Black and ethnic minority university students will be allowed to defer essay deadlines and exams if they suffer from “racial trauma”, a university has said.

The academic board of Goldsmiths, University of London, said it will include this as a new category for extenuating circumstances from next academic year.

Currently, students can apply for a deadline extension on work or a deferral of an exam for a range of reasons, including if they have a serious medical condition or suffered a family bereavement.

There is also a category for trauma which includes being a victim of a serious crime, getting caught up in a terrorism incident, or falling victim to a natural disaster. From September “racial trauma” will be added to this list, following a campaign by the student union. 

Self-certification

In a since deleted tweet, the student union president Sara Bafo, said: “The university has agreed to our proposal to incorporate ‘racial trauma’ as a reason to defer essays and exams for black and People of Colour students, and it will be done through self-certification”.

The university confirmed that applications for this new category will be considered on a “case-by-case basis”.

Prof Frances Corner, warden of Goldsmiths, University of London, said: “If a student’s report of extenuating circumstances is accepted, they must still complete their academic work but may, for instance, be given a longer deadline or the chance to defer an assessment for a defined period.

“Self-certification for this kind of support is common at universities and students are entitled to proper support when the need arises. A student must submit a detailed statement which is carefully considered by academic departments who then decide an appropriate response.”

Defining ‘racial trauma’

The university said it had not yet drawn up a definition for “racial trauma” but added that it will update its guidance on this category in time for the new academic year.

It said it will work with academics and student representatives to come up with an appropriate definition.

Prof Corner, who used to be head of the London College of Fashion, has championed ethical designs and describes herself as a “fashion activist”. She has previously warned of the dangers of wearing fake fur, arguing that it makes wearing real fur “culturally acceptable”.  

In 2019, the university was criticised for hosting a series of lectures organised by the Communist Party of Great Britain.

Controversial speakers at the lectures included including Tony Greenstein, a Jewish anti-Zionist and founding member of Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

He was expelled from the Labour Party after using the term "Zionist scum" and accusing Zionists of "collaborating with the Nazis".

No beef and going green

Goldsmiths has also pledged to remove all beef products from its campus shops and cafes. Students will also face a 10p levy on bottles of water and single-use plastic cups when the academic year starts, in order to discourage use of the products.

It is part of a new drive by the university to become carbon neutral by 2025, which involves building more solar panels and switching to a “clean” energy supplier.

The university said its academic courses would also be reviewed to give students more opportunities to study climate change as part of their degree.

Last summer, Oxford University told students that they can apply for “mitigating circumstances” if their performance in exams was affected by George Floyd’s death.

Prof Louise Richardson, Oxford’s vice-chancellor, said the university is “determined to support our black students in every way possible”. She said that students who “feel their performance has been affected” should submit a circumstances form after their final examination or assessment.