Anti.

Anti.

a poem by Apatsa Rose, Contracts Associate, Research and Enterprise Services

This fight has been happening for centuries.
The fight to be equal
Equally free
Equally paid
Equally perceived
Equally likely to stay alive.

The police have been crushing the bones and skulls of victims for years
Shooting the bodies of our peers
Then being promoted after this,
Whilst the testimonies of the dead
Fall on deaf ears.
The courts have ignored
Industries have soared
Churches have adored Jesus…but not the ones he came to save
Society has scored
On the backs of those who roared
And never stopped shouting.

But you
The worst of all
The one who makes up these institutions
Individuals
Beings
Humankind
Have bathed in apathy
Have laid in passivity
Have sprayed the cologne of accidie
So why ​now have you joined the fight?
Has lockdown given you a reason to think of others
Outside of yourself?
Outside of your circle?
Outside of anything that affects your existence?
Why is it that ​now
You have seen the light?
Who can blame you?
It’s in our nature…

Well done though

Clap for yourself
Honestly, go-ahead!
Congratulations for getting up and out of your complacent bed!
Splendid job
For climbing of
out the pit of
torpor
And posting a
picture on the trendy
bandwagon of “#blackouttuesday” because
Everybody’s doing it, so
why not you?
Take 2 minutes out of your
day to show you’re down with the culture
When this has never even crossed your mind!
It’s something I struggle to get behind
Because there’ll never be true equality
If mindsets stay sleeping
So why did it take George Floyd to make you see that there’s a problem?
Why now?


This is for all those who died at the hands of brutal force just for the colour of their skin, including George Floyd…

Is That You? A Bystander, Walking By Racism…

Dr Billy Wong, Associate Professor, Institute of Education

 

Calling out racist behaviour, especially to strangers in public, take courage because you never know how others would react. Understandably, you might be concerned about your own safety. You might even doubt and question your judgement. Was that really racism? Or just a misunderstanding? Or just banters between friends? If you interfere, the situation could go out of hand, or even violent. In the end, you decided it is probably best to carry on walking, minding your own business.

Later, you reflected, and thought you could have done something, but assured yourself in that moment, you were unprepared, with little options but to walk. You promised yourself to do better next time, and you know there will be.

With your family, friends and colleagues, you witnessed another episode of racist behaviour. This time, it was more implicit, nuanced and subtle. It was racial microaggression. You were unsure if it was intentional. It was a short comment in a conversation, which was flowing and before long, moved onto another topic. You did not think it was necessary to interrupt the conversation to revisit an earlier remark. So, you decided it is probably best to carry on listening.

Later, you reflected, and thought you could have done something, but assured yourself in that moment, you were unsure and no one else seemed troubled by it, so it was probably nothing. You promised yourself to do better next time, and you know there will be.

Being a bystander may be our default position on issues we feel unfamiliar, unprepared and unsure, but we must not get too comfortable in this role. If silence is complicity, then we must actively retrain our passive mindsets. We have activists who are challenging the inequalities of the status quo, but we need more, a lot more. Are you ready?

 

P.S. We can easily substitute racist behaviour and racism with other social inequalities, such as sexist behaviour and sexism, or more broadly, just unacceptable behaviours.

 

 

 

Inspired by our recent article: Wong, B., ElMorally, R., Copsey-Blake, M., Highwood, E., & Singarayer, J. (2020). Is race still relevant? Student perceptions and experiences of racism in higher education. Cambridge Journal of Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/0305764X.2020.1831441

 

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.

 

 

 

Celebrating International Women’s Day

Guest blog by Matthew Searle, Head of Employer Relations, Henley Careers and Professional Development

A few years ago, one of my former colleagues took me along to a #heforshe event. I’d never really heard of it, so was quite curious. It turned out to be one of the most powerful events I’ve been to in my career. My key takeaway was that male/female equality was something that everybody could have an impact on, regardless of their gender.

So, when the Henley Careers team were discussing activities around International Women’s Day and deciding who should be the host, I really didn’t have much hesitation. When designing the event, we wanted it to look and feel different to what we’ve done before: we wanted to focus on celebration, we wanted real-life stories and we wanted a common theme that would unite everybody in the room. The most important aspect, though, was a chance for our students to build relationships with those working in industry.

There is so much to talk about in gender equality, so throughout the planning Cristina Marcu, a final year Finance and Investment Banking student joined us to help us hone our content to our audience. We scoured our little black book of industry contacts and identified two Henley alumna from BT and Kia Motors, plus a Partner at EY Reading with great career stories to inspire students.

We wanted to have an interactive event, with obvious learning points, so we used the Hampton-Alexander Review to form a discussion. Led by Professor Shaheena Janjuha-Jivraj, the audience discussed steps we can all take to increase the number of women in executive leadership roles in the corporate world.

