Previously, your SU Officer team expressed their solidarity with and support for Sara Bafo, who resigned as the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Rep for the Anthropology department. In recent events, the sabbatical officer team has written a letter to the Anthropology Dept along with a number of other stakeholders. Your Officers would like to share this letter with the Goldsmiths community, please read below.
Dear Anthropology department staff,
On behalf of the Students’ Union sabbatical officer team, we are emailing to inform you of the resignation of the first ever BME Anthropology rep, Sara Bafo, which happened last month and to assure you on the seriousness of this situation.
The Goldsmiths Students’ Union sabbatical officer team stands in full solidarity with Sara and support her in this decision. Last month, we published an official statement in solidarity with her, alongside her own statement which you can find on our website here. However, we wanted to take this opportunity to reiterate our concern that the first ever Goldsmiths BME student rep has now left their position due to the sheer level of ignorance towards the institutional racism that exists within the department.
Sara has worked extremely hard in this role, taking the time and care to deliver one to one interviews with students on their experiences in order to develop research on this as was outlined in the expectations of the role.
Despite the fact that this research was an agreed outcome of the position, when sharing the evidence on the BME student experience, Sara was met with defense, dismissal, and aggression alongside an unwillingness to accept or take responsibility for these issues of racism in the department. After all the hard work Sara Bafo has done, she was then told that she shouldn’t share any of her research anywhere until it runs through the head of department and department staff first.
This is an act of silencing both Sara Bafo and these BME students’ experiences. We also see this as an attempt for the department to try and cover up the issues that they have been avoiding for a number of years.
Recruiting a student to work specifically around the BME student experience and subsequently giving them a difficult experience whenever they speak up allows a department to feel accomplished in a tokenistic way without actually putting in the work.
This shows the department cares more about its image than actually tackling racism and that their approach to this role is nothing but an attempt to tick a “diversity” box.
It’s also important to note at this point that students within the department have consistently emailed several members of staff complaining about issues of racism only to have their emails ignored, including by the head of the department.
We would like to draw your attention to the following graphs, which show a continued drop in BME students retention and degree classification across the board, from a document on BME student data attached below.
In addition to this, there is qualitative data that both Sara Bafo and Sofia Akel – the Goldsmiths Students’ Union BME Project Coordinator – have gathered, which can be used to reflect the poor BME student experience and treatment in Anthropology.
As you can see with the context given here, alongside experiences of institutional racism being highlighted by the current Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action occupation in Deptford Town Hall, we can see how Sara Bafo’s work deserved the time, attention, honesty and acceptance of the department.
Sara’s resignation, therefore, should not be taken lightly but should be used as an opportunity to reflect and be critical of the failures in the Anthropology department. Her resignation was a last resort.
As a discipline born out of the foundations of colonial history, the reactions and actions by some lecturers who hold a PhD, are shameful and disgraceful. It’s time for white staff to stop getting so defensive every time racism is brought up and to proactively check in with themselves and put in the work. Staff (including head of departments and SMT) have an obligation to ensure all students at Goldsmiths are safe and protected and do not face this sort of treatment.
We, of course, expect that you will respond to this email by listing down all the department’s "achievements'' and all the “amazing” work that is ongoing on “diversity and inclusion”, which is the typical response, but to save you the effort of having to type all this out, we have already read it all and would like to express that your work seems to be very performative without actually addressing the underlying issues of institutional racism.
As mentioned above, Sara has gathered video and audio qualitative data that show the acts of staff members within the department. Although Sara was silenced and told not to share this data within her role, the sabbatical officer team might choose to share this data publicly in whatever way we see fit.
We would also expect a written commitment and guarantee that no BME student, including Sara, should face any repercussions or unfair treatment due to any action that they choose to take, whether it’s resigning from a role or speaking up against racism in meetings, lectures, seminars or any other way.
Sara is a student at Goldsmiths and a member of our union – as elected officers, we will continue to stand with her and stand against racism and will do whatever it takes to make sure that the university acknowledges the severity of the failures within the Anthropology department. We expect there to be an acceptance of this, along with a formal public apology to Sara Bafo. Following this, we expect that the department put in the work to rectify this disgraceful behavior and the failures of BME students.
Mona, JT, Taylor, Joe