5 March 2019
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at UCL – challenging unacceptable behaviour and attitudes
When I visited a partner university campus in Delhi recently, I noticed a very visible and permanent-looking notice warning that any instance of “ragging”, or inappropriate behaviour, would be taken very seriously. In the UK, we would call it discrimination, bullying or harassment. And it happens on our campuses too, and needs to be addressed with equal seriousness.
UCL is a great place to study and work for most people – but certain groups remain underrepresented or marginalised and still face additional barriers in education or employment. These issues are not unique to UCL, but we are very aware of them and working to identify and tackle any obstructions to UCL’s commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). We will shortly be publishing an ambitious new EDI Strategy so that we can continue to welcome – and retain – the diverse mix of talented staff and students that make us who we are.
We know, not least because the evidence tells us, that we benefit from a multiplicity of voices. Organisations with more diverse workforces perform better, and this finding continues to be reinforced with new research, such as that published by McKinsey last year. Our community, made up of people from a huge range of places, cultures and backgrounds, strengthens our understanding and appreciation of the world and the things that can make a difference in it.
We want to acknowledge and proactively address unacceptable behaviours and attitudes within our community. So the UCL community is currently coming together, sharing our expertise and viewpoints to address issues that harm individuals and communities, and determine what changes need to be made to ensure that these issues are dealt with.
We will not tolerate unacceptable behaviour, such as bullying, harassment, racially or religiously motivated abuse or sexual misconduct. The new “Full Stop” campaign is designed to help put an end to this, by providing information and resources to allow us all to shape our culture for the better and create a supportive and inclusive environment for all.
As part of this, a new Report + Support tool is being launched to make it easier for anyone affected by any of these issues, or who is experiencing bullying or harassment from any quarter at UCL, to speak out – anonymously, if they prefer. They will be able to do so in a supportive environment, with the confidence that their voices will be heard and their experiences taken seriously. I urge anyone who experiences such unacceptable behaviour to report it so that we can fully understand the nature and extent of these events at UCL and tackle them effectively.
There is much to do. We have already taken steps in the right direction through the Preventing Sexual Misconduct Strategy Group, and we are fully committed to taking the bold actions needed to make real changes at institutional and policy level to put an end to unacceptable behaviour. This far-reaching initiative is being accompanied by an ambitious programme of work, which includes a full policy and procedure review.
We are committed to improving transparency and accountability, and seeing where we can do better through annual anonymised reports which will help build a picture of what is happening and inform targeted intervention and prevention work. Other proactive action includes: committing £150,000 over a two-year period to specifically address issues of bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct; delivering training to over 1,000 staff (with another 2,000 staff due to be trained this year); appointing a new full time Preventing Sexual Misconduct Manager; and launching a recruitment drive for more Dignity Advisers to help provide support and guidance to staff and students at an informal, local level.
I am confident that, working together, we can make UCL even better by ensuring that our ethos and values of tolerance and inclusivity are reflected in everyone’s behaviour.
These values lie at the core of what UCL is and why UCL was founded. We have much to be proud of in our history. We were the first university in England to open its doors to students from a variety of backgrounds, and welcomed a diverse body of students and staff who would otherwise have been excluded from higher education – such as the Choshu Five, who risked their lives to travel from Japan in 1863 to study here.
And yet, our history has other, more troubling aspects. As well as celebrating our achievements and milestones, we should also reflect on the more difficult parts of UCL’s past – those figures who, despite their intellectual accomplishments, held and promoted beliefs that today are unacceptable.
You may have heard about the Inquiry into the history of eugenics at UCL which launched late last year. Since I joined UCL as Provost, I have had many discussions with concerned colleagues and students about UCL’s links with Francis Galton, Karl Pearson and Flinders Petrie, as prominent eugenicists who are commemorated on our campus. Last year, I appointed an independent Chair, Professor Iyiola Solanke of the University of Leeds, to lead the Inquiry which is currently in its evidence-gathering phase: archival research will explore the history of eugenics at UCL, and a survey on contemporary implications will soon be shared with UCL staff and students.
Last week, I attended the Town Hall meeting organised by the Inquiry to hear your views. It was well attended and the discussion was lively, but respectful. It is clear to me that this is a topic that will be controversial no matter what the outcome of the Inquiry, but it does feel right to examine and critique our history in some detail and to do so in an open and transparent manner. Some of those present certainly felt that this issue had been ‘kept under wraps’ in the past by UCL, and I hope that this is a perception that the Inquiry will banish.
I encourage you all to engage with the Inquiry, to express your views and to participate in shaping our response to this important issue. We want to ensure that we have the widest evidence base from which to gauge the opinions of UCL and ultimately to take the most appropriate action.
I am personally committed to listening to our wider community about their experiences and views related to equality, diversity and inclusion issues and welcome your feedback.
Professor Michael Arthur
President & Provost