In terms of facilitating relationship building, I’m a big fan of joining people together across both student cohorts and years of experience. Everyone learns something from someone, no matter their background or length of career. We invited all students, from our first year undergraduates, right through to our Executive MBA students and of course those in between. The little black book came out again (it’s really a sophisticated GDPR compliant database, I promise) and we also extended an invitation to some of our most trusted employer contacts. The result? A wonderfully diverse audience, all willing to listen, collaborate and take action on the evening’s discussion.

Cristina really pushed us (nicely) to offer prizes to students. We talked about books and vouchers and then finally settled on trying to source “money-can’t-buy experiences” and on reflection that really added to an event with a different feel. You could really feel the excitement when five of our lucky students won lunch and office tours with senior staff at BMW, BT, ADP, SHL and PRA Health services.

Our guests provided some great anecdotes, stories and career advice. The themes which most resonated for me were:

  • how to determine work/life balance at various stages of your career
  • how to put together a set of trusted professional colleagues to support career progression
  • recognising your own personal style and how to draw on your strengths

The great conversation flowed into the evening, with a packed networking reception. We were joined by Smartworks, a UK charity that provides high quality interview clothes and interview training to unemployed women in need.

It was a truly inspiring way to celebrate International Women’s Day and I really hope that in some small way, I used my privileged position to do #heforshe proud.

Recruiting women professors in mathematics: a case study

By Simon Chandler-Wilde (Dean for Diversity and Inclusion and Professor of Applied Mathematics).

I’m grateful to my colleague Prof Jennifer Scott for commenting on a draft of this post, in particular suggesting that I add in the first bullet point in the list below. I’m grateful also to Dr Eugénie Hunsicker for suggestions for additional reading.

The proportion of mathematics professors in the UK who are women is disgracefully low. An influential report in 2013 for the London Mathematical Society (LMS) reported that 6% of maths professors are female while 42% of students taking undergraduate degrees in mathematics are female. There has been some progress since then, but the pace of change is slow. This is a huge waste of talent for the mathematics community – we’re essentially recruiting our mathematics professors from only half the potential pool – and we have too few female role models to provide inspiration, encouragement and advice to our female undergraduates and PhD students coming through.

This is a case study of recruiting to a chair in mathematics. It is a case study in obtaining the best international field of candidates so as to make the strongest possible appointment, of whatever gender. It is also a case study of working to maximise the possibility of appointing a female professor, as a small, local step towards redressing the gender-balance in mathematics at professorial level, nationally and in our own department. It is a case study of simple actions that attracted a superb field of candidates (male and female) in a gender-balanced shortlist, and led (through selecting from the shortlist the best person for the job) to a new female professor in the department.

This recruitment arose following the resignation of Prof Beatrice Pelloni, who left in 2016 to become Head of the School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences at Heriot-Watt University, following a career at Reading in which she was promoted from her first academic post as Lecturer to become Professor and Head of Department (in a job-share), and then became the first Director, jointly with Prof Dan Crisan at Imperial, of the Mathematics of Planet Earth Centre for Doctoral Training, a large EPSRC-funded centre joint between Reading and ICL. This joint CDT leadership, of Beatrice and Dan, sent a superb signal of gender equality and provided gender-balanced role models to the PhD students coming to our new CDT (and as at October last year we had 34% female PhD students in the CDT compared to the national average of 28.6% across mathematical sciences).

We advertised in 2016 for the role of Professor of Mathematics and Director at Reading of the Mathematics of Planet Earth Centre for Doctoral Training with the aim of recruiting the best possible candidate from the strongest field of candidates, but seeking as we did this to maximise the possibility of appointing a new female professor, maintaining gender equality in our leadership of the CDT. This recruitment led ultimately to the appointment of Prof Jennifer Scott, who at the time of her appointment held the position of Leader of the highly successful and respected Numerical Analysis Group at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, based near Didcot. Jennifer also held (and continues to hold) the prestigious position of STFC Individual Merit Research Fellow.

Here are the simple steps that we took in our recruitment. These are mostly best recruitment practice that one would wish to follow in any recruitment process to ensure the strongest possible field of candidates, but with a slant to them that led to a gender-balanced shortlist, and ultimately to the appointment of Prof Scott.

