Happy Year of the Ox!

by Nozomi Tolworthy 雷希望 and Hatty Taylor, Diversity and Inclusion Advisors at the University of Reading 

(This post includes Chinese traditional characters and phrases with Cantonese 粵拼 jyutping and Mandarin 拼音 pinyin pronunciations respectively)

 

(Image sourced from: https://www.vecteezy.com/vector-art/1222770-chinese-new-year-2021-banner-with-front-view-of-ox)

 

Lunar New Year / 農曆新年 (nung lik san nin / nóng lì xīn nián) is on Friday 12th February this year. This is the Year of the Ox.

 

Why is it the Year of the Ox?

Each year is represented by one of the 12 Zodiac animals. The zodiac system was originally connected with worship of animals and has existed in Chinese culture since the Qin dynasty which was around 2000 years ago! As such, the zodiac signs play an integral part in Chinese culture. Each animal has different characteristics and meanings which is often used to determine a person’s fortune and luck for the coming year and even their compatibility with other Zodiacs. For instance, those born in the Year of the Ox are said to often be decisive, honest, dependable, and hardworking.

The order the animals come in are:

rat (鼠 – syu / shǔ )
ox (牛 – ngau / niú)
tiger (虎 – fu / hǔ)
rabbit (兔 – tou / tù)
dragon (龍 – lung / lóng)
snake (蛇 – se / shé)
horse (馬 – maa / mǎ)
goat (羊 – yeung / yáng)
monkey (猴 – hau / hóu)
rooster (雞 – gai / jī)
dog (狗 – gau / gǒu)
pig (猪 – zyu / zhū)

 

(Image sourced from: https://img.meijingku.com/d/file/2020/02/25/3b1eb3eb6572fcbec8b09e9b01f1d605.jpg?x-oss-process=style/w_450-h_auto)

 

 

You can find out more about the Chinese Zodiac on this TED talk: The Chinese Zodiac, Explained – ShaoLan and on this Ted’Ed video: The Myth Behind the Chinese Zodiac – Megan Campisi and Pen-Pen Chen

 

 

Celebrations and Decorations

Lunar New Year is celebrated by more than 20% of the world! Many Asian countries, including Hong Kong SAR, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam and China celebrate Lunar New Year as a national holiday. Usually, celebrations begin on Lunar New Year Eve and can last around 15 days.

 

Before celebrations begin, it is tradition for people to clean their houses thoroughly, almost like having a big ‘spring clean’. Decorations are then displayed once the house is clean.

Decorations for Lunar New Year are predominantly red – the colour represents happiness and good fortune. People often decorate by hanging up art and calligraphy illustrating certain words and phrases. The most common is 福 (fuk / fú) – meaning happiness and good fortune. It can be written with calligraphy onto a square piece of red paper like in the image below. 福 (fuk / fú) is commonly put up on doors, windows and walls around homes, offices, schools, and stores.

(Image sourced from: https://img.meijingku.com/d/file/2020/02/25/3b1eb3eb6572fcbec8b09e9b01f1d605.jpg?x-oss-process=style/w_450-h_auto)

 

If you have studied or worked at the University of Reading for a little while, you may remember seeing or even picking up one of the 福 (fuk / fú) badges that were created in celebration of the Year of the Pig in 2019.

 

 

Online Activities and Events
Lunar New Year is a time for family, and this is seen as the most important part of the holiday.

Although, this year many will not be able to see each other in person, there is no doubt celebrations will be taking to online platforms instead. See below for some of the online events we have come across!

 

Online Activities and Events
Date & Time Event Organiser Register
From 3rd Feb through to 19th February Several organisations in NYC offering a range of online events for those of all ages Various NYC organisers (Event times based on NYC time) Virtual events from NYC
Saturday 13th Feb 15:00 GMT

 

Enjoy streamed video performances and demonstrations of traditional Chinese crafts and Lunar New Year traditions. Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Chinese Cultural Institute, and the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States of America. Free lunar new year celebrations
Sunday 14th Feb all day Join London’s Lunar New Year celebrations online. The London Chinatown Chinese Association (LCCA) Head to the LCCA’s YouTube channel to tune in on the day and find more info on the LCCA’s website.
Thursday 18th Feb 12:00 – 13:30 GMT Free Lunar New Year themed art workshop for children SEIDs – Social Innovation and Enterprise Hub Free online craft workshop for children
Wednesday 24th Feb

