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.