Evan Ifekoya ‘withdraws labour’ from Goldsmiths College claiming ‘institutional’ racism

The artist Evan Ifekoya says they are ‘withdrawing’ their ‘labour’ from Goldsmiths College, London, in protest of what they claim as ‘institutional, structural and economic’ racism at the school.

Ifekoya is the only permanently employed black member of academic staff within the art department at Goldsmiths. ‘To be so within a team of 70+ people – a tiny fraction of whom are people of colour – in 2020 is not acceptable’, they wrote in an open letter. Ifekoya cited an internal letter highlighting that of the department’s six members of BAME staff, five are on precarious fixed term contracts. The letter sought colleagues’ support in securing the jobs of the five BAME members of staff. Ifekoya says that they received replies from colleagues pushing back, with some responding that ‘all staff matter’ and others alleging ‘coercion tactics’.

‘I refuse to see a vocal number of colleagues reject the option to protest 5 BAME co-workers threatened with losing their jobs. I refuse to receive emails from colleagues that centre whiteness and play out the rhetoric of “all lives matter” in my inbox […] I refuse to work as a racialised individual who is perceived by default to shoulder anti-racist work because of the colour of my skin,’ Ifekoya wrote.

A spokesperson for Goldsmiths, in a statement to ArtReview, said ‘We would always investigate any specific reports of racist behaviour made to the College as a priority and take appropriate action.’

‘We fully recognise that simply stating we are committed to tackling racial injustice in all its forms is not enough and will be discussing with students and colleagues what more we need to do if we are to eliminate the scourge of racism from our community.’

Goldsmiths is looking to cut 163 academics on fixed term contracts, along with 309 Associate Lecturers and Graduate Trainee Tutors. Campaigners say the school refused requests to furlough those on the contracts, instead allowing the terms to simply expire. 

The college froze all recruitment earlier this year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but says they did not terminate any Associate Lecturer contracts early. ‘The vast majority of Associate Lecturers would not normally be employed by us over the summer period. Where Associate Lecturers are currently doing work for Goldsmiths we’d encourage them to claim in the usual way and they will be paid as normal,’ the college said. A pressure group, Precarious@Gold, last week announced a marking boycott.

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