17:45 – 19:15 GMT

Lunar New Year Origami class

(£8 Public; £6 MEAA Friends & Students)

The Museum of East Asian Art https://meaa.org.uk/event/lunar-new-year-origami/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bi Visibility Day

In 1998, Michael Page designed the Bi Pride Flag to increase the visibility of bisexuals within the LGBT community and within society as a whole. In a BiFlag.com blog, Page discusses the symbolism of the components of this flag:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The pink color represents sexual attraction to the same sex only (gay and lesbian), The blue represents sexual attraction to the opposite sex only (straight) and the resultant overlap color purple represents sexual attraction to both sexes (bi).

The key to understanding the symbolism in the Bi Pride Flag is to know that the purple pixels of color blend unnoticeably into both the pink and blue, just as in the ‘real world’ where most bi people blend unnoticeably into both the gay/lesbian and straight communities.”

 

In the above quote, Page discusses how bi individuals are often invisible within various communities and this has been termed ‘bi invisibility’. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that bi individuals are visible and supported within our society.

 

Bi visibility

In relation to bi visibility, from 1999, Bi Visibility Day has been celebrated annually on the 23rd of September. There are various events held across the UK (as well as internationally) to encourage and promote bi visibility. This day also highlights biphobia which is the fear or dislike of someone who identifies as bi.

When considering biphobia, Stonewall, the largest LGBT charity in Europe, state that bi individuals suffer from dual prejudice. This is from within the LGBT community and outside of it. This prejudice can lead to mental health problems and risk-taking behaviours. Therefore, the aim of Bi Visibility Day is a reminder that we need to address biphobia whenever and wherever we see it.

Bi visibility in the workplace

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers Report 2020 found that only 27% of bi respondents were comfortable being out to all colleagues. Furthermore, the same report identified that only 18% of bi people could identify a bi role model in their workplace. In summary, this report highlights the need for bi individuals to feel more comfortable with bringing their authentic selves to work as well as having identifiable bi role models in the workplace.

 

In the final section of this article, our Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Dr Allán Laville and RUSU Diversity Officer, Rachel Wates, share their personal experiences.

Experiences of Dr Allán Laville, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion:

‘When we talk about biphobia, we need to remember the marginalisation that bi individuals experience both within and outside of the LGBTQIA+ community – most commonly, in the form of microaggressions.

In the past, I have been on the receiving end of bi microaggressions such as ‘you just haven’t made your mind up yet’, and ‘are you more likely to cheat on your partner because you’re bi?’. These microaggressions aim to invalidate the identity of bi individuals as well as making inappropriate judgements.

In order to raise awareness, Rachel Wates, RUSU Diversity Officer, and I will be creating bi inclusion training sessions for staff and students for 2021. If you have any ideas on what you would to see included in this session, please do get in touch.’

 

Experiences of Rachel Wates, RUSU Diversity Officer:

‘My name is Rachel Wates and I am your RUSU Diversity Officer for this year. One part of my campaign is to host events and raise awareness on bi visibility. My reason for starting this campaign was mainly drawn from personal experience. I only came out at university right at the end of my 4-year course at the age of 22. I think at this age most university students are aware and comfortable with their sexual identity. (If you’re reading this and you’re still unsure of what you define yourself as then don’t worry – there is no rush). I am not exaggerating when I say I struggled to find what label I would adhere to amongst the spectrum of sexual orientations. Pansexual…queer…questioning… bisexual. Yes, bisexual.  Bisexuality just seemed to fit for me, and I started feeling comfortable saying it out loud. When I came out my family and friends were happy for me… and I have a feeling some of them may have even known before I did! This was a really positive experience as I was so happy to have people within close proximity who understood all of me.

Unfortunately, this took a turn when I had won my FTO Election. Someone had posted on the anonymous forum ReadingFess that they thought I was just pretending to come out as bisexual for “diversity points” and that it was “convenient she just happened to come out right before elections”. They also stated, “as an LGBT member they had been thinking about this for a while”.