  • Write an advert, job description, and further particulars that seek to attract a wide and diverse pool of applicants. Concretely in this recruitment this included a number of elements normal in our recruitment to all our posts, namely:
  1. We minimised the number of essential criteria to widen the pool who see themselves as qualified (Jennifer asked me to emphasise this!), and where we had a criterion around subject area (some connection to mathematics of planet earth) we made clear that this was interpreted broadly.
  2. We included as an essential criterion “commitment to diversity and equality”. This is really important for running a CDT, and its inclusion helps to attract a more diverse field: under-represented minorities in mathematics are disproportionately represented in diversity and equality work.  The successful candidate’s evidence for this included many years’ work in the LMS Women in Mathematics Committee.
  3. We signalled our commitment to gender equality in the job description by flagging the Silver Athena SWAN Award that we held (and continue to hold) as part of the larger School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences.
  4. In the further particulars, building on the University’s standard “[commitment] to having a diverse and inclusive workforce” and “welcome [for] applications for job-share, part-time and flexible working arrangements”, expressed in every job advert, we made clear that this was a reality on the ground, including links to our local flexible working and parental leave webpages which give examples of men and women at all levels working flexibly in our department and the wider school.
  • Appoint a diverse search committee (in particular with gender diversity). Our search committee comprised 10 staff (at Professor and Associate Professor level) of diverse nationalities (7 different countries), and included two female maths professors, an external (Dan Crisan from Imperial), and representation from a range of relevant subject areas including from our meteorology department. The female representation on the committee was critical to achieving gender balance on our shortlist through the better connection of these female professors into networks of women mathematicians. In particular one of the female professors suggested we approach Prof Scott who we finally appointed.
  • Be explicit in communications to your search committee, and to your wider department, e.g. through communication up front from the search committee chair, that you want in your search to attract a diverse field of candidates. This was done, and as part of this we flagged that we “would be pleased if we came up with names of potential female candidates” and that “it is an undoubted strength of the current [CDT] leadership that the directorate is mixed male/female”. These explicit communications undoubtedly led to more names of prospective female candidates being suggested.
  • Invite suggestions for candidates from across the search committee, and the wider department, and do some brain storming with the search committee, with reminders about seeking a diverse applicant pool as you do this. Great suggestions for possible candidates came in from across the department, e.g. Sarah Dance (then Associate Professor, now Professor), suggested (male and female names) for conversations that led to strong applications.
  • Sound out a wide range of possible candidates across the UK and internationally by email, suggesting that you follow-up with phone calls/skype if they might be interested. And speak on the phone to senior colleagues internationally seeking suggestions for possible candidates (and raising diversity of the candidate field as you do this). We spoke to very many potential male and female applicants, in the UK and internationally, discussing the role, and encouraging possible applications, leading very naturally to a diverse (in particular 50/50 gender-balanced) shortlist. In many cases, following an initial conversation with the search committee chair (or another member of the search committee), there were follow-up conversations, including confidential conversations with other senior colleagues (not least the other CDT Director Dan Crisan). It may be that female candidates are less likely to apply without a personal approach, but in fact all of our shortlist were candidates that we had approached and then spoken to (in multiple conversations) encouraging applications. And indeed the person finally appointed had no idea that she wished to move jobs to a university and become a professor before we picked up the phone!
  • Have a diverse group do the shortlisting (including mix of genders). A slightly smaller group carried out the shortlisting, including some formal elements (e.g. the Dean of the Graduate School, Dianne Berry, as the agreed interview panel chair, signed off on the final selection).

The above reads very like standard (good) practice for recruitment. I think it is, with a diversity flavour, and I commend all the above as good practice in any maths professor recruitment; indeed, with some tweaks, as good practice across all academic recruitment, particularly at senior levels.

Let me mention for completeness other features of the final selection process. As is standard in our department the Head of Department organised presentations by the candidates open to the whole department, plus informal meetings of the candidates with a number of small groups of particularly relevant prospective colleagues, and a feedback meeting (open to the whole department) in advance of the interviews, this part of the transparency of the process throughout. The final selection was done by the interview panel, which again had a mix of genders and included Dan as external.

Much other advice on addressing the under-representation of women in mathematics has been published by the impressive Women in Mathematics Committee of the London Mathematical Society that won the inaugural Royal Society Athena Prize in 2016. In particular the 2013 report “Advancing Women in Mathematics: Good Practice in UK Mathematics Departments” has recommendations and examples of good practice on recruitment of academic staff (see section 4.4 of the report) that significantly overlap with the above list, as did the discussion at the LMS Good Practice Scheme Meeting in October 2016, see these slides.

There are surely other things that we might usefully do, more imaginative ways that we might rethink recruitment. Here is one blog (thank you Eugénie!that provides very much food for thought and much additional reading.

Developing a New Action Plan for Gender Equality and Preparing the University’s Next Athena SWAN Submission

by Simon Chandler-Wilde, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion (job share with Ellie Highwood)

One key part of how we work as a University on diversity and inclusion (D&I) is to bring groups of people together to focus on particular protected characteristics and associated equality and D&I issues. These groups are termed “self-assessment teams”, “action plan groups”, or similar. In each case the idea is the same: to identify on the basis of evidence, consultation, and personal experience what we are already doing well, and what needs to change, and then to propose an action plan, and agree the actions proposed with the wider University, not least with those who may need to carry them out.

In the last three years we have set up three such groups. In each case a framework for what the groups think about and do has been provided by existing national self-assessment and action-planning schemes. These are:

  • The Athena SWAN Bronze, Silver, and Gold charter marks relating to advancement of gender equality, run by the Equality Challenge Unit (part of Advance HE)
  • The Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, focussed on equality and inclusivity for LGBT+ staff and students
  • The Equality Challenge Unit’s Race Equality Bronze and Silver charter marks

Details of all the above schemes and copies of the action plans produced are on the Charter Marks part of the Diversity and Inclusion website.

