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City University reviews ‘historic funding for links with slavery’ after student protest

Students set up petition against business school links with 'major figure' in British slave trade

16 June, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

City, University of London school in Clerkenwell 

A UNIVERSITY has launched a review into whether any of its “historic funding” has had links to the slave trade as students call for the name of a prominent slaver to be dropped from a renowned business school.

City, University of London, based in Northampton Square, Clerkenwell, announced today that it has launched a review into “all” of their “historic sources of funding” to determine if there are any “links with slavery”.

This comes after students launched a petition last week calling on the university to remove Sir John Cass’s name from City’s famed Cass Business School in Bunhill Row, Finsbury.

Cass was a prominent 17th century merchant and a major figure in the early development of the slave trade in Britain.

The Sir John Cass Foundation charitable fund has contributed to several schools in London and the Bunhill business school adopted Cass’s name after a donation was made in 2002.

Clement Koszuta, a third year student at City, was part of the Socialist Society group who set up the City petition.

The 22-year-old, who was born and brought up in Islington, told the Tribune: “We think renaming Cass (the school) will bring attention to who he was. Having a business school named after you is an honour, but is it right for someone who has profiteered off slavery to have that honour?”

He added: “We have had a bit of opposition to the petition with people saying Cass did some charitable work as well as being a slaver, well Jimmy Savile did a lot of charity work but I don’t see any statues for him remaining. Just because people have done charity work to absolve their sins does not mean we should praise them with a statue.”

As the Tribune reported last week, London Metropolitan University removed Mr Cass’s name from their Art, Architecture and Design school.

A City University spokeswoman said: “On June 10, City, University of London, initiated a review of all our historic sources of funding to
determine if there are any other links with slavery and to make recommendations.  The review will be chaired by a member of City’s Council and the composition of this review will ensure it is fair, representative and involves independent external expertise.

“We will use recommendations from this review to help us make decisions, including about the name of our Business School. As a result, we are also engaged in discussions with our Business School staff, students and alumni.

“Our Business School was renamed Cass Business School in 2002 following a donation from the Sir John Cass Foundation, an educational charity which provides financial support to several organisations, including Cass Business School.

“Unlike other institutions who have announced a name change following recent news of Sir John Cass’s historical links to the slave trade, we have an ongoing contract with the Foundation which includes use of the Cass name and this will form part of our review.

“The Foundation has also been working on actions to determine and acknowledge the historic origins of the funds they distribute. We will consult with the Foundation on their findings.”

This comes after the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, USA, last month after a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes, sparking Black Lives Matter protests across the world.

City also set out a list of other commitments it has made today, June 16, building on the programmes they already run to improve its offer for members of the Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community.

These include:

  • “Starting work to address our curriculum and how we can diversify it with our BAME staff and students as partners”.
  • Working with schools and partners to improve “access to higher education for students from underrepresented groups, including BAME students”.
  • Continuing with their Student Attainment Project “which focuses on tackling degree awarding gaps and creating inclusive approaches to learning, teaching and assessment”.

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