Women’s History Month: Women across the world

Women’s History Month

Women across the world

Only 20 countries (10%) have women as Heads of State and Government. The United Nations call for “Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls

In the UK, we need role models in all areas of society.  An All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Women in Parliament is running a series of discussions and debates about:

  • modernising Parliament to advance gender equality
  • amplifying the diverse voices of young women from across the country; giving them a seat at the decision-making table.
  • Call for Safe Spaces (part of UN Women): stopping the sexual harassment of women in public spaces, including online platforms

During the COVID-19 pandemic women are facing increased domestic violence, unpaid care duties, unemployment, and poverty. Despite women making up a majority of front-line workers, there is disproportionate and inadequate representation of women in national and global COVID-19 policy spaces. 

The UN has published a report on ‘COVID-19 and women’s leadership: From an effective response to building back better’ to shine a light on the critical role of women’s leadership in responding to COVID-19 and preparing for a more equitable recovery. It recognizes pre-existing and new constraints to women’s participation and leadership and advocates for measures to facilitate women’s influence over decision-making processes.

This includes creating opportunities to ‘build back better’ by including and supporting women, and the organizations and networks that represent them, in the decision-making processes that will shape the post-pandemic future.

LUCU Committee

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Survey Results: ‘Covid and In-Person Teaching’

Survey Results: ‘Covid and In-Person Teaching’

We are writing to report on the results of LUCU’s most recent survey on ‘Covid and In-Person Teaching’.  The survey was completed by hundreds of members and achieved a significant response rate as a proportion of the branch membership. This is the highest response we have had to a survey! – and represents an excellent increase in responses compared to our October survey. Thanks to everyone who responded, as your feedback will be used to inform our stance on this issue. LUCU would also like to thank those members who gave so generously of their time and expertise to help us frame the survey and to interpret its results. 

The survey was a listening exercise for the committee. Our aim was to test whether the view of the membership had changed since October and to gauge the current temperature of the membership concerning action that would be needed to push management into adopting the Online-Only position for the rest of this academic year.

Overall, the survey indicates broad support for LUCU to continue working with management to ensure a balanced approach where staff have the ability to request an opt-out of in-person teaching, in line with the outcome agreed through our local dispute process, and a preference for what some members termed ‘constructive’ solutions – that is, reserving ballots or threats of action only when other methods fail to achieve a satisfactory solution for the branch.  

To remind members, management has agreed the following with LUCU:

Staff may request home working even if they are not clinically vulnerable, and without necessarily involving input from Occupational Health, if they are concerned about undertaking their duties in-person. Although the survey focused on in-person teaching, this agreement covers all staff.  Requests are considered at school/unit level by the line manager or their nominee. 

If members would like the advice of a LUCU caseworker before submitting a request or during discussions with a manager, please contact our Casework Coordinator, Andrew Dix – a.dix@lboro.ac.uk.

Thus far, requests have been treated sympathetically, and the agreement is enabling members to work from home or have their in-person hours reduced to a number with which they are comfortable. LUCU is monitoring the process through regular updates from Reps, and regular contact with Deans and HR as required.

Members: please find a fuller report on the survey attached to your email.   

LUCU Committee

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Women in Trade Unions and Discussion Group for “Complaint as Diversity Work”

Women in Trade Unions and Discussion Group for “Complaint as Diversity Work”

Women in Trade Unions

Women are seriously under-represented in trade union leadership roles, despite the fact that they form over half of UK membership. 

Women still earn an average of 18% less than men in our economy – the Gender Pay Gap at Loughborough University is larger, with a mean difference of 22.7%.

During the COVID-19 pandemic women are facing increased domestic violence, unpaid care duties, unemployment, and poverty. Despite women making up a majority of front-line workers, there is disproportionate and inadequate representation of women in national and global COVID-19 policy spaces

Only 20 countries have women as Heads of State and Government. The United Nations call for “Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls

Complaint as Diversity Work: Thursday 25th March 1-2pm

Our discussion group this week explores issues in Sara Ahmed’s lecture ‘Complaint as Diversity Work‘, which takes a critical (though not hostile) approach to management-led diversity agendas in Higher Education, with a particular focus on the gendered and racialized forms of labour they require. With Equality at the heart of UCU’s national #FourFights campaign and local work, our discussion will be led by members’ responses to the lecture. You can watch the lecture, which is an hour long, ahead of the session here and/or read a shorter blog post which introduces its main themes can be read here

Link to join the discussion session is here: Click here to join the meeting

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IWD 2021 – Lean In Circles Workshop

IWD 2021 – Lean In Circles Workshop

Are you sitting comfortably?