We advertised last Autumn for volunteers to join a new Self-Assessment Team to prepare a new action plan for gender equality for the next four years, and to prepare our next University Athena SWAN submission in November, aiming this time for a Silver award. We received many, high quality expressions of interest, and have supplemented these by approaching some other staff and students directly, to ensure a balance of experiences and genders on the final team – the photo shows our team, and below are contact details and brief info for all our team members.

We’re keen to hear from staff across the University regarding issues that they would like us to address in the action plan. Queries, thoughts, and suggestions can be directed to any of the SAT members listed below, or can be sent through to the central D&I email diversity@reading.ac.uk.

We’re particularly keen for staff to volunteer themselves for focus groups we will be running. These are as follows, with more to follow:

  • Focus group on flexible working (formal and informal): contact Rachel Greenwood
  • Focus group on shared parental leave: contact Steve George
  • Focus group with Heads of Schools on how rewarding staff processes are working: contact Deepa Senapathi
  • Focus group with academic staff on how personal titles processes are working: contact Aleardo Zanghellini
  • Focus group with Heads of Functions on how regrading and rewarding staff processes are working: contact Yasmin Ahmed
  • Focus group on inclusivity and university committees: contact Carol McAnally
  • Focus group with secretaries of university committees on selection of membership: contact Nathan Helsby

Since we submitted last in 2016 there have been welcome and important changes to the Athena SWAN scheme. Athena SWAN was previously focussed particularly on under-representation of women in STEMM subjects. It now addresses gender equality across all academic subjects, and across professional and support staff, including equality issues affecting both women and men. It also asks for intersectional issues to be addressed (e.g. why so few black women professors in the UK?), and inclusivity for trans staff and students.

Our SAT team, in alphabetical order – and see above picture – is:

  • Yasmin Ahmed, the Diversity and Inclusion Advisor in HR. Her interests include all things D&I and particularly making the workplace more inclusive and changing cultures.
  • Simon Chandler-Wilde, the SAT Co-Chair, a Dean for Diversity and Inclusion (in a job-share with Ellie Highwood) and a professor of applied maths. His interests include equality around promotions, flexible working, dealing effectively with harassment and bullying
  • Ben Cosh, a maths professor and Head of the School of Mathematical, Physical, and Computational Sciences. His interests include gender equality (and getting more men involved), spreading good practice across the university, supporting staff across the university in their career development and progression
  • Maddi Davies, an Associate Professor in English. Her interests include feminist theory and discourse, and she is keen to bring together personal narratives together with quantitative data to paint a clear picture of what we need to do next on gender equality
  • Steve George, a Research Scientist in NCAS and chair of the University of Reading Research Staff Committee. His interests include the career development of research staff and the intersection of Athena SWAN with our work for the HR Excellence in Research Award.
  • Rachel Greenwood, a Senior Support Officer in RISIS who joined us last year, when looking for a part-time role. Her interests include flexible working and how we ensure that flexible working is encouraged and supported through recruitment processes, plus experiences of working parents.
  • Rebecca Harris, an Associate Professor and the School Director of Teaching and Learning in the Institute of Education, having previously worked in secondary schools for 16 years. Her interests include LGBT inclusion, and, as part of this, working to support inclusion in local schools.
  • Nathan Helsby, Head of Planning and Reporting in the Planning and Support Office. His interests include effective and usable diversity data reporting, e.g. via our Athena SWAN dashboard, and supporting the development of our professional staff.
  • Karen Henderson, the Director of Technical Services. Her interests include supporting the development of our professional staff and addressing the over-representation of women in lower grades, and under-representation at higher grades.
  • Ellie Highwood, the SAT Co-Chair, joint Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, and a Professor of Climate Physics. Her interests include the promotion of flexible working, fairness and support around promotion processes, and part-time working.
  • Joanna John, Joint Head of Doctoral Skills Training and Development in the Graduate School. Her interests include: intersections between gender, ethnicity and socio-economics; part-time students; student parents.
  • Carol McAnally, a Business Relationship Manager in the Knowledge Transfer Centre within Research and Enterprise Services, having previously worked for a research council. Her interests include embedding flexible working within the culture, and working on gender equality within professional services.
  • Claire Rolstone, Assistant Director of Human Resources, with a portfolio including HR Operations and Advisory Services. Her interests in Athena Swan focus on staff recruitment processes and how we support our staff.
  • Patricia Riddell, a Professor of Applied Neuroscience and the diversity and inclusion champion in the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Science, who led the last Athena SWAN submission from that school. Her interests include workplace stress, reducing this, its impact on staff, and the gendered nature of its presence and effects.
  • Deepa Senapathi, a Research Fellow in Agriculture, previously a Research Fellow in the School of Biological Sciences (SBS). Three years ago Deepa co-led the SBS Athena SWAN Bronze application, which was successful. Her areas of interest are barriers and incentives to progress, especially as regards early researchers and fixed term contractors. How we communicate across cultures is also an area of interest and knowledge.
  • Susan Thornton, the Assistant Director of HR for People and Talent. Her interests include staff and leadership development, e.g. her team organises and supports female staff on the Aurora Programme, and making sure that we pull experience of working on Athena SWAN within Schools into the wider university.
  • Nozomi Tolworthy, the RUSU Diversity Officer, who previously graduated from the Department of Film, Theatre and Television. Her interests include communicating across cultures with staff and students, and the flow of communication between staff and students, especially related to diversity and inclusion initiatives and achievements
  • Robert Van de Noort, the recently-appointed Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading and the University Executive Board Gender Diversity Champion. His interests include all aspects of supporting and developing work on diversity and inclusion at Reading.
  • Aleardo Zanghellini, a Professor of Law and Social Theory in the School of Law. His interests include gender equality, career progression and intersection with gender and (not least through his own research work) gender identity and the support of trans people at Reading

