The following was sent to the Senior Management Team (SMT), Council and Heads of Department on 24 July 2020:
Over the last three months, departmental Change Rapporteurs (CRs) from different departments across College have facilitated open discussions amongst colleagues in order to produce a collective, constructive and positive response to the challenges faced by Goldsmiths, namely: (1) safeguarding the College’s financial standing, and (2) developing the College’s vision, values and academic standing. CRs formed a Collective Change Working Group to discuss the outcomes of these meetings and coordinate the cross-departmental response that we present here. Although this process was initiated by the Professors’ Forum, we have undertaken this deliberative process of inter- and intra-departmental consultation independently of it so as to ensure that as broad a base as possible would be represented.
Taking seriously the unprecedented challenges faced by the College, the Collective Change Working Group calls for comprehensive consultation, to protect, as a matter of priority, the livelihoods and wellbeing of members of the Goldsmiths community and to support meaningful improvements to infrastructure and resourcing. We further call on SMT to assist in our mobilisation of cross- and interdisciplinary collaboration and to support a more joined-up approach to tackling existing issues, which is even more urgent as preparation for the next academic session has already progressed.
This Joint Statement is intended as a first step towards a more sustainable and enhanced process of collective change. Allstaff should be given the opportunity to participate in any process of change making, and we are committed to finding ways of improving inclusion in the event of future iterations to enhance non-hierarchical collaboration. Initiatives put forward by specific departments can be found in the appendices attached to this statement. Participating departments include: Anthropology, Computing, Design, Educational Studies, ECL, History, ICCE, Law, MCCS, Music, PIR, Sociology, TAP and Visual Cultures.
In what follows we set out five key principles that we believe need to underpin and guide any process of collective change at Goldsmiths.
(1) Meaningful consultation
Responses to the challenges faced by the College must be devised in conversation withall staff and student representatives. This will ensure unified and hence more effective action.
We urge SMT to listen to and act on the expertise readily available in the Goldsmiths community – including its most precarious voices – whether in response to the economic deficit or the urgent crisis around institutional racism, rather than bypass our intellectual heritage, cultural capital and creative energies.
We ask SMT to treat costly consultative exercises and technologies, such as the acquisition of Citizen Space or the imminent audit by external firms, as a very last resort. The Collective Change process we envisage marks a vital step towards meaningful consultation, and we urge the College to consider it as a potential model for future and long-term consultation processes.
We would like to see a commitment from SMT to work more closely with all campus unions, SU, GARA, GREG, the Professors’ Forum, the Staff Networks, and other groups that represent the collective interests of staff and students. Likewise, we think it’s important that SMT commits not only to more opportunities for sustainable processes of deliberation involving representative groups, but to the implementation of agreed-upon principles and values. The College should be able to accommodate new thinking, forms of organisation, and action, whether proposed by individuals, groups, or departments, and it must prioritise organisational change that embeds racial justice firmly within processes of change-making, rather than follow a merely economistic logic. Finances are important, but looking further ahead, there are more effective ways to ensure financial viability.
(2) Putting people first
Goldsmiths must accord with a clear set of commitments to equality, racial justice and social commitments in its governance and allocation of resources.
In the sector and more broadly, we are facing a crisis of distribution, not a crisis of resources. Any roadmap out of the crisis must involve thinking about distributing differently, and addressing how existing structures perpetuate exclusion (economic, legal, and social) on the basis of race, gender, ability and sexual orientation. The community can only benefit from persistent and clearly laid out frameworks to tackle those exclusions, and Goldsmiths as an institution cannot thrive if these are not at the heart of any changes implemented. This demands that we address exclusions at the heart of current institutional processes, including promotions and the disproportionate casualisation of women and BAME colleagues.
We call on SMT to implement a vision of Goldsmiths, based on its values and radical inheritance; there is a need for a clear, collectively written and inclusive statement of what the College’s “vision”, “values” and its “radical history” actually constitute and represent, how they feed into concrete actions to tackle structural racism on all levels, and how they will inform the ways we work, learn, teach, and research. A commitment to racial justice needs to be at the heart of how we rethink the institution and its values, vision and history, and this commitment needs to be put into practice at all levels of operation and delivery, including hiring, teaching, admissions, research and accountability processes. A lack of diversity in key leadership positions and across academic permanent positions is itself indicative of a need for change, not least the fact that this is still an issue after years of campaigning.
