Here's what I've been working on this summer...

Hi all,

I hope everyone is well, resting and finding joy amidst everything that has been happening!

Here's an update statement of what I've been getting up to this summer as your Welfare and Liberation Officer. To be honest, the last few months have been intense and non-stop, but that's the sabb lifestyle for you. Being a Sabbatical Officer is filled with constant meetings with the university; this could be through working groups/committee meetings and many times it includes conflicts and an overall hostile environment with the university.

I have been attempting to remind myself that the best practice in organising is through grassroots and bottom-up strategies; working with the community to dismantle structural oppressions. To be transparent, the last few months I've become consumed with these meetings with the institution striving to create policy and procedures to protect students and advise the senior management team to implement global health experts advice on health and safety precautions before the reopening of campus (a statement about reopening of campus will be released soon). 

Furthermore, there's been a lot of internal conversation about restructuring our own Students' Union to become more political and radical in our approaches in representing students, but particularly systemically marginalised students. 

Here's what I've been getting up to:

- The first few weeks were filled with learning all the information provided by the previous Sabbatical Officers and training sessions. 

- I was in two panels to appoint the Anthropology and STaCS Head of Department. Notably, one of the meetings was intense due to the senior management team already having a plan to nominate the HoD regardless of my input, and I spent hours trying to negotiate the Students' Union position. These are constant patterns of the university tokenising SU representatives in these meetings.

- I've created a space for organisers at Goldsmiths to share tactics and cultivate a community together beyond the institution. These include groups like Goldsmith Anti-Racist Occupation, Justice for workers, UCU, Art School is Dying; We Demand More. We had an initial meeting to discuss what the purpose of the group would be and are now sharing crucial information (if you want to join message me and I'm going to develop a group chat specifically for Black + PoC organisers at Goldsmiths).

- We have produced an alternative proposal for the Against Sexual Violence (ASV) project; we are waiting for the university to increase the budget and agree to our request. We have given them to the end of the week to agree because we are exhausted of witnessing SMT tactically delay campaigns and projects. The university proposed to lead on the ASV project and implement the training; we do not trust the university to lead on the ASV project due to it being only a few years ago that SMT made survivors sign non-disclosure agreements. Due to Goldsmiths financial deficit, they have been unwilling to provide an extra budget thus far. They are reluctant to change the ASV project while knowing it hasn't been working over the years. We will provide a statement addressing Goldsmiths failures over the years by next week if SMT continues to refuse to centre survivors and refuses to accept our proposal). 

- We implemented Jummah prayers in the timetables for the upcoming year and beyond, with the help of ISOC and previous Sabbatical Officer work (Mona).

- Helped extend Fauzia Ahmad's contract.

- I've been a member of the health and safety committee meetings, and I asked to join the sub-committee due to my lack of trust that the senior management team (SMT) will ensure the safety of students and people with vulnerable characteristics. Furthermore, I was pushing for an equality impact assessment to be completed before the reopening of campus. The health and safety committee has taken over my time due to the university putting both student, staff and the wider community at risk due to financial gains (statement pending).

- We have also been informed that the university has been putting cleaning staff/security and porters safety at risk and I've been now working with Justice for Workers to be more aware of these concerns because as we know, all our struggles are interconnected.

- I helped UCU with an event called 'Towards a Covid-Neutral New Cross', and the local MP attended. The purpose of the event was to discuss and consider how the pandemic and reopening campus would impact the local community (to be honest, there needs to be another event explicitly engaging with the local organisation but overall it was a crucial event).

- We have been trying to restructure what liberation means in our union and create a Students' Union that focuses on racial justice work. What does that actually mean without any tangible solutions, here's our statement and commitments as your Sabbatical Officers. To add, this is much more difficult due to the institutional barriers and to be honest our own Students' Union barriers! 

- I've been working on providing events for Black History Month (BHM) alongside my amazing Sabbatical team. The purpose of the events has been about producing events that concentrate on Black British activism regarding resistance and joy. I hope you all can enjoy the events. 

- I've also been trying to increase the liberation funds in our student union and been working on Welcome Week events here and there. 

- I have been trying to release the 20k for BHM that was fought by GARA members in the 137 occupation and put pressure on SMT to fulfil the GARA demands (this will be a long battle). 

- Fowisa, the Education Officer, and I have been working on dismantling the current complaints procedure. This was an agreed GARA demand to develop a new system, and we have campaigned to restart the working group and have a lead person working on the demand, updates will be released soon. 

- We have been in meetings to remove the Deptford Town Hall slave statues; there will be a meeting on Thursday to discuss updates, and there will be a racial justice board meeting chaired by the Warden on the same day. We will update you all on what's been discussed. 

- We have been working with the alumni team to develop BME scholarships.

- I've been working with Mindful, which is an organisation that delivers initiative to bring students mental health services without the waitlist. Also, I've been looking at what mental health support is being provided to international students (contact me if you have any concerns) and more updates soon.

- I have worked with countless students with their concerns over the last few weeks, if you're a student and need help, let me know! 

This list can continue; however, I will stop and I hope this list will provide you with a little picture of what your Welfare and Liberation Officer has been getting up to (I've probably missed out a lot).  I want to organise with students and the local community, so hopefully, the next update will be filled with what I've been doing with student organisers and campaigns. If there's anything you would want me to work on as your Welfare and Liberation Officer, please email me on sara@goldsmithssu.org.

I will end this long update with one of my favourite quotes from Steve Biko: 

'In a bid for change, we have to take off our coats, be prepared to lose our comfort and security, our jobs and positions of prestige, and our families… A struggle without casualties is no struggle.'

Love and Solidarity,

Sara Bafo

Welfare and Liberation Officer