Goldsmiths places world’s first queer history degree under ‘existential threat’ this LGBT+ History Month

Two lecturers at risk of redundancy said the course ‘could not operate’ without them

The world’s first queer history master’s degree at Goldsmiths is under threat as two core lecturers are at risk of redundancy.

They are among the 46 at risk of job loss as the uni tries to recover from a “reported deficit of £12.7 million.”

One of the lecturers, Dr Kate Davison, said of the uni: “They want to use queer studies to improve the college’s image but at the same time they’re not really concerned about the optics of placing queer history at risk even in the context of LGBT History Month.”

Goldsmiths launched the first-ever degree in queer history five years ago. But by the end of last year, its two core lecturers, Dr. Justin Bengry and Dr. Kate Davidson, received notices that their jobs might be axed.

Both claim that the degree “could not operate” if they’re let go, with Dr. Bengry referring to it as an “existential threat to the programme.”

Dr. Bengry said in an interview with PinkNews: “They’ve left both Kate and I ‘in scope’, the terminology they use, because the college claims there may be other staff in the department qualified to teach in queer history.

“This also is astonishing because other than Kate and I, not a single person in our department has ever published a significant thing in queer history, and certainly between Kate and I, I’m confident we know every other person in the country qualified to work in our roles.”

Dr. Davidson elaborated: “People just think, ‘Any historian can teach queer history, they just have to talk about queers,’ which is a total misunderstanding of what we do.

“These are incredibly resilient communities. They are also communities that have collectively been exposed to a great amount of harm. And the idea that somebody who specialises in military strategy in the Second World War can just come in and suddenly start teaching about the history of oppression is preposterous,” she said.

Both lecturers also became critical of the uni’s intention in piloting this degree among other “progressive” ones.

Even though February marks both LGBT+ History Month and Black History Month, the uni has left lecturers in both queer history and Black British history “in scope” for redundancy.

Dr Davidson thinks that despite Goldsmiths seeming like it’s “very interested in continuing its profile as a progressive and possibly even a radical college,” everything she’s experienced “points to this being a very cynical use of these areas of teaching to promote an image of the college that in my observation so far doesn’t match what’s going on on the ground.”

Both lecturers are currently waiting for a final decision in March to decide the fates of their jobs and the programme. They urge the uni to reconsider the importance of this course, which, according to Dr. Davidson, is far from just a “quirky area of specialisation.”

“Some of the most cutting edge innovations are happening in the field of queer history or LGBT history. If that’s lost, it’ll be a disadvantage to history as a whole,” she said.

In response, a Goldsmiths spokesperson told The London Tab: “The reality is Goldsmiths needs to save £9m in ongoing spend by 2023 to put the College back on a sustainable financial footing.

“As no one has been able to suggest viable alternative proposals which would deliver these savings a number of staff 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 proposals do not include the immediate closure of any courses currently being taught. All current students will continue to be taught on their existing programmes to achieve their learning outcomes.

“Goldsmiths remains committed to teaching the humanities as part of a varied teaching and learning offer including the disciplines of history, English and creative writing.”

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