Open letter from Professor Frances Corner, Warden of Goldsmiths

Primary page content

In light of recent events at Goldsmiths and across society in relation to racial injustice, the Warden has written an open letter to our community setting out the College’s position and how we are addressing this issue. Below we publish the letter in full in order for it to be shared with everyone.

Dear Goldsmiths community,

I am writing to you in response to events at the College in recent days, and to address more broadly where we stand in relation to the critical matter of racial injustice.

As you will know, this time last year Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action (GARA) were occupying Deptford Town Hall in protest at the College’s collective inaction over racial injustice on our campus and beyond.

While our community has always proudly and actively engaged in anti-racist work, either as individuals or within the framework of the institution, GARA's 137-day action and our commitments represented a crossroads where we began a meaningful journey in addressing and eradicating racial injustice at the College.

Over the last 12 months we have not progressed along this road as far as we should have. I want to personally apologise for this and for not meeting the standards our community demands of the College.

I do not want to present excuses for this – it is of deep disappointment to all of us. But we are determined to get this complex work right, meaning that we must continue to find shared solutions to deep-rooted and emotive issues which can present both individuals and the institution with moments of challenge.

I also do not want to use recent events as a springboard to action for the College. The killing of George Floyd and the subsequent global impact of his death has raised the wider awareness of racial injustice but the pain and anger felt by our own community was clear before the events of 25 May 2020.

The actions of GARA showed us that, last October’s Insider-Outsider Report showed us that, this week’s events in the Department of Art showed us that. We need no more evidence for a mandate for change.

In my recent letter to the US ambassador I said this was a moment for his country to pivot. This principle applies to Goldsmiths – and I now ask for our community’s consent that we review, reset and redouble our work in addressing racial injustice.

As we have said before, this is change which has to take place across the College. SMT takes full responsibility for leading and enabling this work but there is no doubt that this duty also lands with Academic Departments, Professional Services teams and each of us as individuals – as well as our unions and I would like to thank Goldsmiths UCU for recognising this in their message to members earlier this week.

I know and understand that some may view this message as performative, as just another note from an institutional leader about how their organisation is addressing racial injustice. I hear this and in response I make a personal pledge that as Warden of Goldsmiths I will work tirelessly to bring about change.

To help deliver this I can announce new initiatives to help support and supplement the work which is already taking place in this area.

  • The College will be holding an investigation led by an external, independent expert into the recent issues raised in the Department of Art. We will share more details on this investigation as soon as they are available
  • The College will establish a new Board, which I will Chair, to review work addressing racial injustice at Goldsmiths. We will shortly be inviting all key stakeholders to be part of this work
  • The College will progress the community consultation on the Deptford Town Hall statues as a matter of urgency – the first meeting with key stakeholders is being held early next month
  • The College will review its commitments made to GARA last summer. We must recognise that we have made progress on a number of these thanks to the efforts of students and colleagues – but that there remains significant work still to be done
  • All members of Council, Council Committees, Academic Board and Academic Board’s sub-committees are to undergo unconscious bias training, following racial awareness training for members of SMT attended during this academic year and ahead of a wider training programme for all colleagues being planned for next academic year

I know there is a strong ambition among our community to dismantle the white privilege which still runs through the academy and I want to thank those of you who have contacted me following my message to colleagues on Tuesday, suggesting ideas for how we can move forward together in combating racism in all its forms.

By working together and addressing racial injustice with absolute honesty and effort we will deliver meaningful change.

With best wishes,

Professor Frances Corner
Goldsmiths, University of London