Tag: action

you can’t be what you can’t see

One of the new images from our online learning collection

Racial and ethnic diversity is a challenge for the Scottish HE IT sector. In Scotland in 2017 95.6 percent of the population identified as white. The next highest ethnic group was Asians with 2.6 percent. 

Jackie Kay thinks Scotland is ‘decades behind in attitudes to race’.

Skills Development Scotland highlight the  business drivers:

‘Getting race equality right in the UK is worth £24bn per year to the UK economy -1.3%of GDP. Employers with more diverse teams also have 35% better financial results.There are persistent unemployment rate gaps, with some ethnic minority groups experiencing employment rates which are twice as high as their white counterparts.  In 2016/1only 1.7%of Modern Apprentices in Scotland identified as BME’

 

Student interns work with us over the summer

In ISG we take an intersectional approach to  addressing the multiple factors, gender, race, religion, class, sexuality, and disabilities which shape the experience of our staff. Ethnicity is also a complex category. I had to google ‘do Jews count as minority ethnic?’ and there’s a whole discipline around collecting data.

Here are some of the things we have done:

We have employed an intern  (Dominique ) who is an expert in gender and race issues and how those combine to reinforce inequality. She has advised us on how to ensure that our gender equality initiatives also include race, age and class considerations.

In our recruitment, we have changed the language and images we use to  communicate what it is like to work in ISG.  We have also changed where we advertise, making more use of LinkedIn and the new Equate Scotland jobs board and the university careers service. As a result our new workers, and particularly our student interns appear to be a much more diverse group than the longer standing staff. Our interns are a pipeline to bringing new diversity into digital jobs.

We make sure that the images we use in BITs magazine and in other ISG promotional materials  reflect the diversity of our staff and discourage the use of ‘stock’ images to do so. We have also changed the images we use to promote use of technology and online learning, ensuring that the images on our websites reflect the demographics we know we have in our community. We are exploring how we can make more use of positive action images collections such as JopWell

A report from the Scottish Government’s independent adviser on race equality in Scotland in 2017 recommended actions for those with the aim of working towards achieving the goal of parity in employment for minority ethnic communities in the workplace.

Distribution of non-white ethnic backgrounds in Scotland in 2017* © Statista 2019m Source: Scottish Government

‘It is generally accepted that for public services to be effective and relevant for all communities in Scotland, the public sector workforce should reflect the community it serves. The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that by 2025 its own workforce will reflect at every level the minority ethnic share of the population. According to the 2017 staff diversity data published in the Scottish Government’s Equality Outcomes and Mainstreaming Report, BME staff currently comprise 1.6 % of the civil service in Scotland, an increase of 0.2 % since 2013.

The position set out in the CRER report of March 2014 is that just 0.8% of staff in all Scotland’s Local Authorities are from BME backgrounds despite making up 4% of the general population in Scotland. In Glasgow City Council the proportion of the workforce from a BME background is less than 2% although the BME population is 12%.

Given that the Public Sector employs 20.7% of the workforce in Scotland, accelerating action to tackle the diversity deficit in the Scottish Public Sector and meet the Scottish Government’s equality outcomes is, I suggest, a matter of some urgency.’

One of the new images from our online learning collection

People of colour make up 9.7 per cent of the total staff numbers at University of Edinburgh and suffer structural disadvantage in pay as we can see by looking at the gender pay gap. 

BME staff are more likely to report a culture of bullying, racial stereotyping and microaggression (Advance HE/Fook et al, 2019; Rollock 2019). We have held staff development sessions on:

We have also run Wikipedia events in Black History Month and in association with  UncoverEd. We have a representative ( Rachel) on the LTC task group on decolonising the curriculum and we have created OER specifically on that topic.  We have tasked our Equality Images Intern ( Francesca) to discover the stories of diverse staff groups in university history  and we sponsored student -led university events  organised by our interns Vicki, Gina and Dominique on topics of mental health and transexuality  which took intersectional approaches to understanding the experiences of UoE students.

Ongoing activities:

  • We take care not to organise all-staff events on major high days and holidays
  • Staff, mainly in User Services Directorate, attend cultural awareness training
  • We  take part in projects across libraries and collections and across the sector to explore the implications of decolonialising our  metadata and descriptions
  • We will name the next of our training rooms after David Pitt during Black HIstory Month 2019
  • We are meeting with Advance HE to explore how University of Edinburgh can be part of their race equality project:

    ‘Racial inequality is a significant issue in UK universities. It is evidenced by the BME attainment gap, the BME staff pay gap, and the lack of representation and promotion of BME staff . A number of UK universities have made strategic and public commitments to advancing race equality, but the sector has found consistent progress hard to come by.