Our staff and students strive to foreground a critically engaged culture, and it is this vibrancy, energy and cultural relevance that draws students, shapes our collective vision, and attracts economic, cultural, social and intellectual capital. Our reputation as one of the most progressive and critical institutions in the country is not a separate issue to revenue-building or indeed a coincidence; it is a prerequisiteto it.
We are concerned with the ways in which SMT is addressing the casualisation of labour across College. We call for an audit of the impact of casualisation on members of our community. Casual labour affects women and BAME staff disproportionally, and the hiring freeze further marginalises these colleagues. As such, we urge SMT to discuss casualisation as part of concrete and concerted efforts to address institutional racism.
Hence, we call for the College’s decision to implement a hiring freeze and a suspension of the promotions process to be addressed from an equalities perspective. The promotions process is an important aspect of recognising staff commitment and hard work.
We welcome news of voluntary cuts to SMT salaries. However, savings made from temporary contributions should not be folded into indiscriminate deficit reduction; rather, staff subject to wage reduction (ideally on the basis of a 6:1 maximum pay ratio across academic/non-academic staff based on lowest-paid full-time employees) should have the option to pay into the GUCU Mutual Aid scheme to ensure that savings reach those most in need of support, amongst them many BAME casual workers.
We urge the College to abandon indefinitely expenditure on the Enterprise Hub, as well as permutations of the “Evolving Goldsmiths” plan to appoint school administrators at higher grade points than DBMs and other essential staff, when the latter deliver more for less money. Halting the dismissal of a large number of non-permanent staff is our immediate priority.
The College urgently needs to make concrete commitments to support staff with Protected Characteristics whose job security is threatened and whose professional advancement is impeded, which affects BAME staff in particular. We view the situation of ALs and fixed-term staff as particularly serious and insist that the work of ALs and other fixed-term staff is a vital part of any departmental provision.
The mental health crisis affects not just students but also all staff on all levels, and has been exacerbated by rising workloads during the pandemic and the threat of redundancies. We call for the invisible “generosity economy” to be recognised within a workload model adequate to the new realities of caring responsibilities and the unequal effects of the COVID-19 crisis, particularly in terms of race, gender, ethnic community and disabilities.
(3) Leadership in the sector and in the community
Teaching and research must be prized equally if Goldsmiths is to sustain its reputation as a centre of academic excellence; this reputation must build on robust ties with and responsibilities to our local community.
Research is not just an addendum to teaching but is at the very heart of Goldsmiths’ reputation and community: it defines and propels us, making our teaching exciting and idiosyncratic. Thus, we want to state that protection of research time is not an option; it is a necessity that must be ring-fenced in departmental finances.
We demand that the College not just profess a commitment to local community engagement (which it has done for nearly 30 years), but take concrete steps to make this engagement part and parcel of any collective change – e.g. by financing fee waivers and stipendiary funding for black and minority residents and all those made unemployed as a result of Covid-19 in South East London. Additionally, there should be a concerted effort to engage with alumni and other stakeholders to provide bursaries and scholarships for BAME students.
We urge the College to invest in initiatives that enrich the local community, such as supporting a “festival of Goldsmiths” for the local community or more affordable accredited courses such as PGCerts based on local interest and collaborations. Such initiatives will spark interest in Goldsmiths as a destination for local students. For this, we need to see the financing of long-term community engagement and a strategic plan that takes concerns around racial justice seriously. Without such a commitment, local communities will see Goldsmiths as an elitist institution.
In view of these concerns we request a review of existing academic partnerships to ensure that these remain in line with the values, ethics and priorities outlined, and tally with our commitment to social justice.
(4) Facilitating cross- and interdisciplinary collaboration, activity and innovation
Goldsmiths needs to foster and support interdisciplinary collaborations and not pit departments against each other.
