The Inclusive University

Ron Ritchie: his thoughts on leaving UWE

Posted by Vicky Swinerd | 0 Comments
09Sep2015

Contributed by Ron Ritchie, Senior Diversity Champion

A retirement event for UWE's senior diversity champion, Prof Ron Ritchie, was held on 26 August in the Community Hub.
 
Ron was invited to reflect on his 40 year career in education in the greater Bristol area as a secondary school teacher, primary teacher and leader, local authority advisory teacher and HE teacher and leader.
 
He explained that he had very mixed feeling about leaving UWE having tried so hard to get here - first in the late 80s - before, several applications later,  he finally arrived here in 2001. He said that he had wanted to work here for a simple reason - it seemed like an institution that shared many of the values he held as important. It turned out to be a move that never disappointed him - he said he had always been immensely proud of the difference UWE makes to its students, its staff, local communities and the  local economy, culture and society. It had, he stated, been a genuine privilege to work here with many highly talented and committed individuals.
 
He emphasised the importance to him of values - what we hold as important as human beings - and noted that there's a big difference between espousing values and living them out. He said he had always tried to do the latter, not always successfully!
 
He explained his commitment to social justice and moral purpose was a result of experiencing the transforming power of education on his own life, being the first in his family to go to university. He had left school and started an apprenticeship in the aircraft industry which led to him studying aeronautics and astronautics at Southampton University. Whilst there he found life in student politics and the SU more stimulating and rewarding than his academic work. He spent a lot of time on campaigns such as those related to improving the opportunities for local youth and challenging negative attitudes towards mental health.
 
At this point, Ron reflected on choices we all have to become a 'prisoner, passenger or participant' in society - he had determined to become a participant and an activist!
 
He decided to complete his degree and train as a teacher. His experiences on a PGCE at Sussex University, especially in disadvantaged areas like the Moulscombe Estate, reinforced his commitment to fighting injustice and promoting equality. As a young teacher in a challenging Bristol comprehensive, his love of teaching developed and his activism led to him becoming the school's NUT rep.
 
He explained that his growing understanding and commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion was strengthened through living in Bristol and valuing the diversity of its population whilst feeling aggrieved about the inequality he saw. He also referred to his personal experience as a father and how this had informed his understanding of equality issues and increased his commitment to improve things, this included having a daughter who suffered from a serious mental health condition and another who is gay and now a university teacher.
 
Returning to other values that are important to him, Ron shared his belief in the importance of lifelong and life wide learning - saying he was always happy, even as a professor, to call himself first a foremost a learner. Indeed, he noted, his role as UWE's diversity champion had been a rich learning journey. He said how pleased he was to be supporting Bristol's ambition to be a Learning City as a consultant post his UWE retirement.
 
Ron stressed how much he had enjoyed teaching and believed that you should always strive for improvement given your responsibilities to learners, young or old. He reminded us that 'you don't have to be ill to get better'!
 
He talked about how he had always valued research and scholarship - his own PhD had been through action research; evidence-based and research-informed practice. He had written a number of education books, all including case studies of practice in real settings. Through his teaching and as a teacher educator, he had developed his understanding of the importance to professionals of reflection and reflexivity - being self critical and honest with yourself and recognising how who you are changes what happens around you and how others behave.
 
Later in his career, he had come to appreciate that successful leadership has to be authentic, distributed and person-centred. He stressed that to him 'leadership' was a more important concept than 'leaders' - he believes everyone in an organisation has the potential and should be given opportunities to contribute to leadership capacity.
 
Ron emphasised his belief in the benefits of collaboration and partnership based on various experiences in his career, for example in an advisory teacher team, in the Education Department (as part of the then S Block 'family' of academic and professional support staff) and more recently in the context of the Cabot Learning Federation.
 
He returned to leadership and organisations and said we should, perhaps, recognise more often the importance of people over processes. He said his aim had always been to empower others through reward and positive feedback. In that context, he thanked colleagues who had written in support of his National Diversity Champion nomination last year and said how moving and motivating he had found that public feedback.
 
Ron talked about the importance of significant others in our lives, both professional and personal and thanked those in the room and those unable to be here who had made unique and highly valued contributions to his time at UWE.
 