This greatly upset me at the time. I remember thinking if I had known that the reaction of me coming out would have been negative, then in hindsight I think I would have just stayed in the closet. I didn’t have any proof that I was bisexual, all I had was the emotions and feelings I had in my heart and brain. I felt invalidated and hurt. Especially as though maybe some of this hate had been written from an LGBT+ member themselves. I honestly felt lost. A part of me wished I had never said anything at all.

However, I soon realised after that I was not the only one who had experienced this. Now I know this wasn’t just someone being mean to me online – this was a type of discrimination known as bi erasure. had mentioned this multiple time in my FTO Campaign, however, ironically, I had never experienced it until I had actually won. Bi-erasure or bisexual erasure is the tendency for societies to ignore, remove, falsify or reexplain evidence of bisexuality. I learnt from a committee member of the LGBT+ society that there is a term called “straight-presenting” meaning that you are typically seen in heterosexual relationships, however this doesn’t invalidate your bisexuality.

The Stonewall School Report 2017 found that 75% of LGBT+ pupils have never learnt about or discussed bisexuality in schools and that LGBT+ pupils from their teachers at school and even their friends would just refer to them as gay or lesbian.

This is why I am hoping to start in this training and start on my Bisexual Visibility Week and bisexual training.  I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through and I am hoping that we can all work together collectively as staff and the student body to make everyone feel validated regardless of orientation. I believe that we can all work together as a community to help students know bisexuality is real, we cannot let internet bullies win and that no staff or student is alone.

Thank you for reading about my experience. If you wish to email me my email is diversityofficer@rusu.co.uk  or come say hi to me if you see me on campus.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Educating Ourselves: actively opposing racism and promoting racial tolerance

post by Nozomi Tolworthy 雷希望, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor, adapted for the #DiverseReading blog

 

Click Here to Access Relevant Resources

 

As an individual who discusses and works in diversity, inclusion and representation most days, I’ve been lost for words recently.

There is no singular way for us to show up. What is most important is that we do the work that we can and it’s okay for this work to look different depending on our emotional capacity, financial circumstances, physical ability and personal situations. As long as we remain collectively committed to educating ourselves and those around us so we can change the systems we live in.

After seeing so many resources and helpful information being shared on social media over the last week, I’ve collected some of what others have shared and some resources I have learnt from, and put this together with the intention to help myself and those around me gain a better and more thorough understanding of racism and the anti-racist work we can all be doing.

To be anti-racist is to be a person who (actively) opposes racism and promotes racial tolerance.

It means ‘checking your privilege’, challenging our white* privilege and admitting how we might have benefited from a system of oppression in ways we have not considered before.
It means having conversations with our families, friends, colleagues, communities about race, even if it’s uncomfortable.
It means trying our best to educate ourselves on the history we might not have taught in school, on what we can do now.
It means showing up for Black folks** and striving for racial justice.
It means standing against overt and covert white supremacy and racism, from now on and always.

We are all educating ourselves and (un)learning at our own pace and investing our energy in ways that we can. We’ve been seeing a lot of information and resources shared across various platforms and I am finding it helpful to collect what I am seeing, so that I can continuously educate myself.

 

I hope you might too.

 

This document is by no means an exhaustive list and I hope to be able to continue to come back to it and update it with new knowledge and understanding over time. If you have any suggestions for additions, please let me know.

Click Here to Access Relevant Resources

 

White Fragility is when a white person feels uncomfortable about conversations around race. It can make you feel like you have to tone down your experiences with racism to make the person feel comfortable. Honor yourself by reclaiming the right to honestly express when something does not sit well in your body.

(‘white fragility’ infographic credit to @ogorchukwuu on Instagram)

 

*“When I write about white people … I don’t mean every individual white person. I mean whiteness as a political ideology …The politics of whiteness transcends the colour of anyone’s skin. It is an occupying force in the mind. It is a political ideology that is concerned with maintaining power through domination and exclusion. Anyone can buy into it, just like anyone can choose to challenge it.” (Eddo-Lodge, 2017)

**Whilst non-Black People of Colour (POC) also face racism, Black folks are suffering disproportionately under white supremacy and right now they need our support and attention.

