Dezeen Magazine

Bartlett School of Architecture

Ex-students hire lawyer to pursue "breaches of a serious nature" at Bartlett architecture school

A group of former students and staff members from the Bartlett School of Architecture in London have hired a solicitor to examine claims of sexual and racial discrimination at the school.

The group, under the banner Bartlett United, was established to follow up on numerous claims of discrimination at the prestigious school, which is part of University College London (UCL).

"Counsel identified breaches of a serious nature"

Bartlett United hired the lawyer to identify which of the claims are breaches of the university's code of conduct and its care of duty towards students.

"We spoke with our barrister at length about our experiences and concerns," said Bartlett United in a statement on Instagram.

"Counsel identified breaches of a serious nature – spanning sex discrimination, race discrimination, breach of contract and negligence in the accounts we have collected."

The initial claims were collected by former student Eleni Kyriacou, who compiled a dossier containing testimonials from 21 people. Among the allegations are reports of staff sexually harassing female students and being subjected to derogatory comments about their race.

In one case a staff member reportedly told a student "your work is very sexy and so are you", while an Asian student recalls being told that "Arabs were so arrogant" by a staff member, before being asked if they knew Zaha Hadid.

Since the claims were first revealed in the Guardian, numerous other students have come forward with similar allegations of discrimination at the school, which is based in a Hawkins\Brown-designed building (pictured) in Bloomsbury, London.

Legal advice sought in response to UCL's investigation

Dezeen understands that the group took the decision to hire legal counsel as they are unhappy with how UCL is investigating the claims.

When the claims were first revealed the university said it had begun an investigation, but students are believed to be unhappy about how this process is proceeding.

"We have been aware of issues in the Bartlett school of architecture and have been working hard to address them for some time," said Sasha Roseneil, UCL's pro vice-provost for equity and inclusion, at the time.

"We are deeply concerned to learn about these incidents, and we will investigate these, and any others that are brought to our attention."

"Experienced education lawyer" hired 

The solicitor hired by Bartlett United is Amara Ahmad from specialist employment law firm Doyle Clayton, who will be compiling a list of alledged breaches as well as pursuing individual cases against the university.

"We have now been put in touch with Amara Ahmad at Doyle Cayton Solicitors, who is an experienced education lawyer, she is happy to discuss individual cases with anyone affected in order to help them explore their legal options further," said the group.

"Anyone can share anything they have witnessed or feel needs to change at the Bartlett, in confidence, with Bartlett United via Instagram message."

The Bartlett is the latest in a line of architecture and design schools to face allegations of discrimination.

The Rhode Island School of Design recently announced a series of initiatives to tackle "multiple racist issues" at the institution, while Scottish-Ghanaian architect Lesley Lokko resigned from the Spitzer School of Architecture at City College in New York over "the lack of respect and empathy for Black people" at the school.

Photo is by Jack Hobhouse.