European Court of Justice rules that EU Member States must recognise same-sex marriages concluded in other EU Member States when Union citizens who move between Member States claim family reunification rights

Guest post by Dr Alina Tryfonidou, Associate Professor, School of Law and Co-Chair of our LGBT Plus Staff Network

With its landmark ruling yesterday 5 June 2018 in the case of Coman, the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) has taken the historic step of requiring all EU Member States to recognise same-sex marriages contracted in other EU Member States in situations where the spouse of a Union citizen who moves to their territory claims the right to join the latter there.

The case was referred to the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) from the Romanian Constitutional Court. The Romanian Civil Code prohibits marriage between persons of the same sex and provides that such marriages entered into or contracted abroad shall not be recognised in Romania. This has proved problematic for Mr Adrian Coman, a dual Romanian and US national, and his spouse – Mr Hamilton – a US citizen (the couple in the picture). The couple have been together since 2002 and married in Brussels – where Mr Coman lived at the time – in 2010. In 2012, they contacted the Romanian General Inspectorate for Immigration to request information on the procedure and conditions under which Mr Hamilton, in his capacity as member of Mr Coman’s family, could enforce his right to reside lawfully in Romania for more than three months, only to be informed that the latter could not be granted such a right as he was not recognised as the spouse of Mr Coman given that the marriage was between two persons of the same sex. The couple together with the Romanian LGBT NGO Asociatia Accept brought an action against the decision of the Inspectorate before the Court of First Instance in Bucharest, raising a plea of unconstitutionality against the Romanian Civil Code. The First Instance court subsequently requested the Romanian Constitutional Court to rule on that plea of unconstitutionality, which, in its turn, decided that the matter raised issues involving EU law and thus stayed the proceedings and made a reference for a preliminary ruling to the Court of Justice asking, in essence, if the term ‘spouse’ in EU legislation which grants family reunification rights to Union citizens who move between Member States (namely, Article 2(2)(a) of Directive 2004/38) includes a same-sex spouse.

The ECJ noted that the term ‘spouse’ should be read to include the same-sex spouse of a Union citizen who exercises EU free movement rights: although EU Member States remain free to decide whether or not to allow marriage for persons of the same sex in their territory, in situations involving a Union citizen who returns to his State of nationality after having exercised free movement rights, the marriage contracted in another Member State by that person to a person of the same sex during his period of genuine residence in another Member State must be recognised, as otherwise an obstacle to the exercise of free movement rights will arise. The Court then proceeded to explain why a refusal by a Member State to recognise a same-sex marriage contracted in another Member State could not be justified on grounds of public policy and nationality identity, concluding that an obligation for such a recognition does not undermine the institution of marriage in Member States which have not opened marriage to same-sex couples as it is merely an obligation to recognise same-sex marriages concluded abroad for the sole purpose of enabling Union citizens to exercise the free movement rights they enjoy under EU law. The Court also added that, in any event, national measures which amount to restrictions on free movement may be justified only if they are consistent with the fundamental rights guaranteed by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (EUCFR), the relevant right here being the right to respect for private and family life guaranteed by Article 7 EUCFR, which – read in line with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) – covers the relationship between a same-sex couple. Hence, a measure – like the one contested in Coman – which impedes the exercise of EU free movement rights and breaches the right to private and family life of a married same-sex couple, cannot be justified on the grounds of public policy and national identity.

The ruling is hugely important not merely from a symbolic point of view, in that the EU’s supreme court has ruled explicitly that marriage for the purposes of EU law includes both same-sex and opposite-sex marriage, but also for a number of practical reasons.

