Joint Trade Unions statement on Cass, slavery and colonial legacy at City University

Many of us in the City community were unaware until last week that Sir John Cass, who City’s Business School is named after, was a major figure in the development of the trade in enslaved Black people. We are disgusted at what we have learnt.

Cass was a director of The Royal African Company, a company whose primary business was the enslavement and trafficking of Black people from West Africa. It appears that his role meant he dealt directly with the Captains of slave ships and would have been fully aware of the human cost and suffering through which he made his money.

The trade in enslaved Black people was genocide, perpetrated by Britain and other western states on free Black people from Africa. Those who profited and played a role in this reprehensible practice should in no way be publicly honoured.

Over a thousand City staff and students have signed a petition to demand that the Business School be renamed. We encourage our members to add their names here.

In response to City’s statement released Wednesday 10th June: We agree that it will be good to learn more about the history of Cass’ involvement in the trade in enslaved Black people. We further agree that it is necessary for City to review of all of the University’s historic sources of funding to determine if there are any other links with slavery. But the Business School must be renamed now.

London Metropolitan University has announced they will be renaming their Art School and removing Cass’ name. Their Vice Chancellor stated that:

“We recognise that the use of Sir John Cass’ name contributes to the redemption of a man without acknowledging the enormous pain he caused as a major figure in the early development of the slave trade, and the legacy of this pain.”

We call on City, and our President Paul Curran, to make a similar announcement on renaming our Business School. City cannot continue to contribute to Cass’ redemption. Staff, through their recognised trade unions, and students should be consulted on our Business School’s new name.

Further, we call on City to take this opportunity to commit to tackling the institutional racism of our University.

City must recognise that although we can point to individual sources of finance directly linked to the trade in enslaved Black people, our economy today is in its entirety built on the British Empire’s exploitation of enslaved Black people, which enabled modern capitalism to emerge. There is no part of our economy that has ‘clean’ hands and we must work together to change the racist structures in our society. To this end,

  • City must demonstrate its commitment to equality and justice immediately by ending the discriminatory practice of outsourcing of our cleaning and catering colleagues who are overwhelmingly Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic.
  • City uses private contractors to employ these staff and they receive far worse terms and conditions than every other worker at City.
  • City must make a firm and binding commitment to closing the 22.3% racial pay gap at City.
  • City must ensure the eradication of racism in its hiring and promotion practices and ensure proportional Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic representation in its professoriat and its senior management/Executive Team.
  • City must support and protect its casualised members of staff who are disproportionately Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic.
  • City must set up a cross-departmental “decolonising the curriculum” working group to ensure that British colonial history and Black history are a part of our students’ education.
  • City must commit and take concrete steps to closing the Black attainment gap.
  • City must offer full yearly scholarships to Black students starting in the 2020/21 academic year.
  • City must close its Dubai campus in recognition of Dubai’s atrocious human rights record that includes modern slavery.

These issues must be taken up by City as the start of a comprehensive re-evaluation of the colonial legacy of City. This must include not just conversations, gestures or meetings but substantive and far reaching change to the processes and practices of the academic, professional, and management structures of the University. City staff and students must be included in the process through the recognised Trade Unions, Staff BAME network and Students Union.

City University UCU Branch
City University UNISON Branch
City University Unite Branch