Over the last 100 years a repeated theme has been the lack of sanitary facilities for women being used as a reason to reject them when applying for jobs.

  • ‘Respectable’ women couldn’t relieve themselves in streets or alleys as men did – London’s first public toilets were built for the 1851 Great Exhibition
  • Lack of access to toilets effectively tied women to their homes, putting them on a ‘leash as long as their bladder capacity’

This silent discrimination continues in many countries around the world. In 2012, female demonstrators in India marked International Women’s Day by storming men’s public toilets in the city of Nagpur, protesting inadequate numbers of bathrooms for women

In 2021, the UK Government has been running a Toilet Consultation to consider ‘the ratio of female toilets needed versus the number for men, given the need for women to always use cubicles’ … and to ‘take into account the needs of all members of the community, to ensure there is a fair provision of accessible and gender-neutral toilets’.

They acknowledge that even in 2021, women often face excessive queues for toilets or do not have access to appropriate facilities. In some cases, this can mean women are reluctant to go out or take trips – so no progress from the 19th century.

Lean In Circles Workshop

Thursday 18th March 1pm-2pm

In this workshop you will have the opportunity to:

  • Connect with other women through small group discussions to share your struggles, give and get advice and celebrate each other’s wins.
  • Discuss and select a #ChooseToChallenge action card making a pledge for action to support and empower other female employees all year round.

Link to join the workshop via Microsoft Teams: Click here to join the meeting

We very much look forward to seeing you there.

LUCU Committee

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LUCU News – March/April

LUCU News – March/April

Restructures/Redundancy/PDR/Casework/LUCUDiscuss

Restructures and the Threat of Redundancy

Currently three areas are undergoing a restructure: Careers, Organisational Development, and the School of Science, where the restructure impacts on technicians.  Management is only obliged to consult where 25 jobs or more will be affected.  However, we are fortunate that in keeping with best practice the three campus trade unions, along with affected staff, are always consulted on proposed changes.  The purpose of consultation is to allow staff and/or their representatives input into the restructure. Note that ‘consultation with’ the campus trade unions does not necessarily equate to ‘agreed by’ the campus trade unions.

An unpleasant fact of restructures is that they may result in staff being required to apply for a new post when the role they currently hold is made ‘redundant’, and they have not been ‘slotted in’ to the new role (‘slotting in’ is where the new role contains at least 60% of the duties of the previous role, as determined by the list of duties in the new and the old job descriptions).  If there is a reduction in the number of posts available, then some staff may face redundancy. Whilst the direct impact of the current restructures is on Professional Services staff, the consequences may also impact on the workloads of academic colleagues.

The campus trade unions are united in opposing job losses because of these restructures. We will also fight against staff being asked to perform the same duties as previously at a lower pay grade or staff facing intensified workloads by being given additional duties for the same pay.

If you are/were involved in a restructure and believe trade union representatives have not been involved, we want to know: ucu@lboro.ac.uk. Please do this so that we can monitor whether a pattern is developing whereby work is being pushed down onto lower grades, with higher grades being made redundant.

PDR

It has been brought to our attention that recent updates re: the PDR have not reached all members. In response to the pandemic, the University has announced that the deadline for PDR discussions has been extended to the end of April 2021.

These are 3 points we feel that we should bring to your attention.

  1. No colleague will be assessed against objectives that have been so significantly affected by the pandemic that such an approach would be unreasonable. Last year’s objectives should be considered in-the-round and in the light of the challenges that we have all faced. This includes both different ways of working and domestic pressures such as home-schooling children or looking after dependents.
  1. If objectives remain relevant, calculate a new time frame for their completion to be discussed with your reviewer. If no longer relevant say so and write them off – long justifications are not necessary for undeliverable objectives. A clear explanation of the legacy impact of Covid on your research will help ensure that you are not held to a set of unfair objectives in future.
  1. The PDR discussion should focus on the coming year from the perspective of objectives, support and professional development.