He concluded by reflecting on UWE's recent E&D successes and ongoing issues that remain work in progress …
 
The successes he celebrated included:
• Our ongoing commitments to activities related to widening participation and partnerships with schools in disadvantaged areas;
• The central and secure place of EDI in the UWE strategy, the successful Single Equality Scheme and senior staff commitment;
• The range and impact of staff and student networks;
• Stonewall Workplace index success;
• Athena SWAN success;
• The developing Disability Service for staff;
• Two Ticks accreditation;
• Time to Change commitment;
• Race Equality Charter Mark application;
• The outstanding contribution of HR and the E&D Unit.
 
Ongoing challenges for UWE that Ron recognised included:
 
• Further improving the diversity of staff;
• Maintaining inclusivity as a strategic goal, which includes promoting its benefits;
• Continue to probe the 'lived experience of staff' to ensure it is positive for all;
• Celebrate successes and promote role models;
• Find smart ways of measuring the impact of EDI work against the UWE Strategic Plan;
• Continue to build leadership capacity for the agenda;
• Foster more joint working (for example with unions and networks) and partnership with other organisations;
• Join things up to ensure efficacy, efficiency and maximising benefits;
• Develop efficient and constructive approaches to equality analysis;
• Ensure EDI doesn't suffer in the context of further inevitable change and uncertainty in the HE sector.
 
Ron finished by thanking colleagues for the support and friendship he had been given. He wished all well in continuing to make UWE the special place that it is and furthering the cause of equality, diversity and inclusivity.

Diverse Doors Open Day

Posted by Valerie Russell Emmott | 0 Comments
27Mar2015

Sunday the 22nd of February was Diverse Doors Open Day in Bristol. This is an annual event organised by the Bristol Multifaith Forum (

www.bristolmultifaithforum.org.uk).

 

It is an event that I have attended in previous years. This year, my experience was more structured as I aimed to see as many faith buildings as I could in the Eastville, Lawrence Hill and Stapleton Road area. I was travelling with a friend, so the places we visited needed to interest us both. We also wanted to visit places that felt comfortable and welcoming.

We started by visiting the Sikh Gurdwara on Fishponds Road. We were welcomed and shown the upper prayer hall. Our guide explained that Sikhs originally formed an army, and that they had been Hindu before they established themselves as Sikhs. While we were in the building we observed several people praying.

There was not a structured service in progress. Sikhs usually visit the Gurdwara on Sundays, possibly something copied from the colonial influence. The holy book the Guru Granth Sahib was pointed out to us. It is treated with great respect and has its own bed chamber close to the altar. Our Sikh guide helped me appreciate the importance of the sword in the Sikh religion.

We started by visiting the Sikh Gurdwara on Fishponds Road. We were welcomed and shown the upper prayer hall. Our guide explained that Sikhs originally formed an army, and that they had been Hindu before they established themselves as Sikhs. While we were in the building we observed several people praying.

There was not a structured service in progress. Sikhs usually visit the Gurdwara on Sundays, possibly something copied from the colonial influence. The holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, was pointed out to us. It is treated with great respect and has its own bed chamber close to the altar. Our Sikh guide helped me appreciate the importance of the sword in the Sikh religion.

Our second venue was Shah Jalal Mosque, the one you might see from the M32 motorway as you approach Bristol. This building although fairly new showed signs of vandalism and disrepair. There was a tall fence around the compound, and from the side of the building it appeared to be closed.

Our first impressions were misguided. This was the venue where we received the biggest welcome. Our young guide, Mohamed, said that he was studying in Loughborough. We talked for some time with Mohamed. He was interested in our background as much as talking about his own faith.

Our next venue was another mosque – this time in St Mark’s Road. Finding the entrance was not easy. At first, we thought it was only men who could enter. When we found the entrance for women, it took us around the side of the building. We went in and found numerous shoes belonging to women. There were voices of women coming from an upstairs room. A regular meeting was in progress – but we found our way into a large ground floor room where several groups were talking with faith members. The Diverse Doors Trail bus had arrived at this venue.

We then stopped for lunch in the nearby Thali Cafe on St Marks Road, Easton.

After lunch, we walked on to find the Liberal (Progressive) Synagogue. The Diverse Doors Trail bus was at this venue as well. There was a large group of people who were already seated, but we found seats at the back of the room. Rabbi Monique Mayer introduced us to a song and we joined in. The Rabbi had a lot to tell us, and we tried to follow the "service" in the prayer book. But we were confused, as the page numbering was from back to front. We heard a lot, but I am not sure how much we learnt. The singing was a good way to engage the audience and I would have liked more of that. I think I would like to visit again either on an informal basis or to see a service in progress. Incidentally, this was the only venue where we did not need to remove our shoes or (as women) to wear a head scarf.

