Equality is not a credential

Sara Ahmed resigned from her post after trying for several years to get justice for a series of victims of sexual harassment at Goldsmiths University.  Her discussion of the resignation is here.  She has now written a powerful piece that discusses the ways that institutional efforts toward greater equality have come to be paperwork exercises.  Worse yet:

Being good at writing documents become a competency that is also an obstacle for diversity work, as it means that the university gets judged as good because of the document….

So a problem can be reproduced by the appearance of having solved it. I mention this earlier work on diversity here and now for a reason. It helped me to make sense of a statement on Sexual Harassment published by the college on June 3rd in response to the attention given to the problem on social media (an attention that has something to do with an act of bringing to attention).

The statement refers to various activities as evidence of its credentials. One activity is Athena Swan: which has become reduced to a branding exercise (which is not to say that is all that it is) by being evoked in this way on a statement on sexual harassment. Another activity they reference is the conference on Sexual Harassment in Higher Education (SHHE) that took place in December 2015. The conference was organised by Anna Bull, Tiffany Page and Leila Whitley who were . They as organisers have just published an important and powerful response to the college’s statement. As they note: “It was because no one was else was willing to organise an event on sexual harassment that we took it upon ourselves. This has been a recurring theme during our time at Goldsmiths: the reliance on the labour and energy of students, rather than a concerted effort by the institution.”An event that was claimed as evidence of what the college was doing came about because of what the college was not doing.

This article is really a must-read for all of us who are working to make philosophy more equal, writing endless documents and protocols, organising workshops, etc.

 

 

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