Personal casework

Much of the work undertaken by the branch happens in plain sight: think, for example, of our brokering the Partnership Agreement with the University or our organisation of strike activity in support of national campaigns for better pay and pensions. By its very nature, however, personal casework, as undertaken on campus by a small team comprising a number of Committee colleagues and several department or section reps, is liable to go unnoticed. The work involves meeting members who contact us for support on a wide range of issues, reading material relevant to their cases, offering advice, and accompanying them to meetings with managers. The volume of work involved is significant. The rewards, however, are greater still, for in casework we encounter members who are facing difficult, worrying, even distressing situations, and we hope that they find our involvement supportive and constructive.

Sometimes a case with which a member approaches us can be resolved quite quickly and informally. On other occasions, however, the member may need advice in preparing a complex grievance claim or may be facing disciplinary action that has dismissal as one of its possible outcomes. High demands are made on the caseworker in these circumstances to be not only a source of support and counsel, but to be fully prepared.

In this academic year to date, we have offered formal casework support to 18 of our members. Many of these cases are ongoing. In the current, complex circumstances, we do not anticipate that the demands on the caseworking team will lighten.

We are grateful to those members who, either for the first time or as a refresher, attended the recent caseworker training session led by Joe Rooney from the union’s Regional Office. If you feel you might like to get involved in casework and want to find out more, please get in touch with our Personal Casework Coordinator Andrew Dix (A.Dix@lboro.ac.uk). Likewise, do contact Andrew if you would like union support and advice with any issue that you have in the workplace.

Launch of “LUCU Discuss”

Following the motion ‘Building LUCU’, the branch has set up a discussion list where members may raise issues of interest or concern, ask questions of each other, share ideas, and develop solidarity. We know work is especially isolating for many at the moment, and we hope that this might help bring our members together.

To join, please send an email to ucu@lboro.ac.uk with the subject “Subscribe to LUCU Discuss”. In the body, please write your name and the preferred email address you have listed for your UCU membership (this can be checked via MyUCU). You must join the list with the email address your UCU account is registered to (this is the email address through which you receive current UCU information).

Attached to this email are a set of rules and guidelines for LUCU Discuss that we would ask members to read before registering. We hope that members will find the discussion list useful and enjoyable. If you have any questions, please email ucu@lboro.ac.uk.

Meet Our Reps

Jen De Lillo, Library Services: I am Academic Librarian for English and Communication and Media Studies and work within the Library’s Academic Services Team. I’ve been in this role since 2016 having previously worked on research projects on digital scholarly editions of medieval texts after finishing my PhD in 2001. Given my experience, I understand first-hand the precarious nature of research positions.  I became the union rep for the Library as I believe it is important for professional service staff to be represented and, as a part-time worker myself, I feel that it is essential for us to have a voice. I have found union colleagues invaluable when it comes to discussing matters informally and hope to be able to support others whilst keeping the local branch informed of any issues we may be facing within the Library.  

Eef Hogervorst, School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences: I am a Professor of Psychology and UCU rep for SSEHS. I very much support the solidarity principle and have personally had much benefit from being a LUCU member over the past years. I research mental health, with a focus on cognitive impairment. My particular interest is in menopause and dementia. During peri-menopause, many women find it hard to focus on work and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression that play a significant role in midlife. With HR and colleagues, I am developing a course for WHEN to help women navigate this.  I have also given several lectures on career progression in academia. I am passionate about reducing gender differences in pay and career opportunities. I am training to become a LUCU caseworker.

LUCU Committee

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Equality, Diversity, Inclusivity

Equality, Diversity, Inclusivity

Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day (IWD2021)

International Women’s Day (IWD) was started in the 1900s when women’s oppression and inequality spurred them to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change in working hours, pay and for voting rights.   The first National Woman’s Day (NWD) was observed in the United States on February 28, 1909, followed by the establishment of International Women’s Day in 1911 in Europe and the US. International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time by the United Nations in 1975.

