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UCD Students, Staff, and Stakeholders Say Gender Equality NOW

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Equality in Ireland May 2015
On the 22nd of May 2015 the Irish people voted for the most progressive change in equality of law in Irish history, the ‪#‎MarRef. Although 3rd level education is legitimately presented as a public good and the Irish state’s efforts since the 1990s to make 3rd level education affordable has contributed to this progressiveness in Irish society, there has not been significant and sustainable progress in the promotion of equality at institutional level within and supported by our universities themselves. This is explicitly evident in the current ongoing work by Dr. Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington and the lecturers fighting for gender equality at NUIG. Irish society needs to be made aware that the issue of gender inequality is not isolated to NUIG and is as bad or almost as bad at many other Irish 3rd level institutions. University College Dublin (UCD), as an institution, in addition to other Irish Universities have done very little to improve equality within the university as an institution and in some cases have taken backward steps in this cause over the last 15 years. Although we welcome the recent commitment to Athena Swan in the STEM disciplines and the responsibilities of promoting gender equality within certain HR roles, we do not believe this goes nearly far enough. Gender Equality, like safety on building & manufacturing sites, should be everyone’s responsibility and we need to ensure this culture of equality is developed as a priority at every level within UCD.

Gender Equality Workshop May 2015
A number of students, staff, and stakeholders of University College Dublin (UCD), on the 26th of May 2015, ran a workshop to outline the current challenges and future solutions that would see real change and improvements in gender equality. We were honoured to have as keynote speaker Micheline Sheehy Skeffington (https://michelinesthreeconditions.wordpress.com/) to inspire our work and contribute to our brainstorming. We discussed real problems at UCD (and the university industry as a whole) that span all student, staff, and stakeholder experiences and impacts people of all genders at all levels within third level education (and also their children and families). The recommendations we outlined during our workshop are not just aspirational, they are specific, measurable, realistic, assignable and time related. They are achievable.

UCD President Deeks & UCDSU President O'Halloran: The 7 Challenges & the 7 Solutions
We, the signers of this petition: “UCD Students, Staff and Stakeholders Say Gender Equality NOW” or UCDSSSSayGEN, ask all stakeholders of UCD: staff, students, alumni, their families and friends, and the public to read this petition, sign it, and spread the word in your communities.  We, UCDSSSSayGEN will deliver all of these petition signatures in September 2015 to both UCD President Deeks and UCDSU President O’Halloran.  With these signatures, we will call on President Deeks and President O’Halloran to acknowledge the 7 challenges and implement the 7 solutions that we outline below in the 2015/2016 school year.  We will also call on UCDSU President O’Halloran to ensure that the 7 solutions to Gender Equality Now at UCD are on every agenda for every appropriate meeting and board that the UCDSU sit on throughout the school year and for the UCDSU to communicate progress to the wider students, staff, and stakeholder bodies as part of their regular communications to students/SU Council meetings, etc. so as to keep all stakeholders informed of progress and where we can support this implementation.

Signed,

UCD Students, Staff and Stakeholders Say Gender Equality NOW

______________________________________
The Top 7 Challenges to Gender Equality at UCD

1.      Rape Happens at UCD: As does sexual assault, racial abuse and other types of gender and non-gender based interactions that cause harm to students and staff from the most serious violence to lesser harms (though still harmful) which are evident in everyday sexism.  Rape, violence, and assault are features at every university in western academia.  All UCD students and staff know this.  We believe that UCD neither provides statistical reports on these occurrences at UCD, neither does it have any kind of meaningful strategy in place to tackle this issue and nor does it track improvements/deterioration in this area which affects all stakeholders of UCD: students, staff, and the public.  By ignoring this issue, pretending that it isn’t an issue and doing nothing to improve the situation here, UCD is complicit in encouraging this behaviour in our university and in our society by not making an effort to remedy it at a highly influential time in the development of our students and the university as a workplace.  A recent TCD study found that almost 1 in 4 students received unwanted sexual attention which is 4 times the amount found in Irish workplace studies. By pretending it isn’t happening UCD betrays the effected students  in their duty of care to them and their families in trusting UCD as an institution that students can safely attend.  We believe that UCD, in its lack of adequate actions in as regards a crime that is heavily gendered in nature, is thereby supporting a culture of gender inequality within the institution.

2.      Statistics Don't Happen at UCD: We believe that statistics regarding gender equality are not made easily accessible by UCD to those studying in this area, or to UCD’s own students or staff.  In order to gain access to this information, people and bodies must make formal FOI requests.  The 1997 Universities Act (PrIII.S12) states that “the object of a university shall include…(k) to promote gender balance and equality of opportunity among students and employees of the university.” As such UCD is obliged to promote gender equality although it does not publicly report on its progress or provide statistics in an easily accessible format.  UCD’s plans to improve gender equality at UCD are not specific, measurable, realistic, attainable, or time bound.  Nor are figures in relation to improvements/deterioration made public in conjunction with statistics for previous years such that those studying in this area or directly affected can commend UCD on improvements or feedback with suggestions to help improve the strategy.  UCD produces no publicly accessible reports that relate to gender equality, does not track individual departments, does not reward departments who are demonstrably improving in this area, nor is it sanctioning those that are regressing.

