Students occupy Slade School of Fine Art in protest of institutional racism
More than 50 students are occupying Slade’s main building from December 13
As part of a demonstration called #sladeoccupied, students from UCL’s Slade School of Fine Art have released a statement to the Art director and UCL administration concerning a racist environment caused by the underrepresentation of non-white staff and students.
They have also covered the school building in banners and put together 14 demands consisting of proposed policies of inclusion and diversity to ensure equality within the school.
Similar protests occurred three years ago but are being repeated as students have felt no significant improvement on microaggressions and racist behaviours.
On December 13, banners stating things such as “we demand transparency”, “support POC staff and students,” and “make anti-discriminatory training mandatory” have covered UCL’s Slade School of Fine Art. These banners were made by Slade students protesting in the main college building, calling for the acknowledgement of apathy towards microaggressions and racist behaviour.
In a statement released by Slade Action, which is the representative body of protesting students, it was revealed that a staff member had resigned due to the “structurally unequal and institutionally racist environment.” The statement also disclosed a disparity between temporary teaching contracts and lecture contracts. Staff members on temporary teaching contracts were disproportionately non-white compared to permanent lecture contracts. These temporary contracts were also described as “exploitative” and contributed to a “hierarchical imbalance” at the school.
There have also been allegations that a POC staff member is subject to microaggressions and direct discrimination.
Slade Action stated that students had found frustration in reporting racist incidents as they are often dismissed, and repercussions are never achieved. These led to the current protest against the lack of official acknowledgement of systemic racism, and students are intended to continue protesting until meaningful change is met to ensure equality.
On December 10, a student support and well-being questionnaire was conducted, highlighting the difficulties students faced at the Slade. 85.3 per cent believed they were not being listened to – further statistics can be found on the Slade action Instagram.
The Slade student body is standing in solidarity with POC staff and students demanding for:
- Reform to the complaints system and greater support of mandatory anti-discrimination training
- Reforms to the framework for applications of POC staff and students
- An external investigation into the failures of the institution
- Expanding the forms of support
- More transparent and direct communication with the student body
A current Slade student spoke to The London Tab, saying that Slade alumni have written to the Slade Action Instagram showing their support and understanding as they had dealt with the same issues during their time. It has been said that past students experienced the same dismissal to their concerns surrounding systemic racism.
An anonymous Slade student also expressed being shaken “to know that there are tutors in the school who have been racist and discriminatory towards a fellow tutor and to other students.
“Overall, I just feel so let down by my experience at Slade. Some staff care about the students, but then these staff just end up being the only support while others can go round being actively racist or misgendering students,” another anonymous student elaborated.
In response, a UCL spokesperson said to The London Tab: “We respect the rights of our students to protest in line with UCL’s deep commitment to freedom of speech and expression. We fully acknowledge that racism exists within our university, and we recognise the potency of institutional racism. We are determined to challenge this and have met with the students to discuss their concerns and are exploring options for addressing the issues raised. Our security staff have also met with the students to prioritise their safety and security while they occupy the building.”
Feature photos provided and used with permission by Slade Action.