University of Manchester: Rejoin the Stonewall Diversity Champions’ Programme

Written by the UCU branch Equalities Network

Last year (2022), the University of Manchester suspended its membership of the Stonewall Diversity Champions’ programme.

It did so discretely and without consultation, consideration, or communication with the LGBTQ+ community, or the wider University of Manchester Community.

It did so without completing an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) to account for the impact this decision would have on the LGBTQ+ university community.

It did so at a time when the LGBTQ+ community was subject to an increase in hate crimes. Recent data from Stonewall (2023) indicates that in the past five years there has been a 112% growth in hate crimes based on sexual orientation and a 186% rise in crimes against the trans community and a 186% rise in crimes against the trans community (https://www.stonewall.org.uk/about-us/news/new-data-rise-hate-crime-against-lgbtq-people-continues-stonewall-slams-uk-gov-).

It did so at a time when the UK has forfeited its ranking as the most advanced country in Europe for achieved LGBTQ+ rights, falling from a position of primacy to a position of 17 out of 49 in nine years (Rainbow Europe).

It did so at a time when the rights of LGBTQ+ people are being contested and eroded globally.

It is hard to imagine a less ‘good’ time to step back from Stonewall.

At times like this, the place where we work and study should be wholly supportive, respectful and committed to the rights and welfare of all of its staff and students. At times like this, affiliation to organisations with a heritage of LGBTQ+ support, protection, advocacy and representation are critical. They are a means by which the institution can, not only advance its stated goal of equality within the workplace, but demonstrate internally and externally its pledge to do so. The decision to suspend membership seems odd and counter to the university’s assurance that it is:

“Committed to creating an environment where diversity is celebrated and everyone is treated fairly, regardless of gender, gender identity, disability, ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation, marital or transgender status, age, or nationality.

… committed to providing a trans-inclusive environment for all our staff, students, partners and visitors, which supports trans, non-binary and people with other identities.” (https://www.manchester.ac.uk/connect/jobs/equality-diversity-inclusion/)

It is appropriate distinguish between the Diversity Champions Programme and the Stonewall Top 100 employer index, to which the university still aligns with. Currently, the university is ranked 30th out of 100.

This is not the same as membership of the Diversity Champions’ Programme.

Subscription to the Diversity Champions programme demonstrates active and ongoing commitment to the LGBTQ+ community, within and beyond the institution. It offers access to dedicated training (with which all staff can engage) intended to build a more inclusive and safer working environment, which in return helps to build staff and student satisfaction, commitment, advocacy and loyalty. In addition, it can enhance institutional appeal to new staff and new students by communicating a clear position on inclusion and belonging, and an adherence to the UN Sustainable Goals.

It is when a marginalised group is under attack that it most needs strong allies. It is when a marginalised group is under attack that it most needs support. It is when a marginalised group is under attack that it most needs institutions whose raison d’etre is advancement and progress to retreat to be staunch, resolute, and courageous. We ask that the University, as an institution, shows strong allyship with the LGBTQ+ community. That it does not only what is morally right but reputationally right. That it recognises and acknowledges that the rights, of the LGBTQ_ community, such as they are, have been hard won. It is important that they are not easily lost. That it reaffiliates with the Stonewall Diversity Champions ‘Programme, and that it does so soon.

It is appropriate to stress that the SLT has indicated a willingness to review the current position and review its membership to the Diversity Champions’ Programme. This is welcome, and at least ensures that the door remains open for now. That said, there is no stated timescale and no delineated process or procedure for reviewing the decision. The suspension therefore remains in place and the decisions whether to re-join, or not, remains in abeyance. In respect of this, we request that a review process and timeline be established, confirmed and committed to.

We believe that the University should rejoin the programme and should do so urgently.

 

Disclaimer: The inclusion of links to external websites does not constitute endorsement. The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the views of the collective membership of the University of Manchester UCU branch, UCU, or the University of Manchester.

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