The current model of budgetary planning does not facilitate the innovation so desperately needed in the present circumstances. In particular, models used by Marketing to decide upon the feasibility of new and existing courses are crude, variable and not fit for purpose. To illustrate, the use of a single metric (such as student enrolment) to decide on the viability of new or existing programmes is insufficient. It excludes student experience and the contribution of the programme to broader teaching and learning environments and long-term achievements. When new programmes are blocked on the grounds that there is no market for them, this may mean only that there is no precedent or benchmark against which to measure potential success. We view this logic as shortsighted and stifling. If we accept that the current crisis demands innovation, then we advocate for more collaborative relationships between Marketing and academic departments in ways that expedite approval processes. Furthermore, we ask that SMT reconsider their suspension and closure of programmes (which has been done without discussion with or approval of the Academic Board). Short-term savings should not trump commitments to social and racial justice. Instead, more emphasis should be placed on supporting programmes to ensure they thrive by developing new recruitment strategies and trialling out innovative content and modes of delivery.
In our discussions it became clear that there is strong support for a special kind of Goldsmiths’ Liberal Arts degree: Liberal Arts with a twist; this would be a uniquely Goldsmiths degree that would explicitly declare itself as a left-leaning alternative to normative models of LA degrees.
With this in mind, we suggest that there is a clear need for a working group or committee to establish concrete actions for facilitating meaningful cross-departmental collaboration and interdisciplinarity. The development of such a forum should be led by academic and/or practitioner representation from each department. A wide array of specific, concrete and viable income-generating and cost-saving initiatives are being generated at a local level, as is evidenced in the departmental reports attached as appendices to this statement. These include (to name a few): short courses; evening classes; extension degrees; foundation degrees; interdisciplinary programmes; shared and external modules; cross-university programmes; and online courses. Across the College, colleagues have been developing innovative, feasible plans for generating revenue in the medium-term and in ways that avoid detrimental impact on staff and students. For example, there is strong support for the view that ALs could offer high quality, or accredited short courses, opening up valuable income streams in ways that can make good on the College’s commitments to social progressiveness, both in terms of content and target demographics; however, it is essential that staff working on any such activities who are not on permanent contracts benefit, at the very least, from the same pay and protections as Associate Lecturers, noting a clear need for these protections to be made more robust.
There is scope for increased collaboration between Quality Assurance and academic colleagues to support the generation of new programmes (for example by increasing PG Certs and Diplomas or developing taught, intra-departmental or low-residency PhD programmes). It is also vital that pedagogic practices on new and existing programmes support all students, and not just those who have been privileged by systemic racism.
Fundraising efforts should be stepped up so that capital gains resulting from endowments can be used to reduce the College’s deficit.
(5) Preparing for the next academic session
Medium- and long-term revenue-building and cost-saving is important, but should not come at the cost of delivering what we have promised to deliver.
Staff are concerned that there is not enough discussion about best online practice, at a local level, in particular modules, rather than just via pre-designed video/VLE modules from TaLIC. Timetabling (potentially to teach students in several time zones), use of outdoor spaces and suggestions around “bubbles” all need to be worked through in line with potential module amendments and in time for Autumn term. There is considerable concern about the consequences of online teaching in terms of increased workload and ongoing parental or other caring responsibilities (see above). Both staff and students need clarity about what we are able – safely and equitably – to deliver for the foreseeable future, and training should not degenerate into administrative box-ticking exercises.
There is continued concern around the assumption that all students and staff have access to stable WiFi and have home situations conducive to online work. This is a particular concern for black and minority ethnic students and those from low-income backgrounds.
What we have set out here – and in the attached appendices – is the product of collective deliberation. It is a statement for us, as workers at Goldsmiths, as much as it is a call on our Senior Management Team and Council to listen to and work with its staff to generate viable and ethicalsolutions to the challenges faced by the College.
Change Rapporteurs (Collective Change Working Group)
[Departmental Statements outlining a range of issues and specific ideas for making or saving money have been attached in a separate document]