 

 

 

Beginners guide to…. Christianity

We are a diverse community here at Reading, all focussed on learning, both academically, professionally and about others. This is the first in a series of blogs introducing the key features of different religions.

(Guest post by Beth Rice, studying philosophy and religion at A-level, who wrote this while on work experience at the University of Reading)

Some key aspects of the Christian faith

The main Christian beliefs are that:

  • God created the Universe,
  • God exists in three persons known as the Holy Trinity,
  • There is an Afterlife.

The Creation Stories: There are two Creation Stories found in the beginning of the bible. These are known as Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. In both accounts, God is the creator. God has three main characteristics; he is omnibenevolent (all-loving), omniscient (all- knowing) and omnipotent (all-powerful)

The Holy Trinity: The belief in the Holy Trinity is that God exists in three persons – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. God the Father created the Universe and sent Jesus to earth as a sacrifice for human sin where he died on the cross. Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary and Joseph and experienced human suffering and temptation however lived a perfect life. The Holy Spirit however is more complicated. The Holy Spirit lives inside those people that believe in God

Afterlife: Although all Christians believe in an afterlife, there are many different denominations of Christianity (including Protestants and Catholics) and often different groups have different views on life after death and other aspects of the Christian faith or religious practices.

Major  Christian events

Shrove Tuesday: the last day of feasting before Lent (40 days of fasting) is now most commonly know as Pancake Day. Shrove Tuesday for Christians is traditionally a preparation for Lent (see below). It is a way of using up ingredients such as milk, eggs, flour etc.

Ash Wednesday: marks the first day of Lent when some Christians begin to fast and pray in order to replicate Jesus’s 40 days of fasting in the desert.

Lent: 46 days before Easter (excluding Sundays) to replicate the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert. During Lent some denominations of Christianity choose to fast and pray in order to reconcile with God whilst others try to give up items such as chocolate, alcohol smoking etc.

Holy Week: the week before Easter remembering the last of Jesus’s life on Earth. Palm Sunday commemorates the beginning of Holy Week. Often churches hand out crosses made of palm leaves to remember Jesus riding on a donkey when entering Jerusalem. Maundy Thursday marks the Last Supper Jesus had with his Apostles. Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus.

Easter: Easter Sunday celebrates Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

Christmas: Christmas Day is the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Often the Nativity of Jesus is shared in churches during the lead up to Christmas to remember Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem.

Being a Christian at the University

The University, like the rest of the UK, predominantly follows the traditional ‘Christian’ calendar  and thus the main vacations coincide with Christmas and Easter periods.

At the University of Reading there is a close-knit community of Christian students that participate in many social events such as the Bible Study Society https://www.rusu.co.uk/societies/biblestudysociety/ and Christian Union https://www.rusu.co.uk/societies/rucu/.

The Chaplaincy Centre (open from 8.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday) welcomes students and staff. They are available to contact by email chaplaincy@reading.ac.uk or phone 0118 378 8797 and have a wide range of weekly chaplaincy events for anyone to join. The chaplaincy offers a place for prayer as well as more general support for staff and students of all faiths and none.

 

 

Is unconscious bias training effective?

Ellie Highwood

Largely a summary of….

Unconscious Bias training: An assessment of the evidence for effectiveness , Equality and Human Rights Commission, Research Report 113, by Doyin Atewologun, Tinu Cornish and Fatima Tresh

 

Premise and Reading context:

 

Unconscious Bias training is frequently cited as a solution to reducing bias with respect to protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 in selection processes. Indeed no self-respecting Athena SWAN application would be without it. At Reading some form of unconscious bias training is mandatory for chairs of interview panels across the University and some Schools have trained larger teams as part of their Athena SWAN bids. Currently our unconscious bias training is delivered in a number of ways:

 

  • Embedded within face-to-face recruitment and selection panel and chair training
  • Specific online Unconscious bias module
  • Some historic bespoke training at school or function level.
  • PGR student training developed from undergraduate training work in the School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Science
  • Some coverage in modules for trainee teachers within Institute of Education

 

We are in the process of evaluating and updating our approach and delivery of unconscious bias training as one of the Institutional Athena SWAN actions. We have several academics with experience of designing and delivering Unconscious Bias Training, however this recent Equality and Human Rights Commission report provides a broad evaluation, highlighting where evidence exists for the effectiveness of this type of training. Here I summarise points from that report which reviewed many published articles and grey literature annual reports of studies into the effectiveness of unconscious bias training (UBT). The studies used varied in terms of robustness.

