Most of you will have heard about the University’s decision to commit to changing the name of the Cass Business School. The University explained in its statement that this decision was made after consultation with various stakeholders, including students and alumni. The decision was finalised on Friday 3rd July at City’s Council, which is the University’s highest authority.
You may also be aware of the Union’s statement calling for the name change and our statement of support for the wider Black Lives Matter movement. We welcome the name change, principally because Sir John Cass made his fortune from the slave trade. Given that the Sir John Cass Foundation itself has decided on a name change, we consider it only right that the University likewise refuse to take part in the legacy of violence the John Cass name embodies.
The petition which sought the change of name gained over 1500 signatures, attesting to the strength of feeling this issue has raised amongst students and staff. The success of this petition reflects the fact that the slave trade represents a shameful period in British history and that the harm it did, whose effects still live in the systemic racism that impacts the lives of black people today, cannot be ignored and will not be allowed to remain part of our university culture. The Union remains determined to work toward erasing prejudice and structural racism. This work would have been undermined by the failure to expose the history associated with John Cass. No one should be above condemnation for benefiting from the slavery of others. We can only begin to create a just culture in the present if we confront the wrongs of the past.
We accept that there will be some who may view the name change as merely a gesture of appeasement, which undermines the global reputation of the business school. The Union was aware of this view took careful account of the potential impact on Business School students before taking its stance. We are committed to ensuring that all students receive a high-quality education to prepare them for employment as graduates from one of the most prestigious organisations worldwide. The struggle for justice and equality do not conflict with the aspiration that the Business School will continue to produce students that have been immersed in one of the most innovative business teaching environments available. We have no doubt that our students will continue to excel given their exposure to business ideas and methods that underpin the success of leading organisations. The name change decision is in harmony with the positions taken by the biggest corporations in all areas of commerce, as well as in the fields of art, culture and sports.
The Union will continue to facilitate dialogue with the University leadership and students to avoid any detrimental impact to the student body. We cannot ignore the significant changes occurring around us, particularly the action being taken to address racial inequality at all levels of society. We hope that our work, for example, in closing the BAME attainment gap (also known as the degree awarding gap), decolonising the curriculum (also known as liberating the curriculum), and creating an inclusive culture, will benefit all students and be a beacon for others to follow. We are confident that the merits of the decision will be accepted by the vast majority of students over time, and be seen as a dynamic development that enhances the reputation of the Business School as a world-leading institution.
This statement by no means marks the end of the dialogue on this issue or on racial inequality more broadly.
We restate our commitment to you all as members of our Students' Union. We are always here for you and your voice. Your opinion matters and we will do the utmost to ensure that any name changes moving forward satisfy the demands and opinions of our student body with maximum transparency.
Your Sabbatical Officers
Saqlain Riaz - President
Ruqaiyah Javaid - VP Education
Shaima Dallali - VP Community and Wellbeing