Over the last 110 years, there is more equality in legislative rights in many countries, and an increased visibility of women role models. However, the gender pay gap persists, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health, and the violence against them is worse than that of men. https://www.internationalwomensday.com/Activity/15586/The-history-of-IWD).

To celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, LUCU will be sending weekly emails with information about women in the workplace and also holding 2 free events on:

  1. #ChooseToChallenge bias.  A workshop with Marie Hanlon to empower people to identify and challenge bias head-on.
  2. Complaint as Diversity Work reading group discussion with David Bell and David Wilson. This group will discuss the complexities that emerge when institutions take on the mantle of ‘diversifying’ themselves, and the struggles of those who complain about gendered and racialized issues in the workplace. 

The University has also organized events to mark these dates: https://www.lboro.ac.uk/news-events/iwd-2021/

Listening to Lived Experience

We all have complex identities made up of intersecting characteristics such as race, gender, sexuality and much more.   We may face prejudice against our gender, while experiencing privilege because of our race, or vice versa.  It’s important that we listen to the experiences of those around us and think about how they compare to our own, in order to help us understand this complex picture.  Sharing our personal experiences, especially painful experiences, can make us feel vulnerable.  Indeed, such experiences can make us materially vulnerable.  It is a privilege when someone is willing to let us see into their lives, and it gives us an opportunity to learn and grow.

We are therefore very grateful to our colleague David Roberts, who recently shared an intimate account of his life on the University Equality, Diversity and Inclusion blog.  In ‘Recollections of a racial past in a racist present’ David paints a vivid picture of the challenges he’s faced, and continues to face, and those who have helped him achieve the success he has.  We urge you to find time in your busy lives to read it – especially if your race is not something you’ve ever thought much about.

Gendered Lives.

When a baby is born, or indeed more often these days long before it is born, we ask “what is it?”  The gender of the brand-new human becomes their defining feature before they have drawn their first breath – determining the choice of clothes in which they will be dressed and the colour of the toys on which they will dribble and chew.  In the short piece “What are you having?”, David Wilson explores why we’re so keen to answer this burning question, and what problems it might cause.

If you would like to have a piece of writing on EDI circulated among the membership, please get in touch: ucu@lboro.ac.uk

LUCU Committee

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Petition on the closure of Newcastle University’s London campus

Petition on the closure of Newcastle Universitys London campus

Please sign the petition on the closure of Newcastle Universitys London campus
Members are asked to sign and share the petition which can be found here. Newcastle University’s London campus is set to close on 31st September 2021, and staff face the prospective of either a move to Newcastle or redundancy.

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Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS)

Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS)

As you will have seen from the Vice Chancellor’s message on Wednesday, the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) has issued a new valuation.

The goal of the valuation is to assess the scheme’s assets and liabilities as of 31st March 2020. As the Vice Chancellor pointed out, pension funds are legally required to conduct valuations every three years. USS last undertook a valuation two years ago. Consequently,  this valuation, the date of which coincided with perhaps the most uncertain point of the pandemic, is not required to take place for another year.

USS has used a valuation method very similar to that proposed in September 2020. In its response to these proposals, Universities UK (UUK), the group which speaks on behalf of universities like Loughborough, described the valuation method as “extremely unhelpful”, “unreasonable”, “unrealistic”, “incredibly conservative” and “unjustifiable”. UUK concluded that USS was making “extreme and unwarranted” proposals. Remarkably, the proposals issued on Wednesday are actually more extreme than those which prompted these unrestrained remarks.

UCU agrees with UUK’s criticisms of the valuation method. We continue to believe that the recommendations of the Joint Expert Panel, which was set up by UCU and UUK following the 2018 industrial action, should be implemented.

The branch is engaging with management colleagues here at Loughborough. A report will be provided at the forthcoming AGM and members will have the opportunity to pose questions to our Pensions Rep, Matthew Inglis.

LUCU Committee

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LUCU Covid Bulletin 3 – March 2020

LUCU Covid Bulletin 3 – March 2020

Our survey on Covid and in-person contact closes tomorrow – March 5, 2021. If you have not yet completed the survey, which takes c. 3 minutes, we urge you to do so to help the committee better understand your views on Covid related issues at this time. 