What can UBT do?

  • Can be effective for awareness raising.
  • Can reduce implicit bias but is unlikely to eliminate it. Most UBT is not designed to reduce explicit bias.
  • The evidence for UBT being effective in changing behaviour is limited – but most of these studies did not use valid measures of behaviour change.
  • More successful in reducing implicit bias relating to gender, than race and ethnicity.

What does the most effective UBT look like?

  • Uses an IAT (Implicit Association Test), followed by a debrief, incorporating theory about unconscious bias rather than detail about impact.
  • The most successful interventions include bias reduction strategies and bias mitigation strategies so that participants feel empowered to do something.
  • There appears little difference in effectiveness between on-line and face-to-face training.
  • However, there is evidence that increasing the sophistication of the UBT (e.g. an interactive workshop) can increase awareness and concern about wider discrimination and that this awareness continues to increase over time.
  • The report emphasises that UBT should be only one part of a programme designed to achieve organisational change.

Who should be trained?

Training teams together resulted in positive group behaviour change despite the evidence for effectiveness in changing individual’s behaviour being weak. However, there is too little UBT specific research to judge whether mandatory or voluntary training has a different effectiveness.

 

What can go wrong? If UBT participants are exposed to information that suggests stereotypes and biases are unchangeable, this can back-fire and result in more entrenched bias.

 

Considering Reading’s approach in the light of this review

 

Our current online offering clearly states that it is intending to raise awareness.

  • It includes a heavier emphasis on theory about unconscious bias compared to statistics about impact.
  • It covers many types of diversity.
  • Although an IAT is not used in this online course directly, they are explained and a link is provided as follow on work.

 

What we may be able to improve –

• More training of teams together – to result in effective group behaviour change.

• Make sure a resource that covers a debrief after the IAT test is available if people take that up as part of the online course

• There is a reference in the start of the training to implicit bias being “hard-wired” and it is a fine line between normalising implicit bias to encourage reflection, and making it “ok” to be biased.

• Provide some specific bias reduction or mitigation strategies

• Better evaluation of implicit bias reduction and behaviour change, if we provided follow up resources for these.

 

Finally – there is a need for more research in this area, specifically UK based (as many studies currently US focused and the race issues in particular can be quite different between the US and the UK).

 

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

By Ellie Highwood

Equality, diversion and inclusion are three terms used frequently and often interchangeably, but are importantly different. Diversity and inclusion can be thought of in terms of cooking. Most recipes require a many different (diverse) ingredients, but the quality of the end dish depends on all the ingredients being mixed together in the right way so that each one contributes to make something better than the sum of the parts (inclusion).

salad

Or, as coined by Verna Myers, “diversity is being invited to the party – inclusion is being asked to dance”.

In terms of our, or other organisations, diversity can be measured in terms of numbers, for example number of women professors, or black senior staff. It is relatively straightforward to set targets to improve diversity. Inclusion is more difficult to measure and manifests itself as “feeling included”, “being part of the team”, “feeling valued”. Also note that a diverse team does not necessarily behave more inclusively.

Equality is the term that has been used for the longest in this area. But what is equality? Equality of treatment? Equality of opportunity? Equality of treatment can be misleading. Yes we want everyone to be treated fairly, but this does not mean treating everyone the same. Equality of opportunity is the most popular term – this recognises that in order to give everyone the same opportunities, we might need to treat different groups differently because of past experiences (i.e. lack of access to information about university) or processes and structures that put a particular group at a disadvantage.

The potential confusion surrounding “equality” is the reason we are a “Diversity and Inclusion” team. However, by focussing on recognising and celebrating diversity, and encouraging and facilitating inclusion, we aim to provide equality of opportunity for all our staff and students.