Former Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Sandra Brown is one of the many people who are deeply unhappy about inequalities at Queen Mary. Her resignation email to the Principal Professor Bailey below:
As I leave Queen Mary, I was hoping to meet with you to be re-assured that the respect, and valuing of our staff and students through a caring and supportive organisation would be maintained. As I approached my leaving date with no communication from you, there has been a mass exodus of people, many of whom do not have jobs to go to but who can no longer tolerate the double standards and inappropriate behaviours within management that is particularly directed at women and BAME staff. Have you noticed? What is being done to stem this tide?
Whilst there may be much rhetoric about EDI from your “diverse” senior management, your absence from the space has been noted by the very staff whom you claim to support and value. The version of EDI adopted at QM is a watered down version whose purpose is to surround itself with accolades achieved as a result of the wellbeing, personal, passionate commitment of the very people they are supposed to support and benefit ,whilst the environment remains toxic and disproportionately affecting the experiences of the diverse community at QM. I was hoping QM would not succumb to the tick box mentality, but it seems I was hoping in vain. A prime example is the University Silver Athena SWAN and also school applications.
There are over 25 references to words or phrases linked to EDI peppered throughout the new Strategy. Are we ticking boxes here? On what basis can we in all honesty continue to belittle the importance of these 3 words ( Equality, Diversity Inclusion) without a firm foundation to support these claims. QM has stated it takes a zero tolerance approach to harassment and bullying. If this were true then a more robust response would have been taken to the contents of the Affinity at work report and putting in place the support and processes needed for the 30+ staff who have volunteered and been part trained to be Dignity Disclosure Officers.
If you are going to tackle the elephant in the room that is race, make sure you and others are prepared to listen without interruption and learn. You could begin by providing copies of Reni Eddo-Lodge book Why I am no longer talking to White people about Race and Robin Di Angelo White Fragility to your senior teams, Senate and other official committees within QM before embarking on the Race Equality Charter Mark.
Diversity is easy, but you now need to pick up the heavy mantle that is Inclusion and battle equally for staff as well as students who are the fabric of QM. I have never felt this deeply and passionate about an organisation that has the potential to live up to more than its defaulted diversity. With the absence of dedicated EDI support, maybe its time to pause, get off the accreditation roundabout and speak to staff and students about their lived experiences at QM. Use what you hear, to form a basis to fully utilise and apply the frameworks that are available for institutions to self-assess their commitment to the agenda.
If you are not sincere about delivering and embedding the outcomes of the numerous accreditations then step off the roundabout until proper resources and commitment is available.
The strategy states “The heart of this strategy is the Queen Mary community: our students, staff and alumni. We will support, develop and nurture our people so that they can be the best they can be”. The examples I have of staff being bullied, told they need to do more, but each time the goal post moves or the sands shift. Ambitious staff in all roles from Estates to senior academics have cried, vented their frustrations to me because all they want to do is offer QM their knowledge and skills to make the university the leader and (not a follower) that it can be. The member of staff who has received support from the university to gain qualifications that makes him expert in his field, only to be side lined when a senior post is available and not even given first refusal. When asked are you not angry at this treatment he responds by referring to his cultural attire and concluding that this is the reason why. This “wanting to give to QM” is hampered by an unsupporting organisation that has allowed inappropriate and debilitating behaviours to seep into the very atmosphere that is QM and go unchecked.
I sincerely wish that these words are taken in the love and passion that I have for QM.
On 30 April 2018 you met with me and another academic and asked us both do we think QM is institutional racist. I paused before answering as you were new and I did not want to be judgemental. I can now answer the question and my answer is YES.
Diversity & Inclusion Manager
Queen Mary University of London
t 0207 882 5585 | e Sandra.firstname.lastname@example.org
QMSU Student Council has passed a motion calling on the University & QMSU to work on removing institutional racism within it’s structures. For the full motion see below