The judgment provides much-needed clarity and legal certainty for same-sex couples who conclude a marriage in an EU Member State and who wish to exercise EU free movement rights. The case makes it clear that wherever they wish to move to the EU, their marriage should be recognised as a marriage, and that both spouses should be allowed to reside on the territory of the Member State of destination, irrespective of whether that State allows same-sex couples to formalise their relationship in its territory. In fact, by requiring the couple to be recognised as ‘spouses’, the ECJ seems to have gone further than its Strasbourg counterpart – the European Court of Human Rights – which in its judgment in Orlandi last December, it interpreted Article 8 ECHR as merely requiring ECHR signatory States to provide some form of legal recognition to married same-sex couples from abroad, without, nonetheless, there being a requirement that they recognise them as ‘spouses’.

Although the ruling offers an interpretation of the term ‘spouse’ for the purposes solely of family reunification in situations when a Union citizen moves between Member States, it is likely to have (much) wider implications: once a Member State accepts – for the purposes of EU family reunification – that a same-sex married couple are ‘spouses’ and are, thus, as such entitled to a right of residence in its territory, it would appear anomalous to strip them of this status for other legal purposes (e.g. taxation, pensions, inheritance, hospital visitation rights, childbearing and childrearing), whether this relates to situations that fall within the scope of EU law or not. Accordingly, and despite the Court’s comforting words for each Member State that has not opened marriage to same-sex couples that the obligation imposed by its judgment ‘does not require that Member State to provide, in its national law, for the institution of marriage between persons of the same sex’, the judgment appears capable of having wider implications than it seems to have at first glance, with the potential of initiating a process of ‘voluntary harmonisation’ whereby all Member States will have to recognise – and make provision – for same-sex spouses, even when this is not required by EU law.

At the same time, it should be highlighted that, as the Court repeatedly stressed in its judgment, it is only when a Union citizen has taken-up genuine residence in the territory of another Member State and during that period of genuine residence has established and strengthened family life, that he can claim family reunification rights on his return to his Member State of nationality. In previous case-law (O. and B.), the Court clarified that such genuine residence can only exist when the Union citizen has settled in another Member State for more than three months. This, exactly, can put to rest fears that the ruling can lead to ‘marriage tourism’, as the above safeguard ensures that Union citizens cannot simply side-step the law of their Member State of residence, by moving to another Member State to marry and then return to that State claiming the right to be recognised as a married couple.

Finally, the Court should be applauded for its audacious approach, in a case which involved an admittedly delicate matter. Unlike in other cases involving matters where there is a wide divergence in opinion among (and within) the Member States (e.g. cases involving pornography, abortion, gambling), the Court has not washed its hands by leaving it to the national court to perform the balancing exercise when considering the arguments put forward by Romania to justify the contested decision (see here for my comments on this approach); instead, the Court was bold enough to make it clear that the contested measure amounted to a restriction contrary to EU free movement law which cannot be justified under any circumstances.

The ruling, nonetheless, leaves us with a question mark. The Court in its judgment repeatedly emphasises that the obligation imposed on Member States is to recognise same-sex marriages lawfully concluded in an EU Member State. The marriage of Mr Coman and Mr Hamilton satisfied this requirement as it was entered into in Belgium. Would they be in the same position, nonetheless, if their marriage was concluded in, say, the US? This is a question that will have to wait for another EU ruling.

International Women’s Day Talks and Debate

Guest post by Dr Madeleine Davies (Department of English Literature)

The School of Literature and Languages (SLL) International Women’s Day Talk and Debate has become established as an annual celebration. I first organised this student-facing event with RUSU FemSoc in 2010, and I have led it with the help of DEL students and staff from around the university since then.

Our celebration of IWD takes the form of a series of short talks followed by a student-led debate on the issues we’ve raised and on other issues that matter to the attendees. What is so positive about this event is that it involves joining our students in conversations about equality, diversity, and social justice: it involves not only talking but, more importantly, listening to each other’s views.

In 2018, IWD assumed particular resonance because February marked the centenary of the extension of the franchise in the UK to include (some) women. It would be another 2 years before women could graduate from Oxford University, and women would have to wait until 1948 to graduate from Cambridge University, but female householders over the age of 30 could vote for an all-male parliament from 1918 (though the first female MP was elected in 1918, as a member of Sinn Fein she did not take up her seat). Despite the limitations of the Representation of the People Act of 1918, it undoubtedly gave women a ‘foot in the door’ and, as such, International Women’s Day 2018 linked with an important historical landmark.

Our IWD celebration this year was the culmination of the ‘Feminism 100’ series (see my previous Diversity and Inclusion blog-posts here and here) and was generously supported by the Vice-Chancellor’s Endowment Fund. Dr Carol Fuller (IoE) joined me in delivering the talks and presented a fascinating discussion of the intersection between gender and class focused through her work on the ‘Whitley Mums’ Programme. The talk was a crucial reminder that issues of ‘privilege’ have to be factored in to all discussions of feminism and equality: race, gender and class are core determinants of disempowerment and IWD encourages us to remain mindful that ‘us’ must mean ‘us all’.

