As we continue to gather evidence on sexual harassment at Goldsmiths, we would like to clarify our motivations and demands in starting this campaign.
As Sara Ahmed wrote in her blog post detailing more about her resignation, there was “one individual who has since left the college after two enquiries” and there have been “six enquiries relating to four members of staff: at least that I know of” at Goldsmiths. Goldsmiths’ clumsy statement on sexual harassment was criticised by the organisers of the Sexual Harassment in Higher Education conference. We agree that Goldsmiths’ attempted appropriation of students’ labour in organising this conference is shameful.
Pro-warden Professor Jane Powell’s more tactful statement on June 6th 2016 was, according to SHHEGoldsmiths, “the first official, public acknowledgement that we have seen of this fact” – the fact being Goldsmiths’ history of sexual harassment. Jane Powell’s sentence reads: “So when cases arise here, as they have, it is simultaneously dispiriting and encouraging. ” This small sentence, buried in the middle of a 1000+ word open letter speaks volumes, as it tries tirelessly to strike a positive tone. As the organisers of SHHEGoldsmiths explain, they organised the event out of a necessity brought about by Goldsmiths’ institutional silence. The admission that “cases” “have arisen” should not be mentioned amidst an exhalation. These “cases” have poisoned campus life and must be dealt with accordingly. It is not only to the detriment to Goldsmiths students and staff, but to other students and staff all around the world that severe cases of sexual harassment over several years have been buried.
In an email in response to Goldsmiths, we laid out our demands (UPDATED 30th July 2016):
- We are concerned that students do not have enough information about Goldsmiths’ history of sexual harassment and that other institutions are unaware about the perpetrators’ actions.
- We are frustrated with the lack of information especially as to whether perpetrators are still at the university and whether this led to Sara Ahmed’s resignation.
- We think that given this past which Goldsmiths unfortunately has, there should be a clear protocol for students which is not as fear-inducing as making an official complaint can be. It should be clearly written, where someone should seek advice if they are being sexually harassed and how this will be dealt with. It should bear in mind how victims will often not have the confidence or bravery to come forward at the time – only years later.
- This should not be buried in difficult-to-find policy documents on “Dignity in the Learning Environment” or “Dignity at Work”. These documents, approved by council in December 2009, overlap chronologically with the allegations which we are investigating. We need assurance that these are not empty words.
- We want Goldsmiths to detail the disciplinary processes which occurred during the period of complaints of sexual harassment including any mishandlings of the complaints.
- We believe that Goldsmiths should be more active in assuring students that despite past failings, they have learned from them.