities request. To come close to suggesting we fund this project out of the SU grant, which the University has just substantialy cut, and which is separate to how the ASV project is funded is to mislead the community. We completely reject that the University make a distinction between Against Sexual Violence work and ‘advocacy’ - we will never shy away from advocating for and being on the side of survivors of sexual violence. The training we offer is not separate from the advocacy and culture change work, and the fact that the University has made this statement concerns us greatly that they have not learnt since the original crisis the University faced four years ago.

 

They say: 'The way Against Sexual Violence work is managed across College was agreed by the project board, which includes student and staff union representation, with an understanding that responsibility for delivering this work would be shared across the College. This is because we want those closest to these issues to have real influence and impact on the College’s approach.'

We say: The project board did not agree to defund the ASV project in the SU at any point whatsoever in its history. In fact, the ASV board did not agree a reduction whatsoever in ASV funds and the negotiations between the college, including the latest offer of 1 part time administrator did not themselves go through ASV Board - one senior manager has acted independently of the board. The ASV Board and the governance of the project has not been taken seriously in the past twelve months and has been cancelled and rescheduled countless times. Furthermore, there has not been an operational lead on the University side since the first year of the project, and we have not seen any significant progress from within the college side of the partnership in the past twelve months.