Clearing 2021

I met with trans and non-binary students and staff last Friday and we discussed the Reindorf Review, the publication of the Report (.pdf) and the actions (.pdf) agreed by Senate and Council in response to the recommendations in the Review, and the impact they have had on both the trans and non-binary community and the wider Essex community. In the meeting we discussed how hurt people feel about the outcome and the very negative impact that this has had and continues to have on trans and non-binary staff and students.

I am committed to ensuring that everyone is made to feel welcome at the University and we discussed a range of actions that we can take to ensure that this is the case. I want to restate the importance to me of us continuing to work hard to be a supportive and inclusive community for all our members. In addressing this, there are a number of actions we are taking to rebuild relationships:

  • We have established 11 workstreams to take forward specific pieces of work approved by Senate and Council. We want to work with our trans and non-binary staff and students to ensure you feel able to input into these. Details of the workstreams and how University of Essex staff and students can get involved will be available through our Moodle site (through a University of Essex log-in only) from 16 July.
  • My personal view is that the current law in the UK does not fully respect and protect the identities of trans and non-binary people. I understand that, in meeting our obligations to respect academic freedom and freedom of speech within the law, we have given the impression that we might not care about the lived reality of trans and non-binary people. As we revise our equality, diversity and inclusion policies and procedures we will continue to go beyond the minimum standards required by law, wherever we can, to ensure that we recognise, respect and protect the identities of trans and non-binary people. Listening to our trans and non-binary staff and students will be central to us understanding the changes that will have the most impact in creating a welcoming, supportive and inclusive environment - and ensuring the lived experience of our trans and non-binary staff and students is positive.
  • We are committed to working with Stonewall and other organisations, as the University takes steps, within the context of Action 10 of our agreed action plan, to repair relationships amongst University members.
  • Our Acting Director of People and Culture, the University's Chief of Staff and the Registrar and Secretary, will continue to meet with our trans and non-binary students and staff on a regular basis, to review how we are supporting trans and non-binary students, and combating transphobia on our campuses.

We have received other suggestions as to how the University can demonstrate its commitment to our trans and non-binary staff and students. These include: allocating greater funding and resources for mental health services; putting in place a trans and non-binary support group for students facilitated by a trans/non-binary member of staff; identifying a common room/space for trans and non-binary students; encouraging positive action to support and promote greater diversity within leadership and across the University; respecting personal pro-nouns; further developing support and training for staff in leadership positions and across the University; and creating a Working Group to combat transphobia on our campuses. The University Steering Group will consider each of these, so that any new arrangements can be in place no later than the start of the Autumn Term on 7 October 2021.

I have been asked to provide a number of apologies including: to anyone who felt excluded from or affected by the process of contributing to the Review; for the manner in which the Reindorf Report was released, and in particular for the timing of the release at the start of the examination period and for how this has felt during Pride Month; that the Report and the actions agreed by Senate and Council have required considerable time from our students to address the impact on them and on other students and especially students in leadership roles, in a context in which some have not received appropriate training; the public scrutiny this has focused on some of our students; and for any harassment or bullying that has taken place and for anyone having been made to feel unsafe as a result of the Review. I am sincerely sorry for this. We have a zero-tolerance approach to harassment and bullying and I am committed to taking action when needed to ensure that we treat everyone in our community with dignity and respect. I have been asked to make apologies to three students and will do this today, and I will also send an apology to our trans and non-binary staff through the LGBTQ+ staff forum Chair.

Senate and Council have agreed that we will consult with our community to devise and ensure implementation of a strategy for repairing relationships amongst University members and I am committed to ensuring this is what we do. Any ideas for achieving this would be welcome through the review@essex.ac.uk email or direct to me at vc@essex.ac.uk