Month: August 2016

Guardian article on sexual harassment at Goldsmiths

Last week the Guardian published an article on sexual harassment at universities and Goldsmiths in particular. It included a mention of our blog and our aims as well as a reference to the photographs of book covers with handwritten allegations which – along with Sara Ahmed’s resignation –  prompted us to start this blog. The article focuses on the use of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) in sexual harassment cases at universities, which as Sara Ahmed is quoted as saying, “… are not necessarily used intentionally to silence students who have been harassed by staff or the staff who support them. But that is the effect. If no one speaks about the cases then no one speaks about what the cases revealed.” Although we were not aware of it at the time, we started this blog as a result of the invisibility caused by such agreements at our institution.

The story of “Beth” in the Guardian article resonates strongly with reports we have gathered from ex-students of Goldsmiths. We have learned of inacceptable behaviour at our institution and have been disgusted by it. As one quote by Alison Phipps in the article states, “Non-disclosure agreements are about protecting the institution and particular individuals. That’s so dangerous because if that person is serially sexually harassing students that is a public interest issue. We need to know if there are people who are serial sexual harassers in our universities.” Our campaign, initially triggered by a curiosity at our discovery of the books, is one which is motivated by a public interest in naming serial sexual harassers in positions of power whilst being educators.

Sara Ahmed’s recent blogpost “Resignation is a feminist issue” gives us much insight into the institutional failings our blog is placed within. We will touch upon this in a later post. We join Sara Ahmed in supporting the newly-formed 1752 Group, an organisation which seeks to end sexual exploitation in higher education by researching, consulting and training in order to develop suitable ways of responding to harassment and misconduct in universities.

We are thankful to the students, staff, academics and journalists who made the Guardian article possible. We hope this work addressing the wider harassment of students at universities will continue. Our investigation will continue into Goldsmiths’ past and present problems. We are grateful to those who have written to us in support of our campaign and to those supporting us by drawing attention to the blog via social media. This is hugely valuable to us. We stand in solidarity with all victims and survivors of sexual harassment at universities and act in solidarity with past, present and potential victims of the systemic failings which have allowed this problem to become as pervasive as it is.

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Statement from Feminist Academics & Activists Concerning Dr Lee Salter, the University of Sussex, and Institutionalised Misogyny in British Higher Education

We Want Truth, Goldsmiths stands in solidarity with this statement from feminist academics and activists concerning Dr Lee Salter at the University of Sussex. What joins our campaign to this shocking case is that far too often, institutional structures mean enormous barriers for women who come forward to challenge sexual harassment at universities and that it is abhorrent how often universities work to protect the perpetrators rather than the victims.

Please see the full statement here: https://justice4sanaz.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/statement-from-feminist-academics-activists-concerning-dr-lee-salter-the-university-of-sussex-and-institutionalised-misogyny-in-british-higher-education/

STOP: Reading Capital in Nottingham

There has been much heated debate on the Facebook page of the event “Reading Capital in Nottingham” the course led by John Hutnyk this summer at Nottingham Contemporary. There have been Facebook posts and tweets urging the Nottingham Contemporary to address the issue of allegations of sexual harassment, which as a public institution has an obligation for openness and transparency. Following one or two weeks of intense arguments between various individuals on the Facebook event page, within the past day (10th August 2016), it has been removed. The relevant page of the website of Nottingham Contemporary has switched to only reading “You are not authorized to access this page”. We believe that this indicates that the event could have been cancelled. ***UPDATE 11th August 2016. In response to our enquiry, the Nottingham Contemporary have confirmed that “The remaining lectures of the course have been cancelled due to personal reasons relating to the course leader.”***

Initially several people began posting about the allegations of sexual harassment by Hutnyk at Goldsmiths. In response to these, some individuals came out in defense of Hutnyk. Many of these comments appealed for greater evidence – which is something we are currently working on providing.

Hutnyk himself began to comment on:

FB_grab_ReadingCapital_event3

Transcript:

If I must say something, reluctantly but with respect, on this thread: I would like to address the anonymous allegations first by saying that, I resigned my post at Goldsmiths for family and political reasons, and that, as Goldsmiths HR confirm in the associated email (screenshot), I was not charged with sexual harassment. I do however take such issues seriously and I can see that the university environment was too often one in which women did not feel respected and I deeply regret anything I did to contribute to this.
Due to a confidentiality clause imposed by the university on myself and others and out of respect for unnamed persons who have continuing grievances at the college, I cannot give more detail. I can say the processes afforded to those making complaints are inadequate and that resolution in a open and transparent process is something I would like to see.