My talk raised some of the noteworthy and notorious news stories of the year and included Trump’s attacks on the Planned Parenthood Programme in the U.S. and his re-imposition of the ‘global gag rule’, sexual abuse scandals, and Carrie Gracie’s campaign against systemic, sexist pay disparity at the BBC. Plenty of positive stories were included as well, including progress (if limited) in Saudi women’s campaigns for human rights. I led a toast to all the women of the world who work so hard to make a difference to other women’s lives; included in this was Jess Phillips MP who visited us at the university in November 2017 and who reminded us that brave, clever women are fighting on our behalf every day.

The second half of the event was given over to a student-led debate. Professor Simon Chandler-Wilde, one of our Diversity and Inclusion Deans, attended and engaged with students’ contributions (several emailed me afterwards to say how much they appreciated his attendance). The RUSU Diversity Officer Leen Al Najjab also joined us and connected with the ‘Feminism 100’ students, offering her help and support for the re-formation of FemSoc. The generous contribution of £200 from the Endowment Fund allowed us to conclude the ‘Feminism 100’ series, on International Women’s Day, in style:  the money was spent on a party where our students could strengthen relationships with staff in a ‘feel good’ event.

‘Feminism 100’ has had clear demonstrable outcomes: RUSU FemSoc is going to be re-formed after two dormant years, and new events and campaigns are being planned. Inter-disciplinary collaborative relationships have been forged between Humanities and SLL, and the RUSU Diversity Officer and the Diversity and Inclusion Dean are in contact with our students – productive, exciting conversations and actions will be produced by this network.

SLL students and I are extremely grateful for the support of the Endowment Fund for this event: the positives generated from the evening, and from the ‘Feminism 100’ series as a whole, speak to the value of extra-curricular staff-student collaborations. The funding we received to celebrate in this important centenary year was particularly welcome: the conversations triggered by the three ‘Feminism 100’ events, and the networks arising from them, suggest that, at UoR, ‘we will persist’ via deeds and words.

Celebrating Forgotten Women

Guest post by Dr Madeleine Davies, School of Literature and Languages

Thursday February 8th 1918 marked the Royal Assent to the Bill that gave the vote to property-owning women aged 30 and over: on the evening of the same date, 100 years later, staff and students gathered in the Edith Morley Building to hear a series of talks and to enjoy an exhibition and a party, ‘Celebrating Forgotten Women’.

The evening was the second in a series of three events organised from the Department of English Literature and the Department of History and supported by the Diversity and Inclusion Fund. We called the series, ‘Feminism 100’, and the first event, ‘Debates and Doughnuts: Is Feminism Dead?’ involved a rigorous student-led debate which achieved the revival of RUSU FemSoc, inactive for two years.

‘Celebrating Forgotten Women’ was also student-led: Part 2 English Literature student Imi Snell contacted Dr Jacqui Turner and myself in relation to an idea she had for a work placement on the SLL module, ‘Literature and Education’. Imi wanted this placement to be informed by Vote100 and to celebrate the centenary of the extension of the franchise. Because the placement required an emphasis on both ‘literature’ and ‘education’, Imi’s idea involved an exhibition of Suffrage material and a series of talks in which the forgotten women of literature, history, science, and culture could be discussed and celebrated.

Up to 100 staff and students, including the D&I Deans, braved the discouraging February night to join us for the celebration. Colleagues from English Literature and History contributed fascinating talks on a variety of ‘forgotten women’. Dr Mary Morrissey (Lit) spoke with great wit about the first known published English female poet, Isabella Whitney; Professor David Stack (History) discussed the work of palaeontologist Mary Anning; Dr Natalie Thomlinson (History) discussed Jayaben Desai; Dr Jacqui Turner (History) introduced the evening and spoke of the suffrage movement, and I discussed the neglected significance of the work of translator Constance Garnett. Part 2, Part 3, and PhD students from English Literature, History and Classics delivered confident, reflective and inspiring talks on Harriet Tubman, Cloelia, Emma Gifford, Libby Lane, and Ching Shih, and the Q&A session produced well-informed questions from our largely UG student audience. WSPU-Coloured lanyards and commemorative postcards were given to our guests, a badge-making operation in the exhibition space produced highly professional badges of our ‘forgotten women’, and an exhibition managed by Guy Baxter from Special Collections displayed the Cliveden House visitor’s book and a Suffragette ring amongst other exhibits. WSPU-coloured balloons festooned the Edith Morley First Floor Foyer, Blackwells ran a book-stall, and the wine flowed. The event ran for three hours in and outside the Van Emden Lecture Theatre.

A Twitter feed commented on and responded to the talks, and Facebook live streaming of the Q&A section was managed by Part 3 English Literature student, Victoria Matthews, who had led ‘Debates and Doughnuts’. The Twitter feed produced a steady stream of very positive feedback, Imi was interviewed by Radio Berkshire, ‘Spark’ is writing about the evening, a Press release was produced with Pete Bryant’s help, and Jacqui Turner took three samples of our lanyards to the Vote100 Project Team at the Houses of Parliament where they will be on permanent display. In terms of ‘impact’, the event exceeded all expectations.

