EDI monthly meeting – 12th October

The committee met again on 12th October after a short summer break. We had lots to catch up on, and our conversation focussed on organising the staff culture survey, which we hope to be available in November. Staff members will be informed when the survey is available. We also discussed the potential of having undergraduate student representation on the committee, to promote inclusivity across the university.

With the start of a new academic year, we also have several member changes. I, as the postgraduate representative, will be stepping down from my role. I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the group for the past few years, but as my PhD comes to an end, it felt time to step down and allow a new student the opportunity to be involved in the EDI committee.

We also have a change in EDI committee chair. Jenny Dunn will be stepping down from her role, although she remains as a member of the committee. She says “I have very much enjoyed the challenge of broadening the remit of the Athena Swan committee to begin to encompass multiple facets of diversity within SLES, over the past couple of years. I’m proud of the achievements the new EDI committee have made during this time – re-establishing the Staff Culture Survey, developing the new Student Culture survey, introducing our mentoring scheme, and not least re-gaining our Bronze Athena Swan departmental award, to name a few. I look forward to staying involved with the EDI committee under Iain’s leadership, and I am certain he will do a fantastic job of taking the committee forward!”

And with that, we welcome Iain Stott into the role as EDI chair. He says “I am really looking forward to taking on the lead role for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion within the School of Life and Environmental Sciences. 

 Being a gay/queer person working in academia, EDI is something that has been very important to me since early in my career. The classic, basic problem of lacking role models like myself meant I found it difficult to visualise and navigate unique challenges within and outside of work, as part of a career and life outside heteronormativity. Conversely, my considerable privileges as cisgender, mostly male-presenting, white and Northern European became more apparent, as did the need for people with less privilege to have opportunities, a voice and agency over their careers and lives.

 I’ve now worked in EDI for a long time in various spheres and particularly within LGBTQ+ spaces. I’ve met a huge diversity of wonderful people, learned a great deal, and I hope imparted some wisdom of my own. There are a great deal of systemic issues for universities and academia to solve and yet identify, but I hope at least that we’re getting to the point where the basic issues of role models, awareness and agency are beginning to change.

 Jenny did a fantastic job revitalising the SLES EDI committee and spearheading the successful Athena SWAN bronze application we were awarded earlier in the year. I’m very grateful to be taking over at a time where there is a clear path forward. I hope that I, alongside all other staff and students working within EDI, can help SLES and the university grow as a yet more diverse, inclusive and welcoming place to be.”

Thank you for your hard work and dedication Jenny – you will be missed – and welcome Iain! We are excited to see the innovation and perspective you bring and the direction you take the committee in moving forward.

Pride month – June 2022

As we come to the end of June, we continue to celebrate pride month, which takes place in June every year. Events take place across the globe, from festivals and parades to themed parties and celebrations.

Pride month takes place to commemorate the Stonewall Riots in 1969. These were as a result of police raiding a gay bar called the ‘Stonewall Inn’ – people started retaliating and support grew for the movement, with the first pride parade occurring in 1970. Unfortunately, it took until 1999 for the US federal government to recognise pride month. Another 23 years later, we still have a long way to go, but there have been some huge milestones, including the first same-sex marriage in Amsterdam in 2001.

Awareness is ever-increasing, partially due to pride events and celebrations, which take place throughout the year. For those based in the UK, there are a few upcoming pride parades:

  • London trans pride – 9th July
  • Brighton trans pride – 5th August
  • Lincoln pride – 20th August
  • Manchester pride – 27th August

There are a plethora of resources available online, including specific information on the 1969 Stonewall riots, pride month and LGBTQ+ support.

The University of Lincoln wellbeing centre also has a dedicated well-being advisor as well as a counselling service, for anybody who want support or guidance in relation to their gender or sexuality.

EDI monthly meeting – June

Our June meeting mainly focused on formatting and editing a student survey, which we are planning to send to students to gather their thoughts, opinions and experiences on current equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) issues.

We discussed the questions we feel should be included, and spent time deciding on the appropriate timings to send these to students, to ensure it fitted well with their academic timetable whilst ensuring they were given enough opportunity to experience the university before having to give their feedback.

