Goldsmiths, University of London has been accused of watering down a damning report that illuminates how black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students feel victimised on campus by removing a foreword written by an anti-racism student activist organisation that was central to its publication.
Mona Mounir, welfare and liberation officer at Goldsmiths students’ union, says the foreword she was asked to write for the report was pulled at the last minute on the grounds it was “too political”. She was also writing in her capacity as a representative of student group Goldsmiths Anti-Racism Action, which occupied Deptford town hall between March and July to protest against racism on campus.
In the original foreword, Mounir described the challenges of undertaking anti-racism work at the south London university and its students’ union. “I realised that the students’ union has ‘liberation’ as a priority in the set written values but does not demonstrate that as much as it should in practice,” she wrote.
“This is similar to how Goldsmiths University tries to brand itself as a progressive and ‘left’ institution but in reality, that is not the case. There are a lot of changes happening within the students’ union right now to address this, from new staff, new management, to hopefully a new structure that will have a significant positive change.”
The report was originally commissioned by the students’ union but was handed over to the university when funding ran out, on the understanding that the union would have final sign-off and the opportunity to author a foreword.
According to Mounir, the university was unhappy with the criticisms she made, which it believed would make the report “lose credibility”. She says that the university altered the foreword without her approval and informed her that it had been sent to print. After Mounir challenged Goldsmiths, the university agreed to retract the foreword and remove reference to the students’ union endorsement. Another student, Sara Bafo, who had resigned from her post as representative on the anthropology course on grounds of racism, also had her foreword pulled.
“They want to produce the first report by an institution around racism, but they don’t want to forefront the voices of people who are really doing stuff on the ground,” Mounir says. “The majority of this report was funded by students’ union money.”
Sofia Akel, the researcher who authored the report, says she was unable to include any other reference to Goldsmiths Anti-Racism Action’s occupation work as it began after her data collection had been completed. “I definitely think that they should have their own platform because they’ve done an incredible job of bringing this forward,” she says.
The report found that while almost half (45%) of students at Goldsmiths are BAME they frequently experience both overt and indirect racism from white peers and staff, and did not trust the university to handle complaints.
Mounir is satisfied with the report’s recommendations, which include mandatory race-awareness training for staff, a review of complaints procedures, and improving the number of BAME senior managers. However she notes that the report contains “nothing actually new” that the students’ union hasn’t already raised. “There is a lot that’s been toned down on language and stuff like that, and a lot that’s been covered up,” she adds.
A spokesperson for Goldsmiths said: “The college offered to support this important research when it became clear that otherwise it would not be completed or published and the voices of the BAME students who took part would not be heard. The students’ union were offered the opportunity to contribute a foreword along with an additional 12-pages of responses from individuals and groups about their experiences.
“When offering to support the completion of the report the college understood it to be a joint publication with the students’ union. The students’ union asked for their logo to be removed from the report shortly before publication.”