London Student

Back to the drawing board at Goldsmiths SU

What would Mahatma Gandhi, one of the most famous of the University of London alumni, have said if he’d cast a bespectacled eye over the current Goldsmiths debacle? Maybe a resignation for a resignation makes the whole world unemployed.

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Sabrina Sharif

Mid-November saw Sabrina Sharif and Zac Thomas step down from their editorial positions at The Leopard citing attempts by the SU to compromise their journalistic integrity. They were working on articles that addressed high profile allegations of bullying and harassment within Goldsmith’s Union, work that, although it remains unpublished, has contributed to the resignations of three out of four sabbatical officers, including everybody’s favourite lefty bête noir Bahar Mustafa.

Now it’s emerged none of them will be replaced.

Goldsmiths College has a long tradition of political activism, of radical ideology and, perhaps most of all, of stoking controversy with an uncompromising consistency. It has a proud history of producing cultural Enfant Terribles like Mary Quant, Malcolm McLaran and Damien Hirst and has reached national notoriety for its vocal involvement in the 2010 tuition fee protests, culminating with Goldsmiths University Challenge team using a kettle as a team mascot. Of all universities, Goldsmiths holds a particularly antagonistic relationship with establishment voices, and it is for this reason that the terrific capitulation of its SU is such a tragedy, as it benefits only, those who would love to see students’ unions reduced to apolitical bureaucratic agencies.

The disastrous self-immolation of student representatives within Goldsmiths lets down the very people they were elected to serve

More recently, the university has been hit with yet another contentious resignation, as Muhammed Patel quits leadership of the Goldsmith’s Islamic society amid accusations of homophobia and intimidation, accusations that followed attempts by the society to shut down a talk held by controversial commentator Maryam Namazie. The running total of high-profile tended resignations at Goldsmiths is currently at 6, and for only the 108th largest UK university, this is nothing short of a disaster.

It is rare to see such a profoundly important institution in a state of such abject rudderlessness. Although the Leopard has reinstated Thompson as comment editor, the SU’s decision to avoid running re-elections for sabbatical officers means that for the rest of this academic year, at least, the chaos is set to continue.

The question is, though, how can a Goldsmiths run without its sabbs? An institute may still offer lectures, seminars and ultimately award degrees to undergraduates, but surely this remains the minimum expectation of a university? A university like Goldsmiths depends on student activism, society input and a coherent ideological base for the success of its brand. The disastrous self-immolation of student representatives within Goldsmiths lets down the very people they were elected to serve, the very people who take out increasingly ludicrous loans to live and study in South-East London. Most of all, it should be noted that the failures of student democracy at Goldsmiths must strengthen the resolve of the student union movement, in general, cowed by vicious cuts, a vindictive government and increasingly staring into an abyss of its own making.

Many thanks must be extended here, on behalf of the Goldsmith’s student body, to Danny Nasr the elected Education Officer, who has stepped in to become acting president for Goldsmiths SU.

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Matthew Wilson