    Advance HE/ECU has been actively working with the sector in Scotland on race equality since 2013 to promote conversations and initiatives on race equality with universities and colleges. In 2016, the Race Equality Charter was launched, and the Scottish Race Equality Network (SREN) first met. This project aims to support a group of Scottish universities to make significant and meaningful progress in developing strategic approaches to race equality, and in particular develop effective initiatives to support the recruitment and development of Black/BME staff. Improved staff representation, whilst being a key longer term outcome itself, is also a necessary condition for significant improvement in the Black/BME attainment gap.’

There seem to be some Scotland-specific challenge, Advance HE report that:

Scottish manifestations of race inequality in HE are under-explored. Intersectionality and differences between BME ethnicities are underexplored in the national sector literature, and may be different, and/or particularly relevant to the Scottish context. Positive action is under-utilised to drive strategic and institutional change, partly due to institutional conservatism, lack of expertise and lack of leadership.

withdrawing the invisible glue?

The Hive, by Graham Sutherland. I don’t have copyright of the picture, but I do own this print at home and this picture is taken by me.

I appreciate being invited to sign the open letter that the University of Edinburgh professors are sending to the Principal. The UCU and USS are not exclusive to lecturers.  I also appreciate the effort my local UCU leadership made in talking with me about lecture recording policy in the run up to this industrial action. I also appreciate the support of my good friends who work in and around NUS Scotland who give me sage advice as I try to navigate the journey of being senior management and union member.

There’s an article in the THES today ‘USS strike: why aren’t more administrative staff on picket lines?’  It’s a good question. The article says some nice things about us like:

‘Academic-related, professional, technical and support staff are the invisible glue holding a university together and providing essential services to maintain the day-to-day running of complex institutions.’ and ‘While we all collectively work towards excellence in teaching and research, it can sometimes feel like a thankless task. Too often, administrators are blamed when things go wrong but are rarely praised when things go well. And too often they are overlooked in conversations that directly affect them.’

It suggests that there is a conversation UCU need to be having.  I think there are other conversations to be had more generally. There are conversations to be had between academic and academic-related staff, and there are conversations academic-related staff need to be having with each other*.

As a woman who has spent her entire career offering technology to lecturers who are then very rude about it, and setting her face to look interested as yet another colleague explains to her about the panopticon, I am quite looking forward to having a decent pension.

I do my best to keep relations good. I always encourage my staff to refer to ‘academic colleagues’ rather than ‘the academics’. I remind them about the fact that we all come from different discipline backgrounds, and to be aware that the kind of evidence which will persuade in one group will not in another. We talk about things you can count and things you cannot and the value of counting. I also try to discourage lazy stereotypes like ‘digital natives, ‘digital immigrants’, ‘luddites’ and ‘CAVEs’.

There are also conversations to be had about the different kinds of impact withdrawal of labour can have. Sometimes support staff withdrawing their labour will seem invisible.  I have a suspicion that if a large IT system goes down and no-one is there to pick it up the impact would be obvious.

“Are you even allowed to strike?” a colleague asked me last week.  It’s an interesting topic to discuss; the very different attitudes to being managed in the university. The lecture recording policy consultation has drawn out some fascinating stuff about informing, asking permission, agreeing, trust, ownership, rights etc from academic colleagues. It was instructive to hear some speak about their lack of trust with students, their managers and each other.

Management in the support groups is clearly different, as is the attitude to providing services**.

Do staff in support groups know/ want/ feel able to strike? Are we just as racked with guilt as lecturers who would rather be lecturing? Do we know what ‘action short of a strike’ means in our roles? all the guidance seems to the about marking and meetings. To what extent does the action itself rely on the university email for communication? To what extent should learning technology be used to mitigate a strike and how much should we help with that? Will academic colleagues stand with us if we refuse to? How many of our university systems have just one person as the single point of failure? and is that person ‘allowed’ to strike?’ Should teams cover for colleagues who strike? How rude will academic colleagues be if we are not there to fix the thing they are using, or using to work from home? These seem to me the kind of conversations we need to be having as IT professionals, and it would be great to have UCU in the room to advise.

 

 

*While I’m on the topic, I think support staff need to be discussed in a more nuanced way. I was reading our Athena Swan stuff and it seems like because there are generally more women than men in the support groups everything is fine. Until you look at the STEM bits of the support groups, like IT for instance!  ‘IT guys’ seems to be a stereotype the university is happy to perpetuate. Also, the promotions structures for academic -related staff are quite different from academic staff, and we don’t have the option to do consultancy work on the side. For academics apparently that’s a ‘nice little earner’.  I’d argue that perhaps the support staff are proportionally more ‘local’, are we a group being considered as beneficiaries of the City Deal investment? How many of us are in jobs which will be replaced by robots, and will those be robots we built ourselves?  And, you know there are going to be intersections of class, age, race, gender and academic snobbery to consider…….

