As the #CoronaContract campaign documents, casualised staff at universities across the UK will be hit especially hard by the fallout from Covid-19. Many have experienced financial hardship already, through the loss of promised work hours or their institutions’ refusal to furlough them. Some have had their contracts terminated prematurely. And things will get worse, as universities across the country announce the non-renewal of casual contracts, hiring freezes and redundancies. To fight racism at universities, we need to concern ourselves not only with the future recruitment of Black academics (there are only seven or so Black professors at Oxford), which the mechanisms of casualisation obstruct, but also with the urgent difficulties facing insecure workers currently in the university’s employ.
Plausibly, nothing much matters. Among human beings, opinions differ about how much things matter. A surprisingly common defence of the status quo is to say of some institution arraigned for affronting reason or decency that it doesn’t matter – because it’s purely 'symbolic’, say – but it's very important not to change it. So having a royal head of state doesn’t matter, because she’s a figurehead, but it matters that the post is not filled by sortition, say, because then any fool might do the job. Again, with free speech, words are mere hot air, unlike sticks and stones; but it matters intensely that people get to vociferate them. And so it is with statues.