Resignation of Anthropology BAME Rep

As an Officer team we would like to express our solidarity with and support for Sara Bafo, who has resigned as the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Rep for the Anthropology department. You can read her statement below.

 

We are concerned to hear that the first ever departmental level BAME Rep at Goldsmiths has ended this way and we will do what we can to apply pressure on the institution to tackle racism at Goldsmiths wherever it rears its head and in whatever form it takes. BAME students should not be expected to explain racism to white staff. Warm words are not good enough and we can do better. We would like to thank Sara for her work up to this date, and will with her permission ensure any research she did do as part of her role is listened to and acted on through other means. This kind of treatment towards BAME students is exactly why the occupation of Deptford Town Hall is crucial.

 

Sara’s statement:

 

'In November 2018 I was recruited as the first ever student BAME representative at Goldsmiths. My role was to represent other Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students within the Anthropology department. The department had created this role with the Students’ Unions support in the context the release of data which showed a large gap between the attainment of black and white students.

 

The creation of this role is undoubtedly a good thing, but it has been my experience that the Anthropology department is not ready to listen and act on the feedback of BAME students, which is why I have made the decision to resign from this role with immediate effect.

 

During the role, I heard from multiple BAME students in the department who had experienced racism in many forms. A second year BAME student complained to the department regarding a seminar tutor continuously saying the N-word in class, their complaint was entirely disregarded, there were no repercussions placed upon that tutor. There has been a specific case with a lecturer who has reinforced racist ideologies both in lectures and seminar classes, the department is fully aware of this case because BAME students have repeatedly informed them of these incidents. There have been countless cases of students of colour experiencing racism in the Anthropology department.  I was ready and willing to work with the department on improving these situations and tackling this, but I found when raising these issues with predominantly white staff, I either ended up arguing about whether what students had experienced was racism, met with defensiveness or general bafflement as if this was the first time they’d heard of racism happening, or ignored and belittled.

 

The two specific duties of the role were to attend and contribute to the Decentring Anthropology Forum and conduct research into the experiences of BAME students. On the first, I did make an initial attempt to attend this forum however this space was dominated by staff with only a few students present. This space was initially constructed to empower BAME students to address the eurocentric curriculum that is being forwarded by the Anthropology Department. However, a few lecturers that attended the space did not fulfil the initial purpose of the forum.  On the latter, I did speak to a large number of BAME students within the department with support from the Students’ Union, some of this in the form of structured and recorded interviews with the aim of writing a report and presenting these findings to Anthropology staff in the second term. After a change of senior staff, this idea was effectively shut down, with the impression given that any findings would have to be screened by the department first to avoid embarrassment.

 

Yet it appears the department does act quickly on other matters. When a white student felt targeted by a BME student, the Head of Department quickly sent out a mass email to every student addressing it. Students of colour sent emails to the head of the department addressing their valid concerns about the mistreatment between students of colour and white students. There still hasn’t been a response.

 

I am not prepared to continue in this role explaining racism to white staff, and until the department is genuinely ready to hear and act on the voice of BAME students, I do not believe this role should exist.'