Campus Re-opening

There will be a partial re-opening of campus on Monday, March 8, 2021 for students who are registered on courses that require access to specialist facilities to complete practical elements of their programmes. See here for a complete lists of courses: Microsoft Word – practical-degree-programes-march2021.docx (lboro.ac.uk). In addition, undergraduate finalists who require access to specialist facilities for project / dissertation work can continue their on-campus activity as per the email to students dated 28th January.

Teaching programmes that are not listed on the above linked document will remain online until after Easter, pending review during April and further government guidance.

For your information, the most recent Government advice, based on SAGE guidance, that informs how the University is managing the staggered return of students may be found here: Higher education: operational guidance – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). Members may also be interested to read Indie Sage Guidance: Independent SAGE Statement on Universities and Colleges Winter-Spring 2021 in the Context of SARS-CoV-2 and the | Independent SAGE.

Covid H&S Update

Since the start of the pandemic, LUCU and the other campus trades unions have been closely involved in monitoring how the University is responding to Covid risks on campus through representation on the University Health and Safety committee. In addition, we have held weekly meetings with Neil Budworth, Director of Health, Safety and Wellbeing, and Anne Lamb, Deputy Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development, in cooperation with Unison and Unite, where we have been able to assess in greater detail the implementation and enforcement of Covid-secure measures. 

In response to Covid variants that are more highly transmissible, we can report to members that all risk assessments for rooms that will be in use from March 8, 2021 have been reviewed and updated where needed, and risk assessments for all remaining teaching/shared office spaces that may come into use after Easter are also under review. 

Thus far, the following changes have been made in response to the threat of Covid variants.

  1. Student and Staff Testing: Students are required to undertake a rapid Covid test at least once every seven days in order to be allowed to use campus-based facilities (e.g. Library, PC labs, study spaces).  Students who do not take a minimum of one test every seven days will be denied access to facilities until they comply with the testing.  The aim is for students to undertake two tests each week (3-4 days apart), but rather than implementing this from the start, the University is building up compliance with at least one test per week. 

Staff are required to take a weekly rapid Covid test if they are working on the campus for any length of time.  The only exceptions to these requirements are for anyone who has had a positive Covid test in the last 90 days, or who is otherwise medically exempt.  Staff based on the Loughborough campus can book a rapid test via the website (https://www.lboro.ac.uk/internal/studying-working-living/testing/), while for staff based at the London campus, testing is available on Mondays and Wednesdays between 10am and 2pm at the 4th floor test centre and booking is not required in London. 

LUCU broadly support the requirement for staff working on campus to undertake regular rapid Covid tests and would encourage all members to engage with the policy where they can.  If you have any concerns about the testing, please speak to your line manager in the first instance, or you can contact LUCU at ucu@lboro.ac.uk.

  1. Ventilation: The ventilation in all teaching spaces on campus has been reviewed to ensure that it is compliant with the latest guidance regarding the more highly transmissible variants. Lectern notes and Risk Assessments have been updated to reflect this.
  1. Leaving spaces empty for longer between sessions: In order to reduce the risk posed by viral load build up in teaching spaces, extra gaps are being left between sessions to ensure the rooms are well ventilated between classes.  The requirement for this varies between locations and is factored into the timetabling of the rooms.
  1. Social distancing: As with the autumn term, staff should be able to maintain a 2m distance between themselves and students in teaching spaces.  Floor markings have been placed in teaching spaces denoting the safe areas for staff to maintain this spacing.  Students will be spaced at 2m where feasible.  Where 2m distancing between students would severely impact the capacity of a room, the University is mandating 1m+ spacing, where students may be seated within 2m of one another but other protections (such as differing orientations and mandatory face coverings) reduce the risks). 

The seats in teaching spaces that are suitable for students to occupy are clearly denoted with stickers.  In laboratories, workshops and practical spaces, where 2m floor spacings for staff may not be possible, higher grade PPE (e.g. additional respiratory protection) will be provided.

  1. Enforcement: Covid ambassadors will be in place to ensure compliance with social distancing and other safety measures.