Our last venue was the Hindu Temple. We were welcomed by a woman who could speak very little English. We felt as if we were intruding on a family event, but we did wander up stairs to the prayer hall. We saw people using the building as individuals and as family groups. This was a valuable, albeit short visit with no one to tell me more than I already knew about Hinduism. I had been here before – when the resident Pandit (priest) had told me a lot about the Hindu faith.

I would certainly recommend attending a Diversity Open Doors event whenever you get the chance. It is an annual event. Joining the Diversity Trail might suit some people – but I think I enjoyed going around at my own pace. Most of the buildings I visited were within a ten minute walk from the nearest railway stations (Lawrence Hill or Stapleton Road). Travelling on the Severn Beach Line was only £2 return regardless of how far I travel.

Blog post by Heather Watts

If you missed Diverse Doore Open Day and you want to find out more about the faiths and beliefs of staff within this university, you might like to come along to meetings of the All Faiths and None (AFAN) Staff Network. We are a new group and we aim to meet monthly. New members are always welcome whatever your faith or belief.

To find out more contact:
Ian Yemm (

Ian.Yemm@uwe.ac.uk) who is the Coordinating Chaplain (Anglican) based in the Community Hub at Frenchay Campus;

 

Valerie Russell-Emmott (

Valerie.Russellemmott@uwe.ac.uk) who is the Equality and Diversity Manager within Human Resources;

 

Heather Watts (

Heather.watts@uwe.ac.uk) who works as a Technician in Education.

 

The next All Faiths and None meeting is on Wednesday April 29th from 12 – 1:30 pm on the Frenchay campus. Meetings are informal, feel free to bring your lunch, and drop in! Email

allfaithsandnone@uwe.ac.uk to get email updates about meeting dates and topics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A day in the life of.... the Equality and Diversity Forum

Posted by Valerie Russell Emmott | 0 Comments
10Feb2015

A well-attended Equality and Diversity Forum (‘EDF’) took place yesterday. As UWE’s diversity champion, I chaired this in the absence of Vice Chancellor Steve West, who is the usual chair.

For those who might not be familiar with it, the Forum comprises student representatives, staff members from the diverse staff networks, trade unions’ equality representatives and key managers. We meet quarterly to discuss E&D related matters that are relevant to all these stakeholder and their constituencies.

Yesterday, the Forum was updated on lots of valuable markers of our collective progress towards the University’s inclusivity goal. These included:

• UWE’s success with Stonewall on LGB equality, where we ranked 11th this year in the Top 100 Employers’ Workplace Index and top university;
• A positive visit and assessment regarding our attempt to gain Two Ticks (positive about disabled people) accreditation;
• Progress in our pursuit in 2016 of the Race Equality Charter Mark; and
• The identification of a number of senior colleagues as diversity champions supporting specific protected characteristics (more news on this in a later blog).

Staff and student reps shared issues that they were facing, including ongoing issues for staff of time to commit to staff networks, support for these networks from the E&D unit, given its current work plan, and issues linked to the promotion of the compulsory ‘E&D Essentials’ online learning module.

Scarlett Oliver, UWESU’s VP for Comms and Welfare, updated the meeting on SU developments, especially the important anti-abuse campaign.

The meeting had a fascinating and informative input from a team from FBL working on the new building and related E&D issues. There was then a small group discussion led by Scarlett and  Nicky Bolt and Sue McKay, from the Student Disability Service, about changes to the disabled student allowance and hardship funds.

We then heard from Shona Flanagan, a hearing-impaired third year fine art student based at Bower Ashton, who shared her personal experiences as a UWE student. This was powerful testimony and helped us all understand the challenges faced by Shona and others like her. Shona is the president of the National Deaf Students’ Association and is a great role model and champion for others.

Finally the Forum heard about upcoming E&D events at UWE and the local area. To find details, go to the UWE website, then to ‘News and Events’ > ‘What’s On’ and follow the link to ‘Events by Category’  and then select ‘Equality and Diversity’.

I would like to thank all who attended EDF for their ongoing commitment to the University’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion agenda.

Professor Ron Ritchie
Pro Vice-Chancellor
Partnerships, Diversity and Civic Engagement

 

Holocaust Memorial Day

Posted by Vicky Swinerd | 0 Comments
27Jan2015
The following piece is a personal reflection written by Madge Dresser Associate Professor in Social & Cultural British History at UWE Bristol:

Holocaust Fatigue?

