Wednesday 7 March 2018

Resignation from University Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee

A few moments ago I resigned from the University of St Andrews' Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Here is my email to the Principal explaining this decision.

Dear Sally 

I write to you for three reasons.
First, I write to thank you for your change of position on ASOS deductions. I completely agree with this decision and you deserve full credit for changing your mind and the University position on it.
Second, I write to urge you to move urgently to help resolve the current pensions dispute.  It is entirely clear what the University community's view is, so I would urge you to follow the lead of many others, including (moments ago as I write) our former colleague Louise Richardson, and reverse the position of the University.

Third, I write to resign as a member of the University's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) Committee. 

Too many of us, including me, have failed to "speak truth to power".  I intend to correct this mistake in the future so will start now.  I do not doubt your personal commitment to equality and sincerity of your efforts to enhance it in St Andrews. But the truth is that your efforts to make this University a beacon of equality are doomed to failure without a dramatic change of approach.  

In your email of Monday you said that it is up to the University community to decide our priorities.  The University community has been making this choice for 605 years and for every one of those years has decided that equality is not a high priority.  Yet it should be no more up to the community to decide that equality is a priority than it is for the community to decide that we should care about fire safety.  Equality is a legal and moral imperative that must underlie every decision made in the university, just as (quite rightly) financial imperatives already do.
Pensions are an equality issue. Changes to pensions are likely to differentially detriment workers such as lower paid staff, casual workers, part time workers, those who have taken career gaps, all categories of immense concern in themselves and also more likely to be women than men. Yet the pensions issue has not been discussed in any way by the ED&I Committee. The University should not have considered writing a response to the UUK consultation without consulting this committee. When the University has an ED&I committee that is consulted on key equality issues and whose opinions are listened to, I will naturally be happy to serve on it.

I pay tribute to all the amazing work done by so many talented people in the area of equality at this University. Many of them are colleagues from the ED&I committee and will feel that it is right to continue working on that committee, and I will not attempt to change their minds.  But for me, it is a relief to stop the public pretence that all is well in equality at this University, and that we have any hope of achieving meaningful equality without a dramatic change in approach.

With very best wishes

Ian Gent

Note added 5pm same day: been rushing around all day but wanted to be sure to do two things.

Credit to Mark Pendleton for the phrase "pensions are an equality issue"

And separately wanted to emphasise that my decision is in no way an imputation of bad professionalism or commitment on behalf of the E&DI staff at St Andrews.  

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