Equality and Diversity Good Practice Examples
The following highlights how students’ unions have promoted equality and diversity in range of areas such as their clubs and societies and amongst their membership, as well as developing equality and diversity action plans and carrying out equality Impact Assessments.
Demontfort University Student’s Union
The Union is taking the practical steps to see societies as the key to opening up equality and diversity issues: ‘the student lead societies are often the best placed to offer bespoke and distinctive social networks for E&D to thrive and by recognising this often means they can then receive more funding.
Rather than seeing societies as lots of hobby groups, Unions need to view them as the vehicle for meeting their Equality Act requirements and allocate resources accordingly, it’s not surprising therefore at DSU that some of our most active and successful societies are the ones who support/encourage/promote particular cultures, religions, race etc.’ – Max Mcloughlin, CEO
Glasgow Caledonian University Students' Association
GCUSA worked with their VP Wellbeing on creating a survey called ‘Putting the YOU in GCU’; an equality and diversity survey which asked students about their experience of discrimination, the suitability of services currently provided and how comfortable they felt whilst on campus.
‘One of the main things we really wanted to do with this was to ask students important questions that they’d never been asked before and giving them an opportunity to provide honest, anonymous feedback that we could use to shape what happens on campus in the future. Students could opt into liberation and other minority group sections to answer specific questions relating to their experience and then we also had questions that were asked to all students.
We didn’t want to shy away from difficult questions, such as ‘have you ever experienced discrimination on campus?’ We appreciated that the responses received would not be what the university would want to hear, but we believed it was very important to demonstrate that, despite have E&D policies, there is discrimination on campus, be this in the classroom or in social spaces that needs to be addressed. We broke these questions down into type of discrimination (verbal, physical, etc.) and the basis for this (was it due to perceived race, religion, sexuality etc.) and then followed up with questions such as ‘did you know how report this?’, ‘did you report this?’ and ‘if not, why not’.
Students engaged really well with the survey and we deliberately left a lot of opportunities for free text so that students could explain, in their own words, their experiences on campus. We felt it was important to give students who may often feel that they don’t have a voice or aren’t as represented a chance to make their voices heard, hence the title, ‘Putting the YOU in GCU.’
From the results of the survey we picked out some key points in the feedback of what activities students would like to see on campus and from that ran a three-day ‘Diversity Fest’, which encouraged students to embrace their own, and fellow students’, diversity. We also held a Human Library, disability is sport taster session and a talent show amongst other things.’ - Julie Price, Policy and Campaigns Assistant.
Leeds University Union
To improve their equality and diversity policy Leeds University Union began by reviewing it and asking staff and students what they would want from an equality and diversity policy.
Focus groups occurred with staff (non-student and student) and students about: what they thought of equality in the Union, whether they thought staff took it seriously and why students and staff might not care or understand.
‘It was very clear that all these groups had different expectations and it was our job to ensure they were fulfilled to the best of our abilities.’ Leeds University Union Equality Policy - Sarah Charlesworth, Students Engagement Coordinator
University of Southampton Students’ Union
The Union has been explicit about their commitment to Equality and Diversity. For example one of their twenty strategic themes in their Union Plan is the statement that ‘we will be relevant and welcoming to all’ and ‘being inclusive’ is one of their ten values.
‘At the strategic level, we have created a 3-year Equality and Diversity Action Plan to support our Union Plan to 2015, which is split into student and staff-led elements. The student-led elements are deliberately flexible to allow each cohort of students who takes over to really champion the causes they feel passionate about, whilst agreeing some key targets which will happen every year.
We also think it’s critical to for our staff and volunteers to be committed to our aims. Every single one of SUSU’s permanent job descriptions includes a commitment to equality and diversity and we make clear at interview that this is an important part of how we work.
On the student side, we use the commitment of our volunteers in the Equality and Diversity Forum – a student-led group set up to champion Equality and Diversity across SUSU and the University.
We also encourage our 50 Student Leaders to pledge to undertake one thing to make SUSU fairer for all students when they take up their roles at the start of the academic year. Pledges last year ranged from challenging sexism, discouraging discriminatory comments and promoting equality on-air, to looking at access on campus for disabled students. The last has recently been developed further by our Disability Officer into an app and a website which students can log into to submit feedback about the accessibility of campus buildings, developed with an awareness of the different disabilities students face.
Training has helped to raise awareness of the different issues students face – we have trained our Academic Presidents, Student Leaders, Union Councillors and JCR Committees and plan to roll out training to our staff and further student groups.
We also think it’s important to regularly celebrate the different cultures that our students bring to our campus. We encourage and support our students to run events such as International Women’s Day (a whole week of events), Black History Month, celebrating Diwali and International Cultural Night. The student-led events are always full of excitement and fun and allow students to share different cultures and experiences with each other.’ – Gemma Beardsmore, Head of People Development
University of the Arts London Students' Union and London School of Economics Students' Union
In 2009, the University of the Arts London Students' Union and London School of Economics Students' Union began carrying out Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) on every aspect of their unions to assist in identifying if any projects, policies or procedures were having an adverse impact on any of the equalities strands. They were also keen to ensure that any new strategies or projects that resulted from the collaboration were formulated with an equality and diversity focus embedded into them.
‘We designed our own bespoke EIA frameworks allowing us to include questions specific to the organisational structure of a Students Unions. We also wrote a wide range of resources and training modules which could be delivered to both staff and students who were carrying out the EIA process.
Staff members were trained on EIA and assigned the assessments they would be responsible for. Once the EIAs were completed the results were analysed and used to write an equalities strategy that directed our work in this area.
It is now 4 years since that process was completed and this summer we are planning to carry out union wide EIAs to measure any successes or failures against our original results and the strategic goals of our equalities strategy. We are also currently going through the processes of making EIAs a permanent requirement in the delivery of all membership facing projects and procedures. This will mean that EIAs will be carried out on a regular basis by staff and project holders as opposed to relying on an annual centrally led process to capture our equalities data.
We are also currently in the process of establishing an Equalities Project Group in our staff team to take our work on equalities to the next level. This group will formulate their own agenda (using research, the conclusions of our EIAs and our membership data) with the aim of embedding equality and diversity best practice into every aspect of our organisation. We are aiming to create long lasting change to tackle discrimination and engage groups that have been traditionally excluded or discriminated in our sector.
Examples of work the project board will cover:
Diversity Champion Scheme: in house accreditation for staff whereby they can become a workplace diversity champions having completed in an internal course or training programme
An annual all staff equality and diversity away day – aiming to explore the wider societal implications of inequality
Seminars with the staff team to encourage discussion – for example ‘should we represent student body or local community?’
Cultural competency training
Becoming part of the Out In Sport LGBT charter
Developing a sustainable way to run liberation events at ARTs
Communicating and celebrating national days with students
Communications strategy specifically for diversity
Using our equality monitoring forms and exit interviews to set equalities goals for the future.’
– Aisling Wootten, Advice & Advocacy Manager, Students' Union University of the Arts London
University of Wolverhampton Students’ Union’s
The Union lobbied their University to ensure student representation in the University of Wolverhampton Equality and Diversity Committee at management level. As a result they secured three spots on the committee occupied by the Welfare VP, the LGBT+ rep and the international officer. - Iwuese Nyager, Welfare Vice President