Equality and diversity are not tradeable luxuries

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Sally Mapstone, Principal of the University of St Andrews,

In an email to staff at the University of St Andrews dated 20.2.2018 you listed a number of initiatives which are allegedly in jeopardy should the USS pension scheme remain as a Defined Benefit, rather than change to a Defined Contribution scheme. All of these particularly pertained to the rights of women and people from minority and disadvantaged groups studying and working in your institution; they included: a mentoring scheme for mid-career and senior academic women, a professorial merit exercise, housing development for early and mid-career staff, a nursery for the children of staff and students. Your email signaled that inclusivity and diversity would be de-prioritised, and research into them cancelled should the dispute be determined in line with proposals submitted by the University and College Union.

First and foremost, staff shouldn't be asked to trade their pensions for reasonable rights. Schemes that address inequality in the workplace are compensations for a flawed working environment, rather than expendable perks. Furthermore, equality and diversity are not only costs; there are also benefits to being able to demonstrate a commitment to equality and diversity, for example and not least in the up-coming Research Excellence Framework. Equality and diversity are also not the only and most dispensable costs in Higher Education: there are also the costs of building and expansion projects, and the pay of senior management to be considered when cost-savings are being discussed. 

This petition requests a retraction of the threat to withdraw support for equality and diversity within the academic workplace, regardless of the outcome of the USS dispute. Such support is not a tradeable luxury, but, rather, essential for compliance with the legal and moral duty to provide an equal and accessible working culture in Higher Education.