Universities

No, Scottish universities have not severed ties with Stonewall, despite ‘misleading’ reports

Students and campaigners have expressed disappointment and frustration at the way two major newspapers covered the news that four Scottish universities were not applying for the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index this year.

Stonewall’s Equality at Work Index is a ranking of the best employers for LGBT+ inclusion in the UK. Each year, many organizations – including public bodies – apply for the ranking, and the top 100 artists are celebrated publicly.

Organizations that apply receive a score from Stonewall and are advised on where they should focus their efforts to improve LGBT+ inclusion in their workplace.

The University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, University of West Scotland and Robert Gordon University have all applied for the Equality Index in previous years – however, the four universities have decided not to not apply this year.

The news comes after a difficult few years for Stonewall. The charity has been repeatedly attacked and branded ‘controversial’ by media and commentators for campaigning on behalf of trans people in the UK.

These attacks led various organisations, including the BBC and University College London (UCL), to leave the Stonewall Diversity Champions scheme. This program, which is a separate initiative from the Workplace Equality Index, helps employers become more inclusive and welcoming of LGBT+ staff.

News that the four universities had decided not to apply to be on the Equality in the Workplace Index was first reported by The temperature and The telegraph. Talk to PinkNews, students and staff at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow have accused the two newspapers of twisting the story.

However, other students – including a Robert Gordon University student – ​​expressed disappointment with the decision, saying it highlighted wider issues with the approach to LGBT+ inclusion in Higher Education.

Universities’ decision does not reflect broader support for LGBT+ rights

Jonathan MacBride is Co-Chair of the University of Edinburgh Staff Pride Network. He said PinkNews that he understands that the university did not apply for the index this year due to staffing issues.

He believes the university is “fully supportive” of Stonewall and its LGBT+ community – and he says inflammatory articles in The temperature and The telegraph that suggest the university is distancing itself from Stonewall are “not at all true”.

“On the one hand, I understand that, especially with COVID, workplaces don’t necessarily have the same amount of time to do the things they did before COVID,” he said. PinkNews. “While understanding this personally, I was disappointed that they didn’t [apply].”

Jonathan points out that the University of Edinburgh is still enrolled in the Stonewall Diversity Champions program.

The telegraph didn’t focus on that – they chose to focus on what they wanted to focus on. They chose their own journalistic line, just like The temperature“Jonathan said.

LGBT+ students at the University of Glasgow echoed this sentiment. In a statement, the university’s GULGBTQ+ company said The temperatureThe article was “deliberately misleading in its portrayal of the university’s commitment to the LGBTQ+ community on campus and of Stonewall as an LGBTQ+ charity”.

“The university has already submitted to the [workplace equality index] twice before, but also, as noted on the Stonewall website, it involves submitting information voluntarily each year and the work required to submit a submission can be intensive,” the students said.

“More, The temperature the article deliberately confused the voluntary Stonewall [workplace equality index] with the Stonewall Diversity Champions Program – of which the university recently renewed its membership after consultation with ourselves and other members of the university’s LGBT+ equality group.

Students said the university’s decision not to apply for the Workplace Equality Index was ‘not a true reflection’ of the institution’s commitment to inclusion LGBT+ and Stonewall.

The University of Glasgow also defended itself on Twitter, saying recent reports on the matter were “misleading”.

The university said it does not apply to the Workplace Equality Index every year and insisted it has no plans to leave the Champions program. the diversity of Stonewall.

“We fully support our LGBT+ community,” the university tweeted.

Decision ‘does not represent the spirit of our community’

However, other students expressed disappointment that the four universities had not applied for the Workplace Equality Index this year.

Jaime Prada is a release worker for trans and non-binary students at the University of Edinburgh. They ensure that gay people are respected and celebrated on campus.

“Our community in Edinburgh is one of the most gay-friendly places in the UK, and we are fierce advocates for trans rights,” Jaime said. PinkNews. “The decision not to participate in the index this year is very disappointing and does not represent the spirit of our community.”

