Royal College of Art leadership loses vote of no confidence over racism row

Royal College of Art staff say they are considering strike action this autumn if the issues raised in an open letter are not addressed © Shadowssettle via Wikicommons

The Royal College of Arts leadership resoundingly lost a vote of no confidence on Tuesday evening after a white man was selected as its head of inclusion, an appointment staff and students say points to a “toxic culture of systemic racism” at the London institution.

Paul Thompson, the vice-chancellor, has since dropped Mark Harrison from the newly created post.

Almost 90% of union members who participated (130 people) approved the vote of no confidence, although the college disputes that the move was supported by the whole institution. An RCA spokesman says that the universitys council “unanimously supports” the senior management team and has approved a five-year financial plan.

However, an open letter signed by 800 students and current and former members of staff, including Jeremy Deller and all four winners of this years Turner prize, says Harrisons appointment was distressing “at a time of mass protest around the violent marginalisation of black people from society”. In the letter, sent to the vice chancellor on 25 June, staff and students call for Harrisons job offer to be rescinded, as well as a revised job description and the creation of a diverse recruitment panel to oversee future appointments.

According to the RCAs latest equality report, white applicants are almost twice as likely to be appointed to an RCA role than an applicant from a black or minority ethnic background.

The RCA has now “paused the appointment of its new equality, diversity and inclusion role”, its spokesman says, to allow “a fuller conversation with staff, students, alumni and other members of the RCA community on what arrangements for diversity and equality the RCA needs going forward and how best to resource it”.

Harrisons appointment was announced in a message sent by Thompson on 15 June, which also outlined the RCAs stance on institutional racism. However, staff and students question the colleges ability to actively push for change. They say that numerous testimonies from colleagues and peers of African, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, Asian, First Nations and Indigenous heritage, show that the RCA “has for generations fostered a hideous culture of overt and insidious systemic racism”.

The RCA spokesman says the colleges senior management team “has made a long-term commitment to anti-racism and support for Black Lives Matter. We acknowledge the gravity of the situation and are committed to make the transformational progress we want to see”.

Staff and union members are not convinced. They now say they are Read More – Source