** ‘you provide services and are thus a servant‘, someone once told me. I think you can guess at which institution that was.

 

 

 

 

strike that

Strike that from Waddington’s Lexicon, ‘The Wonder Game’.

Sometimes, people look to me for advice and wisdom.

My advice today, to anyone who works in a role similar to mine is:  try to avoid being in an institution-wide consultation about an opt-out lecture recording policy at  a time of national industrial action.

 

We are consulting on a draft new policy at Edinburgh. It’s a good policy. It’s better than previous policies and it’s been developed over many months with input from across the University.

I am a strong believer that if you are a member of a union you should remain a member of that union even when you become senior management. The reason for this is that I believe you get better decision making when there is diversity around the board table, and union members are part of that diversity of thinking. Having some managers in the room who are union members means you get better management which is more inclusive and considerate of a range of staff views. The hope, is that with this better-informed thinking, comes fewer staff-management stand-offs.

 

Because of this, I have ensured that the campus unions have been part of the policy consultation since the start. A UCU rep has been part of our task group.
What  have learned:

 

‘We can just use recorded lectures‘ is the knee-jerk go-to response of university management when threatened by an academic walk-out, but that really isn’t what this is all about. The University believes that having more lectures recorded and offering a consistent staff and student experience around that service, benefits us all in the longer term. That is why they have invested.
For colleagues at Edinburgh University, please let me assure you: The new policy is predicated on the idea that we are all in this together.

 

The new policy clearly states the essential purpose and aims to address a number of concerns.   In the Policy Point 1. The statement of the “essential purpose” in the policy is to reassure lecturers that the intention of the service is the provision of recordings for students to review, and that this is limited to the students on the Course for which the lecture is delivered i.e. those who were entitled and expected to be present at the original lecture.

 

In 1.5 it clearly states that to use the lecture for business continuity , such as a volcanic eruption leaving everyone in the wrong place around the world*, or loss of a major teaching building, or absence of a major teaching person,  the university can use the recording ‘if the lecturer and other participants agree, and as specified within business continuity plans relevant to the School. ‘   People on strike would presumably not agree.   That is the reassurance we have been giving colleagues.

 

Policy wording below.

 

Essential purpose
The essential purpose referred to within this policy is to allow the students undertaking a taught Course to review recordings of lectures given as part of that Course.  The policy also permits a lecturer to re-use recordings of their lectures for other relevant and appropriate purposes, if all the participants in the recording agree to this.

 

Use of recordings
1      The University will provide recordings of lectures to students on taught Courses, where possible, to aid their learning through review and reflection.  These recordings are not, other than in very exceptional circumstances, a replacement for lecture attendance or other contact hours.

 

1.1             The Lecture Recording Policy Privacy Statement details how the University will use and share personal data in relation to the lecture recording service.

 

1.2             Recording of sensitive personal data as defined in current legislation[1] shall not take place without the explicit written consent of the person(s) to whom the data relate.

 

1.3             The University will provide lecture recordings to students on the Course(s) to which the lecture relates.  By default, it will also provide access to the staff associated with the Course(s) in the Virtual Learning Environment.  The lecturer may restrict staff access to a recording further if required.

1.4             The University encourages teaching innovation, sharing and re-use of recorded lectures where relevant and appropriate.  A lecturer may publish a recording of their lecture as an open educational resource, with appropriate modifications and safeguards, including an appropriate attribution, licence and having obtained any permissions required from other participants or third parties whose intellectual property resides within the recording.  Guidance on this is contained within the Open Educational Resources Policy and Website Accessibility Policy.  Staff and students may otherwise only publish or share restricted-access lecture recordings with the permission of the School that owns the Course and of the lecturer and any other participants in the recording.

 

1.5             A School may use a past recording held within the lecture recording service in exceptional situations to provide continuity, if the lecturer and other participants agree, and as specified within business continuity plans relevant to the School.

 

1.6             The recordings and any associated metadata will not be used by the University for staff performance review or disciplinary processes except in the case of alleged gross misconduct.  A lecturer may however choose to use recordings of their own lectures for these purposes or to allow peer observation of their teaching.

 

1.7             Learning Analytics from the lecture recording service may be used in accordance with the Learning Analytics policy.

 

* I was first convinced of the value of lecture recording ( and video conferencing) when that Icelandic volcano stranded the staff and students of my university all around the world. There were no flights in and out of Europe and, as an international research institution, we were all widely scattered. The impact on teaching, and the research activities and conferences for those few weeks was considerable.