3.      Audits on HR: We believe that UCD does not regularly or annually audit its hiring and HR procedures for advancement/promotion processes to ensure that HR policies are being adhered to.  HR in no way ensures that policies are followed other than informing people they are mistaken when they present with testimonials to the contrary.  Nor are any investigations or audits that may be required to be carried out due to complaints, appeals, or litigation made public or internally to staff and students with an interest or importance placed on transparency.

4.      Work Life Balance for All Genders: We believe that UCD buys into an operating model that demands a level of flexibility from staff without regard or respect to their family situation.  UCD operates an understanding of academic staff working hours that is 24/7 where weekends are presumed to be working days.  This is evident in a number of different ways. The single breadwinner nuclear family model that UCD presumes in its operating model is not only inappropriate for gender equality for non-men staff, it is also inappropriate for modern men staff as very few men now live in single breadwinner nuclear family situations.  Not only is this model discriminatory toward women in academia, it is increasingly discriminatory toward all genders who are now joining the academic workforce with the rise in Irish universities of occasional lecturers, zero hour contracts, and less than €10,000 average salaries.  The only way new entrants of any gender can survive in a career in academia is for their partners or families to support them financially and for the non-academic person in a relationship to be the breadwinner.

5.      Gender Based Discrimination: We believe that UCD does very little to offer appropriate maternal and paternal leave to students and staff, nor are there appropriate crèche positions available for the children of staff and students.  The number of places available is half what is available at UCC based on per capita comparison (UCC has approx. 20,800 staff and students on site and an 80 child crèche. UCD has approx. 31,000 staff and students on site and a 60 child crèche.)  When carers, of all genders, take time off for children or family caring needs, this time is held against them and has a negative impact on their ability to be considered for promotion.  As carers are more likely to be women, this process is particularly discriminatory toward women academics.  Women students and staff are often told or encouraged in an ‘off the record’ or implicit manner not to get married or pregnant during the duration of their course or research.  There are many strategies that UCD could implement to promote women applying to higher positions including (but not limited to) job sharing, incentives, quotas, and or improving the processes for application and selection to remove bias and encourage more women entrants.  These strategies are not considered by UCD nor are there any visible plans to consider new ways of approaching gender equality to improve the stagnating, and often regressing, numbers of non-men gender academics into higher academic positions.

6.      Litigation: From 2007-2011 UCD spent €2m on legal fees.  We believe that much of this money would have been spent fighting UCD’s own staff on employment based disputes, some of which will be based on gender-based discrimination.  These cost numbers are not readily made available to stakeholders: students, staff, and the public (Citation: TD Mick Wallace’s Parliamentary Question response reported on by Niamh Connolly, Sunday Business Post, Feb 24, 2013).  There are also no publicly declared plans or strategies to reduce this significant amount of  money that all stakeholders contribute to UCD financially and nor are any measurements published regarding improvements/deterioration in these numbers year on year.

7.      Gender Equality Is Everyone’s Responsibility: Although Gender Equality is claimed to be high on the strategy for UCD, we believe that there are no gender equality committees in any schools or colleges that we know of and gender equality does not make a presence in the university’s Governing Authority.  We believe that its only presence is as a subcommittee to the University Management Team.  We also believe that widely recognised improvements for tackling gender inequality, such as implicit bias training for staff and other training for lecturers and tutors on how to improve in teaching and other interactions are not rolled out university wide nor are any other strategies forthcoming from the small number of existing gender equality committees to be implemented at university/all school/all college levels. We believe that more boards/committees used to be in place to work on promotion of gender equality and these have now fallen by the wayside providing proof that UCD is actually regressing and taking backward steps when it comes to gender equality. 

*We believe all of the above to be true at the time of petition writing. We would welcome UCD and/or any other party’s confirmation where we are in error in relation to any of these points and gladly take the opportunity to share with all UCD Stakeholders as to where UCD is adequately and appropriately providing information and acting in relation to the above 7 points.  We also accept that the challenges to gender equality at UCD are not limited to these 7 points and welcome input from all stakeholders as to other major concerns that hold UCD back from achieving gender equality.