If you become aware of a situation where health and safety guidelines are not being followed, contact your line manager and school health and safety officer in the first instance. Please also let the union know.

LUCU Dispute Update

Early in the pandemic UCU called for all non-essential teaching to move online, and LUCU requested management to adopt the UCU position.

Management refused on the basis that 1) they were providing a workplace where Covid risks were minimized as much as possible, and therefore, requesting in-person contact was not unreasonable; 2) it was necessary to deliver some in-person teaching for the benefit of students’ educational needs and mental wellbeing, as per LSU’s position; and 3) minimizing financial losses during the pandemic was essential to protect jobs.

LUCU has paid careful attention to what members have been telling us via their union Reps, email communications, surveys, and AGMs/EGMs.  We learned that the membership holds a wide range of views relative to the UCU position, ranging from support for moving all teaching online to support for the system of blended learning that management put in place.  The majority of members took the position that LUCU should work toward ensuring that the campus was made as safe as possible, avoid action that would impact on university finances to the extent that management may move toward further cutbacks, and consider the learning experience and wellbeing of students as well as staff when negotiating with management. 

Feedback from members also demonstrated a concern that some staff might be pressured into working on campus even if they felt extremely anxious about doing so.  Clinically vulnerable staff are not expected to work on campus, and those staff (mainly in professional services) who are able to perform their roles remotely are also working from home. 

Consequently, in November 2020, LUCU declared a formal dispute in line with our Partnership Agreement: our aim was to find a compromise that would allow members who did not feel comfortable about undertaking in-person teaching, or other campus duties involving in-person contact, to work from home. We argued that anxiety about in-person contact should not be pathologized during a pandemic, and management had a duty of care to respond to reports of high levels of anxiety with reasonable adjustments.  Management accepted this argument.

We requested that management adopt an opt-in policy for campus working, but this was refused on the basis that an opt-in policy could result in students having an uneven experience across disciplines in terms of in-person hours.  Consequently, further negotiations to resolve the dispute resulted in a working agreement whereby staff members may request home working or reduced in-person hours even if they are not clinically vulnerable, and without necessarily involving input from Occupational Health (although in some cases a referral to OH may be in a member’s interest).

Requests are considered on a case-by-case basis at school level by the relevant line manager or a member of staff designated by the line manager (e.g. Head of Subject, Operations Manager).  Thus far, most requests to work remotely have been treated sympathetically, with members either having their in-person hours reduced or being allowed to work from home. 

Anyone who is not satisfied with the response they receive to their request for remote working may contact LUCU, and we will assign them a caseworker.  Where a caseworker has become involved, we have enjoyed a good rate of success in negotiating a satisfactory outcome for members, and we have a small handful of cases that are ongoing.

We are continuing to monitor how well this approach is working through communication with school and unit LUCU Reps, as well as ongoing meetings with Deans/HR. Currently, we are aware of two subject areas where remote working is negatively impacting other colleagues in terms of the number of in-person hours they are being asked to deliver, and we have secured management agreement to work with LUCU on an action plan to resolve the problem in these areas. 

If you are considering making a request for remote working and have questions/would like further guidance before doing so, please contact us: UCU@lboro.ac.uk

On behalf of LUCU Committee

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UCU Week of Action Against Workplace Racism

UCU Week of Action Against Workplace Racism

(22-26 February 2021)

LUCU would like to call members’ attention to this week of national action. Action Against Workplace Racism aims to encourage anti-racist initiatives in further and higher education to transform education by placing the broader anti-racist agenda at the centre of our thinking – from how we relate to each other as colleagues to how we teach and carry out research/enterprise activities.

The theme for this week of national action is Community Accountability: an antiracism for abolitionist times.  For more information about the lived experiences of racism, its impacts on Black and Global Majority people in education, and how we might act to bring about change, members may find the following video material of interest.

Building an anti-racist environment: barriers to progression (2 mins)
The Race Pay Gap (2 mins)
Racism in the workplace – ‘intelligent covert racism’ (2 mins)
Micro-aggressions – ‘death by a thousand cuts’ (2 mins)
Unconscious bias – ‘what will it take for the unconscious to become conscious?’ (3 mins)

You can find out more about the UCU campaign here.

LUCU Committee

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