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. It was originally established to commemorate the Nazi genocide where 2/3rds of all Jews in Europe were exterminated along with many Poles, Romani, homosexuals, disabled people and political dissidents in the name of racial purity. But today Holocaust Memorial Day also serves to honour the memory of those millions affected by the subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. 

The lessons we choose to learn from this day vary according to our contemporary concerns. For me the lessons are two-fold. The first is that all forms of racial, religious and ethnic discrimination can all too easily slide into genocidal violence. Today’s racial bullying can set the scene for tomorrow’s persecution as the travelling exhibition “Anne Frank and me” vividly demonstrates to today’s generation of school children.

The second is that our willingness to remember unpalatable truths is influenced by, and sometimes distorted to serve, contemporary political ends. As the last survivors of the Nazi Holocaust die off, the event itself fades into a more emotionally distanced historical memory and is affected by the present day conflict between Israel and Palestine.  Holocaust denial is rife in the international blogosphere and linked to the escalating violence the Middle East. Outrage over the recent killing by the Israeli Defence Force of civilians in Gaza has led to the widespread equation in the social media  of their deaths with the Nazi genocide. A recent poll this year found that one in eight Britons surveyed believe that Jewish people unduly use the Holocaust as a means of gaining sympathy.

Today is also the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. Not everyone can visit the vast site at Birkenau as I recently did. It was only when I went there that I began to get any real sense of the sheer scale of the atrocity which had taken place there. Remembering is a complicated business. These anniversaries remind us that we need to preserve the factual integrity of the past in order to do justice to all victims of genocidal violence, past and present.

Updates from Equality Challenge Unit - December 2014

Posted by Yukiko Hosomi | 0 Comments
22Dec2014

The Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) works to support equality and diversity in Higher Education. They produce guidance and resources to promote understanding and best practice.

1. Sign up for the ECU monthly newsletter

You can find out more about the ECU by subscribing to their newsletter: scroll to the bottom of their website and enter your email address.

2. Become a Charter Mark panellist

The ECU is looking for people to help assess applications to both Athena SWAN and the Race Equality Charter Mark. This is an interesting opportunity to further develop your understanding of equalities issues while providing constructive feedback to other Institutions. Panellists will need to read 4-6 applications in advance and attend a panel in London for one day. The ECU pay travel expenses and provide lunch. Online training is provided for panellists. Please visit the ECU website to sign up.

3. Athena SWAN expansion

Athena SWAN is expanding to accept applications from arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law departments from November 2015. The expanded Charter will also use a broader definition of gender, examining support for transgender staff and investigating any areas where there are systemic barriers to male progression.

Looking back over 2014: the Equality and Diversity Unit

Posted by Yukiko Hosomi | 0 Comments
22Dec2014

As the year comes to an end, the Equality and Diversity Unit wants to share some of our reflections over 2014 with you. First of all we want to thank you all who worked with us in making the Inclusive Univesity real for our students and staff in a number of different ways. Without your support and commitment, we couldn't have achieved none of the below listed.

A year in which the University continued to extend its commitment to E&D and inclusivity: 

  • Equality training made mandatory to ensure all have the same baseline of knowledge and awareness
  • New policies released to support this agenda including a Faith and Belief Policy and revised policy on reasonable adjustments
  • No Bystanders campaign
  • Becoming a Time to Change employer
  • Embarking on the Race Equality Charter Mark
  • Conference in July on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion with people from all phases of education from across Bristol
  • Also in July, UWE sponsorship of PRIDE
  • Disability Working Group recommendations taken on board and ongoing plans for a support service for disabled staff
  • Equality Management Group and Equality Diversity Forum ongoing work demonstrate ongoing commitment
  • Work by all of us to embed E&D where we work

Recognition for specific achievement in the E&D arena

  • Stonewall Workplace Index great news
  • Athena Swan achievement of Department of Nursing and Midwifery and Department of Allied Health Professions in November
  • Two Ticks – positive about disability – symbol commitments achieved and beginning to use from 2015

Behavioural/culture change activities        

  • Diversity mentoring exchange
  • Striving to embed E&D principles in training courses as well as offering E&D related courses
  • Supporting International Women’s Day, LGBT History month, Black History Month, and working to make them more visible to all
  • Making the language we use including the term inclusion (from the 2020 Strategy) a core part of what we talk about in all the meetings we attend and briefings we give
  • Welcome Fair  presentation slot and info table
  • Working with Student Union and others on Safe Spaces and hate incident reporting
  • Responding to queries from people (staff and students)