Goldsmiths to allow students suffering racial trauma to apply for extensions

London university to allow students to cite racial trauma as extenuating circumstance affecting their work

Goldsmiths, University of London, is to allow students to cite cases of racial trauma as having affected their studies, becoming the first UK university to recognise the damaging effects of racism on academic progress.

The move comes after a campaign by the university’s student union to include racial trauma in the categories of “serious life events” that require a student extra time for submitting coursework or assessments.

Frances Corner, the warden of Goldsmiths, said: “This change relates to our extenuating circumstances policy, which enables students to ask us to take into account serious life events when assessing their progress with their studies.

“Self-certification for this kind of support is common at universities and students are entitled to proper support when the need arises.

“A student must submit a detailed statement which is carefully considered by academic departments, who then decide an appropriate response.

“Applications are considered on a case-by-case basis, with the college committed to providing the best possible support to each of our students.”

Goldsmiths’ student union said the move was “great news and a step in the right direction”, and was the result of campaigning by the union’s officers.

The Uni has agreed to our Sabbs' proposal to include 'racial trauma' as a reason to defer essays for Black & PoC students through self-certification, not an evidence based approach. This is great news and a step in the right direction. Well done to those involved in discussions!

— Goldsmiths SU (@GoldsmithsSU) June 17, 2021

The college said that its academic board has “noted the intention to include racial trauma” as one of the examples of trauma for which students may apply as extenuating circumstances affecting their work.

“We will produce updated guidance on this category for students and staff in time for the new academic year, working with our academic community, including experts in the field, and our student representatives,” Goldsmiths said.

Universities allow students to cite extenuating circumstances including personal trauma and mental health issues in applications to extend course deadlines or to delay or replace exams or other assessments.

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in the US last year, several universities in the UK allowed students to apply for extra consideration for racial trauma. But Goldsmiths’s move would be the first time that racial trauma has been formally recognised as a specific category.

Larissa Kennedy, president of the National Union of Students, applauded the move: “For far too long, black and brown students have had to relive their trauma in front of decision-makers, who often have little to no understanding of racial trauma themselves.

“This win by Goldsmith students’ union is a win for all campaigns to decolonise education. It is one cornerstone of the end of universities’ complicity in racial violence, as it sets a precedent for institutions across the country.

“Many universities published empty platitudes of support during the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement last summer. A year on, we must see tangible action. Institutions must tend to the welfare of students and staff of colour who are exhausted by racism, day in and day out.”


Richard Adams Education editor

The GuardianTramp

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