Do you have confidence in SMT?

Participants in Collective Change and the Professors’ Forum, with the endorsement of Goldsmiths University and College Union and Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action, are calling a Vote of No Confidence in the Senior Management Team (SMT)

Who Are SMT?

Led by the Warden, Professor Frances Corner OBE, the Senior Management Team are: Professor Elisabeth Hill, Deputy Warden and Pro-Warden for Learning, Teaching & Enhancement; Helen Watson, Registrar and Secretary; Professor David Oswell, Pro-Warden for Research and Enterprise; Professor Michael Banissy, Acting Head of the School of Professional Services, Science and Technology; Nirmal Borkhataria, interim Director of Finance; Carol Ford, Director of Human Resources. For more information visit Who Are SMT?

Why Vote “No”?

  • SMT’s restructure of the College would see the shrinking of departments, the closure of programmes and courses, the shrinking and centralisation of services and ultimately the closure of departments and redundancies. Together, these changes will undermine the autonomy of surviving academic departments in financial and academic decision-making processes. 
  • SMT have lost all credibility by refusing to engage with staff seeking consultation for the past six months. On April 22nd, the Warden announced the discontinuation of the much-criticised Evolving Goldsmiths. However, precisely the same approach to managing the College is being pushed forward as we have recently witnessed in the new Pro Warden roles and Heads of Schools, increasing SMT by 3 roles ( as per Evolving Goldsmiths). 
  • SMT appear to wish to push forward with the Enterprise Hub that KPMG’s Independent Business Review estimates will cost the College at least £8.8m. SMT continue to do so despite KPMG’s recommendation to pause the Enterprise Hub as a key expenditure-saving measure, thereby willingly and intentionally choosing capital expenditure over the protection of jobs, programmes and departments. 
  • SMT have consistently avoided meaningful consultation with, and accountability to, staff. SMT have dismissed staff initiatives to contribute experience and expertise to decisions; formed complex and opaque ‘consultation committees’ with unclear paths to membership; and, repeatedly announced versions of ‘suggestion box’ communication, choosing cherry picking and tokenism over an actual exchange of ideas in discursive deliberation. 
  • SMT have failed to provide adequate leadership throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. They have neglected the immediate needs of students, many ill or isolating in Residence Halls in substandard conditions, without adequate food supply, internet connection or the promised connectivity dongles. BME students have been hit particularly hard, in addition to the structural racism they are already experiencing.  
  • SMT have failed to adequately co-ordinate professional services during the pandemic. Low points of this failure were lateness in central decisions on the provision of teaching in the autumn and a several day-long IT outage in early September with attendant chaos in late summer resit marking. Chaos has also marked the beginning of the autumn term, with many students still without timetables in week 3, failing IT for online teaching and greatly increased staff workloads.
  • SMT have conceived of, constructed and continued to pursue a culture of blame and failure at a time when staff across the College are making exceptional efforts to deliver high quality teaching and pastoral care, whether as lecturers, technical support or members of professional services. Throughout, SMT have taken on an authoritarian tone when communicating with staff about COVID 19-related measures and have shown a disinterest in staff hardship, further disadvantaging BME and women staff, further undermining, in the final analysis, staff morale and confidence in the institution. 

A Vote of No Confidence is a call for …

An immediate pause to the current ‘Recovery Framework’

 An immediate pause on the development of the Enterprise Hub

Genuine consultation with staff on how to sustain and advance the future of Goldsmiths as a nationally and internationally esteemed teaching and research institution

Background

By autumn 2019 the Senior Management Team, including the current Pro-Wardens, had accumulated a deficit of £6.7m. In February 2020 the new Warden introduced Evolving Goldsmiths, a restructuring plan that included the hiring of three additional senior managers on six-figure salaries, the centralisation of administration and professional services in Schools and concomitant loss of departmental autonomy and a Voluntary Severance Scheme. The vast majority of Goldsmiths staff felt that the plan was misguided: wrong expenditures; wrong cuts; too top down; lip service to “radical transparency”, but in truth deeply undemocratic and failing to tap into the knowledge, experience and creativity of Goldsmiths, namely its staff. Collective letters of protest to bodies of governance were signed, one by 583 colleagues, and Alternative Goldsmiths was drafted, a plan on how to get out of what had become a dual financial-cum-COVID 19 crisis. 

New representative bodies constituted themselves–first the Professors’ Forum, later Collective Change, the widest grassroots initiative in the recent history of Goldsmiths–all because staff voices weren’t being heard. On April 22nd SMT scrapped most of Evolving Goldsmiths (the Voluntary Severance Scheme and downgrading of Departmental Business Managers remained). 

Since the scrapping of Evolving Goldsmiths it has become clear, however, that SMT are trying to reintroduce Evolving Goldsmiths by the backdoor. They are pushing ahead at great speed without consultation or knowledge of most staff.  They have persisted with a core element of Evolving Goldsmiths which had previously been dropped: the removal of departmental management responsibilities from pro-wardens and the creation of new ‘School Heads’–effectively, the previously proposed Executive Deans.  

SMT will be applying for a bank loan in December–to recover the deficit and lack of liquidity–and to that end, as required by the banks, have commissioned from the accounting firm KPMG an Internal Business Review. Based on this, the loan application will present a ‘Recovery Framework’ to demonstrate cost savings across the board. The Recovery Framework will be presented to Council for a decision on November 26th, with promise of consultation across the community from January to build a ‘Recovery Plan’. How far this consultation will affect the basic structure of the Framework and what might have been locked into this in terms of staff and other cuts has not been explained in any detail to date, leaving staff feeling powerless as to how our voice will be heard in the development of the Recovery Plan. 

It is assumed that the Recovery Plan will likely involve further redundancies and possibly the liquidation of entire departments. Redundancies so far have occurred through the Voluntary Severance Scheme and the non-renewal of temporary contracts for Associate Lecturers who are disproportionately BME, exacerbating the plight of already disadvantaged communities.  

How to Vote

Check out the Visual Guide

Further Information

More information for academic, professional, administrative and technical staff members of departments can be found on a page detailing responses to Frequently Asked Questions.

Amplify the Message