[Attached image – Email screengrab]

To: John Hutnyk <john.hutnyk@gmail.com>
Cc: Patrick Loughrey <warden@gold.ac.uk>
Subject: RE: wewanttruth

Dear John

Thank you for your email. We will give consideration to your suggestion. In the meantime, you could of course make a statement that you were not charged with sexual harassment yourself.
Kind Regards
Kath
Kath Clarke
Director of Human Resources
Goldsmiths University of London
New Cross, London, SE14 6NW

We read – with aggravation – that Goldsmiths HR have given Hutnyk the permission to make a statement that he “was not charged with sexual harassment”. This, however, given the indications mentioned previously on Sara Ahmed’s blog and others, seems to be a careful tip-toeing around the issue at hand. It is not surprising to us that he was not “charged with sexual harassment”; if we believe the words scribbled in his books, he resigned before a disciplinary hearing so he could not have been “charged” with anything. This play of words is unhelpful and damaging – particularly given Goldsmiths’ long-standing history of making sexual harassment disappear. It does not help us get any closer to what allegations were made and what the circumstances were around his resignation. We feel increasingly frustrated that Goldsmiths will not reveal the truth or give us a statement. Despite being sporadically in email contact, they are apparently unwilling to disclose the information we have been demanding.

The Nottingham Contemporary then released the following statement:

FB_grab_ReadingCapital_event2

Transcript:

Nottingham Contemporary recognises sexual harassment as an extremely serious issue. We take reasonable and proportionate steps to provide an inclusive, respectful and safe environment for everyone who wishes to participate in our very diverse range of events and activities. Nottingham Contemporary cannot comment on allegations concerning other institutions.

Many people came out protesting this as an insensitive statement by the Nottingham Contemporary, for it neglects to directly address any of questions posed to them and delivers instead a generic and deliberately vague response to the debate. The supposed “reasonable and proportionate steps to provide an inclusive, respectful and safe environment” taken, does not appear to backed up in anyway by the things we have been researching.

To which, Hutnyk himself posted:

FB_grab_ReadingCapital_event4

Transcript:

John Hutnyk: Please see my comment after [NAME BLOCKED OUT]’s post, two below.

Person A: yes, you said you weren’t *charged* for sexual harassment; but didn’t deny sexually harassing your students.
People are not stupid you know, we understand how discourse works and the politics of language; we also know the law and institutional politics.
Your screenshot has zero argumentative value except making the entire thing even more sus: The very point of the wewanttruthgoldsmiths.wordpress.com is that Goldsmiths *didn’t* act on the many many student reports of you sexually harassing them and letting you conveniently “resign” before a disciplinary tribunal could be held.
Why did you resigned before your disciplinary hearing? If you have nothing to hide?
Maybe try learning to properly *read* first, e.g. that blog – it’s honestly not very complicated to get it – before you teach how to read Capital.

John Hutnyk: I deny it. And Nottingham contemporary have been fully professional.

Person A: lol yes duh of course you deny it mate; your opinion doesn’t count for shit right now. Stop derailing.

Another person commented with the following information:

FB_grab_ReadingCapital_event5

‘Nottingham Contemporary have been fully professional’ says John. We all know what ‘professional’ means in this context I think. How about the fact that that his partner is a member of the ‘academic working group’ there and is liking posts defending him here?

So up until this point – we have learned that Hutnyk outright denies allegations of sexual harassment. And we have also learned of the allegation that his partner is a member of the academic working group at the Nottingham Contemporary. We presume that despite our email to the Nottingham Contemporary on the 27th July 2016 showing them our blog and urging them to stop the course, they continued to run it the following week as one post stated that one person is “looking forward to tomorrow’s course :-)” on the 3rd August 2016 (screenshot not included). However, we suspect that the course has now indeed been cancelled but we do not know if it definitely has, and if it has been, for what reasons. ***UPDATE 11th August 2016. In response to our enquiry, the Nottingham Contemporary have confirmed that “The remaining lectures of the course have been cancelled due to personal reasons relating to the course leader.”***

***UPDATE 19th August 2016 – Due to the cancellation of the course “Reading Capital in Nottingham” at Nottingham Contemporary we have deleted part of this post. We do, however, maintain that there are matters of concern regarding the transparency of Nottingham Contemporary’s running of the event.***

By researching some of the allegations made on the now deleted Facebook event page, we have ascertained that there do seem to be personal connections which call the Nottingham Contemporary’s decision to run this event into question – we are still researching these. As many of the voices on the heated debate of the Facebook event pointed out, there are several connections which do not lead us to believe that the course was conceived and organised with the expected levels of transparency and openness one would expect from a public institution.

We are grateful if anyone has information which will help us with our further information and urge anyone who does to contact us via the contact form on our blog. We will keep the anonymity of everyone unless they expressly wish to be named.