The Top 7 Solutions to the 7 Challenges to Gender Equality at UCD

1.      Rape Happens at UCD: UCD should provide statistical reports on these occurrences on campus or as it relates to UCD students and staff.  It could design and implement a meaningful strategy to tackle this issue, then track improvements/deterioration in this area on an annual basis, and make annual reports available.  It could use state of the art knowledge in this area to adjust the strategy as required to ensure year on year improvements.  In doing this UCD would no longer be pretending that sexual assault isn’t an issue and become active leaders in improving this situation at UCD and wider Irish society. By actively tackling this issue, UCD could reduce the amount of sexual predators in our society, provide support and compassion to sufferers of this abuse, and assure the families of students and staff that UCD is an institution that students and staff can safely attend.  We believe that these actions would go a long way to support a culture of gender equality at UCD.

 2.      Statistics Don't Happen at UCD: UCD could easily commit to full transparency and engagement on statistics and strategies relating to gender equality at UCD by easily making all statistical data related to gender equality available on an annual basis in annual reports.  UCD could make its overall strategy for gender equality available to all stakeholders.  It could create plans to improve gender equality at UCD which are specific, measurable, realistic, attainable, and time bound.  UCD could produce annual reports on its progress with action points to address places where it is regressing (FYI, TCD provides an annual report on equality monitoring.  The 2012-2013 report can be found here: http://www.tcd.ie/equality/assets/pdf/monitoring-reports/ann-equal-monitor-rpt-1213.doc).  UCD could track individual departments, reward departments who are demonstrably improving in this area, and sanction those that are regressing.

3.      Audits On HR: UCD could organise to regularly and randomly audit hiring and promotion procedures internally to ensure policies are adhered to as it relates to gender and other HR policy adherence concerns.  It could release the statistics regarding these reports on an annual basis (without naming individual colleges, schools, or individuals) and the specific action plans outlined for improving those schools and colleges where there has not been compliance.  It could also include in this report statistics on the number of complaints, appeals, and litigations that UCD investigates and the recommendations to reduce these numbers.  It could then track year on year improvements in this area and ensure the total number of violations is on the decrease and if this is not the case, investigate and implement new strategies to ensure improved compliance going forward.  All of this work can be carried out on a statistical and numbers basis that does not violate personal confidentiality.

4.      Work Life Balance for All Genders: UCD could demonstrably implement strategies to create a positive working environment with respect for the work life balance of all staff and students and thereby respect their family situation.  UCD could work on training and policies to ensure that colleges and schools do not expect work to be completed outside of the hours as described in the European Working Time Directive which Ireland is a signatory member to.  UCD should ensure that enough academic and administrative staff are employed on contracts that pay an actual living wage such that they can support the existing teaching, researching, and administrative workload expected of UCD’s academics. UCD could then provide annual reports on individual college adherence and recommend specific actions to drive improvements where individual colleges and schools are struggling to adhere to these policies.

5.      Gender Based Discrimination: UCD could ensure its maternal and paternal leave policies were appropriately supported and ensure an adequate amount of crèche positions were available and affordable to students and staff as they are required.  When carers, of all genders, take time off for children or family caring needs, this time should be mitigated in promotional processes so as not to negatively impact considerations for promotion.  Women students and staff could be encouraged and supported to call out where they are implicitly pressurised in a gender-specific manner and findings and action plans could be organised for schools that are found to be complicit in this type of gendered discrimination.  UCD could actively investigate and run trials of strategies that are being recommended by state of the art researchers in the field of gender equality with a view to monitoring impacts and implementing those that are found to positively benefit gender equality, wider staff, and student experience at UCD.   All of the above should be published on an annual basis and tracked for year on year improvements with action plans put in place for where progress is not being made or individual areas are being found to regress.

6.      Litigation: UCD could publish its annual litigation costs to interested stakeholders and create and implement action plans to reduce these numbers.  It could then track its progress with annual reports which are tracked for year on year improvements with action plans put in place where progress is not being made or individual areas are being found to regress.  All of this can be done on a statistical and numbers basis without allowing individuals' confidential information to be made public.

7.      Gender Equality Is Everyone’s Responsibility: Every school, college and appropriate committee at UCD should have a gender equality committee and responsibility (including the Governing Authority and the Academic Council) such that, similar to safety on a manufacturing or construction site, gender equality becomes everybody’s responsibility.  These committees could then work to investigate and implement university strategies at a local level to ensure 100% uptake and championing within individual colleges and schools.  These committees could also share best practice amongst themselves as to strategies and practices that can be implemented across schools and feed into annual reporting.  All of the above should be published on an annual basis and tracked for year on year improvements with action plans put in place where progress is not being made or individual areas are being found to regress.

*We believe all of the above to not already be in place to an appropriate standard at the time of petition writing. We would welcome UCD and/or any other party’s confirmation where we are in error in relation to any of these points and gladly take the opportunity to share with all UCD Stakeholders as to where UCD is adequately and appropriately providing information and acting in relation to the above 7 solutions.  We also accept that the solutions to gender equality at UCD are not limited to these 7 and welcome input from all stakeholders as to other major solutions that could support UCD in achieving gender equality.



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