Academic boycott urged by Goldsmiths lecturer’s union in fight over redundancies

Striking staff last year Pic: Goldsmiths UCU

A global academic boycott of Goldsmiths, University of London, has been called for by lecturers at the Lewisham university.

The boycott follows three weeks of strike action before Christmas by members of the University and College Union, which represents academic and professional staff over the plans by the University management to make 52 members of staff redundant this academic year. Another strike is planned for later this term.

The academic boycott, known as ‘greylisting’ primarily affects events and research partnerships, and is asking for support from the global academic community, other trade unions and labour movement organisations.

This includes refusing to speak at academic events, participating in new non-research-based partnership enterprises, refusing to write for any academic journal which is edited at or produced by Goldsmiths, refusing to accept new contracts as external examiners for taught courses, and relocating events due to take place at Goldsmiths to other venues.

Goldsmiths UCU told Eastlondonlines: “Our intention is to use this academic boycott to inflict further reputational damage on our employer. Goldsmiths is an institution known for its critical, radical, and progressive values but this reputation has been created by its front-line staff. If our employer is not upholding these values in practice, it is our right and responsibility to withhold the fruits of this reputation.

“We intend to do so for as long as it takes to save the jobs of our colleagues.”

The redundancies are part of Goldsmiths’ recovery plan, which aims to save £9 million by 2023 to solve the ‘significant financial challenges’ the university is facing. The academic departments under threat are English and Creative Writing and History.

A spokesperson for Goldsmiths said: “None of the submissions to our recent collective consultation suggested viable alternative proposals which would deliver the savings needed by 2023. This means several academics within English and Creative Writing and History remain at risk of redundancy. We will continue to support and advise those affected and work to minimise the number of redundancies across the College.

“The real losers from any ‘global boycott’ are likely to be our local communities. Such a move threatens to undermine our work with local partners and will only damage communities in the Lewisham area struggling to recover from the pandemic and risks depriving local young people of the chance to learn new skills and discover new opportunities.

“Goldsmiths has repeatedly invited Goldsmiths UCU to join the College at ACAS for talks with no pre-conditions on either side to help find a shared way forward. So far this offer has been rejected but we remain ready to meet.”

The UCU have underlined that this boycott is not designed to affect the teaching of any degree programme for students. This means that courses structured around regular guest lecturers and academics will not have their learning affected by the boycott.

In an email sent to Goldsmiths students, Pro-Warden Academic Elizabeth Hill said: “The timetable for any changes coming into effect has been moved back a few months to the end of the year – meaning that the significant majority of students will have the same staff overseeing their studies and marking their work.”

Both Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art and the Student Union are exempt from this boycott, and all events at these venues are not sanctioned. The union has encouraged students to continue to utilise these events and resources during the academic boycott.

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