Perhaps the most positive impact of the 2018 celebrations at UoR is the close partnership that has developed between the staff and students of English Literature, Classics and History, all of whom are working together to revive feminist debates on campus. ‘Celebrating Forgotten Women’ showcased the benefits to learning of work placements, and demonstrated the strength of the staff-student partnerships and inter-School collaborations at Reading. Above all, it has showcased that of which we are most proud at Reading – our students.

Our sincere thanks to the Diversity and Inclusion Fund for making ‘Feminism 100’ possible. The celebrations are not yet at an end and we hope that students and colleagues will join us at more events and discussions as this important centenary year unfolds.

‘Debates and Doughnuts: Is Feminism Dead?’

Guest post by Dr Madeleine Davies (Department of English Literature)

Students in the Department of English Literature last week organised an event titled ‘Debates and Doughnuts’ designed to reignite conversations about gender equality on campus. One of their aims was to gather the necessary 54 signatures to re-form RUSU FemSoc which has been dormant for two years. The ‘Diversity and Inclusion Fund’ supported the event, and I helped the students to set it up.

Our students hoped that they would be able to attract enough students to the session to largely complete the RUSU Society ‘petition’ – on the day, well over sixty students and colleagues attended and the petition gathered more than enough signatures to revive FemSoc.

The debate asked the question, ‘Is Feminism Dead?’, as the decline of FemSoc suggested that it might be. The two-hour debate, full of strong, well-articulated opinions, clearly suggested that it was far from ‘dead’ and that it was, in fact, on the edge of an exciting new life.

Attending the debate were students drawn from all over the university, and colleagues from English Literature, History, SPIER and IoE. We were pleased to see such a high attendance from male students, and we appreciated their thoughtful contributions to the debate: in response to a question, ‘what can feminism do for men?’, a male student argued that feminism implicitly works to support men as well as women and that it does not need to concoct an artificial ‘masculinist’ agenda to announce what it already does.

I was particularly pleased by the way in which contributions that contested feminism as a body of ideas, and that advocated ‘International Men’s Day’ and other Men’s Rights activities as a ‘counter-balance’ to feminist action, were listened to with respect by other students. The ideas raised by attendees less sold on feminism than others were debated in a reflective and sensitive way. I was struck also by the range of issues that were raised, from concerns about ‘language’ and ‘lad culture’, to the ‘#Me Too’ movement, through to media constructions of sexual assault victims.

The debate was managed with admirable skill by the Part 3 English Literature students who organised the debate, Vicky Matthews and Jack Champion. Their manner was welcoming, inclusive, and confident, and the skill with which they drew in all voices and opinions was truly impressive. I am so often struck by the quality of our students when they manage events of this kind: their eloquence and their ability to negotiate complex arguments with tact and intellectual rigour is a tribute to them.

‘Debates and Doughnuts’ was the first in a series of three events grouped under the ‘Feminism 100’ banner which celebrates the centenary of the extension of the franchise to include (some) women. On February 8th, ‘Inspired by Vote 100: Celebrating Forgotten Women’, presents another student-led event involving an exhibition organised with MERL and Special Collections, and an evening of talks and contributions from staff and students. Imogen Snell, a Part 2 English Literature student on a work placement module, has organised the evening with a History student, Sophie Crossfield, and has drawn on the practical support and subject expertise of Dr Jacqui Turner from the Department of History, and myself; Professor David Stack, Dr Mary Morrissey, Dr Jacqui Turner, Dr Natalie Thomlinson and I are contributing to the event by delivering mini-lectures on forgotten women, and students are presenting talks on ‘why this forgotten woman matters to me’. Supported by the Diversity and Inclusion Fund, we are able to hold a full celebration of the franchise centenary, even offering lanyards in WSPU colours and badges with the images of the women we are discussing. Taking place in the Van Emden Lecture Theatre and foyer (Thursday 8th February, 6-9pm), the event will combine the voices of colleagues and students, working collaboratively as partners. We would be delighted to see as many staff as possible at the event, not least to express their support for our students’ commendable initiative.

The series of events will conclude on March 8th with our annual International Women’s Day Talk and Debate (Edith Morley, G25, 5-7pm) where Professor Roberta Gilchrist, Dr Carol Fuller, Dr Jacqui Turner and I will deliver presentations on issues continuing to affect women, and will debate the implications of them with our students. Again, we would be delighted to see our colleagues at the event: this has traditionally been a lively, affirming evening where issues are debated with warmth, mutual respect and good humour. This year, we are supported by the Vice Chancellor’s Endowment Fund so we can fully mark the annual IWD celebration in this important year.

 

Please contact Dr Madeleine Davies (m.k.davies@reading.ac.uk) or Dr Jacqui Turner (e.j.turner@reading.ac.uk) if you would like any further details or if you would like to contribute to either of the upcoming events. The series as a whole provides clear evidence that, at the University of Reading, feminism and issues of diversity, inclusion and equality are well and truly alive and kicking.