It’s “unfortunate” that the university’s decision not to apply to the index coincided with “wider, politically motivated attacks on Stonewall,” Jaime said.

“Over the past year, university officials have shown their support for our community and even called to account those who promote transphobia on campus. This decision does not send the same message that they have previously defended.

The University of Glasgow

The University of Glasgow

Like Jonathan, Jaime understands that the University of Edinburgh decided not to apply for the index due to a lack of staff, which prevented him from completing the application process.

“The fact that they haven’t prioritized our commitment to Stonewall’s work is disheartening, even as the university continues to work with the organization in other settings like the Diversity Champions program. “

They are now calling on university officials to ‘immediately clarify’ that they will continue to support queer and trans communities in Stonewall and Edinburgh.

“I strongly believe the university should seek to join the Equality at Work Index for the coming year,” Jaime said. “In addition to their strong stance against transphobia, this change would send a clear message to LGBTQ+ students and staff that we are welcomed and celebrated at our university.

When approached for comment, a University of Edinburgh spokesperson said: “The university is committed to LGBT+ equality and continues to proactively promote LGBT+ inclusion. .

“We make decisions about the various equality charters within the context of our overall equality, diversity and inclusion work and available resources. The university is still a member of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions program.

Robert Gordon University students ‘not surprised’ by Stonewall decision

The situation is very different at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, according to Joe, a student and activist for the institution. Their name has been changed to protect their identity.

Talk to PinkNews, Joe said they weren’t surprised to learn that the university had decided not to apply for the Workplace Equality Index this year. They accused the university of engaging in “performative activism” instead of committing to meaningful change that would benefit LGBT+ students.

“When I heard about the decision not to apply for the Equality Index, I wasn’t shocked at all,” Joe said.

Joe and other students are hoping the university will provide answers on why they decided not to apply for the Workplace Equality Index this year – however, they are not hoping for an explanation complete.

“It will probably be a response from bulls like ‘we don’t have the resources right now because of COVID’. I know very, very well that when we tried to push for gender neutral bathrooms, they gave the absolute bare minimum.

The university’s decision not to apply for the Workplace Equality Index has left students “disheartened”, according to Joe.

“They were afraid they had chosen the wrong university,” Joe said. “Some students are angry with the university because they went to great lengths during their degrees to show how important it is to devote time and resources to LGBT+ safety.”

None of the LGBT+ students Joe spoke to were surprised by the decision.

“What bothers me the most is that the university is very aware that they are not doing enough for trans students because I have brought it up many times,” Joe added.

“A lot of my trans friends dropped out of college, one of the main factors being that they weren’t getting enough support for their trans identity, including the lack of gender-neutral toilets. Some of my trans friends don’t get the education they deserve. You would think they would correct that mistake and take the opportunity to work with an organization that could help them support trans students. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and that makes me very sad and very angry.

When approached for comment, a Robert Gordon University spokesperson said PinkNews“The university is reviewing its overall equality, diversity and inclusion strategy and our continued participation in the index will be considered accordingly.”

The university did not provide additional details about why it decided not to apply for the Workplace Equality Index this year.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the University of the West of Scotland said: ‘The Equality at Work Index has been delayed by Stonewall due to the pandemic, and since then the body charities has developed a new framework and structure for the index. We have not severed ties with any organization and are undertaking an exercise to review all of our external affiliations and charter marks, and this is ongoing; however, work to advance equality for all protected characteristics is and remains a top priority.

When approached for comment, a Stonewall spokesperson said: “More than a third of LGBTQ+ staff (35%) hide who they are at work, while one in five (18%) have been the target of negative comments for being LGBTQ+. All LGBTQ+ people deserve to feel safe at work. That’s why we created the Workplace Equality Index, a free and voluntary benchmarking tool that helps organizations reflect on their LGBTQ+ inclusion journey and understand what more they can do. to support their LGBTQ+ staff.

“As with any volunteer resource, organizations can enter — or not enter — depending on what works for them at the time.”