'I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation.'
— Malcolm X
The last few years have been punctuated by multiple attempts to force Goldsmiths into reckoning with its racist history and the multiple manifestations of it in the present day. In response; reports were written, demands were agreed to and commitments were made. The work has been done to identify the issues and develop actions that can be taken to make meaningful changes, yet bureaucracy and performativity has been favoured instead of doing the work to implement the multiple recommendations that students and staff have worked hard to create.
Predictably, Goldsmiths’ current approach is not working, things aren’t getting better and in fact, are getting much worse. Recently we were given access to the newest BME awarding gap numbers for the 2019/20 year, this data shows the numbers of students from different ethnic backgrounds being awarded either a 1st or a ‘Good Honours’ (up to a 2:1 classification). The data was a shocking indictment of Goldsmiths’ failure to provide an environment where Black and PoC students could excel, the pandemic clearly impacted Black and PoC students more acutely as the awarding gap actually got significantly bigger this year. Here are some of the key data points;
- There has been a 6.4% increase in the awarding gap between Black and White students getting a first in 2019/20 compared to 2018/19, the gap is now at 22.3%
- 41.7% of White students were awarded a 1st compared to 19.4% of Black students
- 22.3% of Asian students were awarded a 1st in 2019/20, leaving a gap of 19.4% between Asian and White students
- When comparing ‘good honours’ (students being awarded a 2:1 or above) the awarding gap between: Black and White students increased by 2.5% between 2018/19 to 2019/20 and Asian and White students increased by 5% between 2018/19 to 2019/20
Over the Summer, in reaction to protests around George Floyd’s murder, Goldsmiths wrote a tweet that, in part, said ‘We admit our failings and know we are all responsible for making change’. We have not seen these words reflected in the actions of Goldsmiths senior management; working groups and committees have been created but these are not spaces of real change, students are not seeing the benefits of these spaces. Black and PoC students still have to navigate a racist institution with little support and these shocking new figures reflect the impact this is having on their outcomes.
Goldsmiths needs a radical action plan to tackle this awarding gap. No more half-measures, the work will be uncomfortable and disruptive, this is a small price to pay to make Black and PoC students feel safe and accommodated during their studies.
Goldsmiths’ is failing Black and PoC students, it is failing precarious workers, it is failing cleaning and security staff that are also being denied their chosen union representation. Let this be a call to action, a refusal to applaud performativity and shallow action that does not penetrate the racism that is at the heart of this institution.