We feel this is a really important survey, as it is imperative we receive honest feedback from students about their EDI experiences, to be able to determine the areas we can improve on to enhance student experiences and further support all of the students at the university.

The survey will be sent out to students in due course, and we look forward to hearing their honest feedback.

Introduction of coaching scheme

The EDI committee is very excited to announce the formation of a coaching scheme within the School of Life and Environmental Sciences! After the formation of a coaching subgroup several months ago, the scheme is now fully up and running for students to use.

The scheme is aimed at pairing a volunteer coach (staff member) with a postgraduate student, with the specific aim of providing support over agreed issues or areas of uncertainty. This can take many forms, from speaking about job applications to gaining advice about how to become a more independent researcher!

The scheme provides lots of flexibility, with students able to request a certain member of staff from the designated list, before meeting at regular intervals at the discretion of both parties. Simple assessment forms are filled out at the first and last sessions to track progress.

The EDI committee is really excited about this scheme and hopes it will provide a further avenue of support for students who feel they need it, as well as hopefully improve the sense of community within the department!

The coaching scheme handbook is attached for those who require further information.

Meeting – 22 April 2022

We have received the exciting news that our Bronze Athena Swan application was successful!

Athena Swan Gender Charter logo
Athena Swan logo

After lots of hard work from the whole EDI committee, our application was submitted in January this year, and we recently received confirmation of the award.

Moving forwards, our various working groups comprising of Culture Survey, Data, and Mentoring Subgroups plan to meet regularly to discuss plans to push our commitment forwards and begin to implement the various Action Plans agreed upon for our successful application.

The Mentoring Subgroup welcomes Dilkushi de Alwis Pitts, who will serve as a representative from the School of Geography.

In light of this great achievement, the whole committee is now excited to push forwards with implementing the ideas and actions outlined in our application.

For those who are interested, the application is available below:

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Meeting – 17 January 2022

Athena Swan Gender Charter logo
Athen Swan logo

Our Athena Swan bronze application was submitted to Advance HE last week, so the committee attention naturally turned to tackling the detailed Action Plan which is core to the application. The various subgroups (culture survey, mentoring, and data) will be now meeting independently to discuss how to map progress against, and achieve the Action Plan.

Iain informed the committee that he attended a workshop organised by the Racial and Ethnic Equality and Diversity (REED) Ecological Network of the British Ecological Society on decolonising the curriculum at their annual meeting in December 2021. Progress on this will follow also from the recent consultation the University is running on this, and more generally on our teaching and learning strategy.

Jenny and Iain also met the EDI representative of the Department of Geography, Dr Dilkushi de Alwis Pitts. Following the merger of the Schools of Life Sciences and Geography, a new School of Life and Environmental Sciences has been created. To streamline work between our newly formed Departments of Life Sciences and Geography, Dilkushi will shortly be joining our committee, and a call will be open for other members of the Dept of Geography to join us.

We plan to reflect this on our blog soon, as well as invite any colleague or student from Geography

to write for our Spotlight series.

Meeting – 17 December 2021

At our December meeting, the first item for discussion was around decolonising the curriculum. Several members of the committee had been at the annBubble speech asking How can we be more inclusive in our curriculum?ual meeting of the British Ecological Society, were they attended a workshop on that topic. This is a journey in progress at the moment, and we are awaiting further guidance from the University around appointing a champion, a working group and having a specific remit. We moved onto workloads, noting that we are awaiting an update, following a dispute raised by the union to which the University has yet to respond.

Since our last meeting, the committee circulated our yearly culture survey to gauge perceptions on the School of Life Sciences working environment and culture. In total we received 52 responses from 38 academics, 8 technical and professional staff and 6 PDRA/PGR. We will be presenting the culture survey results to the School meeting in February 2022, and we will also be inviting Xiaotong Zhu or Rhianne-Ebony Sterling-Morris of the Lincoln Equality and Attainment Project (LEAP) to attend and give a short presentation on intercultural awareness and micro-aggression.

Finally, following our merger with the School of Geography – we are now the School of Life and Environmental Sciences with a Department of Life Sciences and a Department of Geography – we discussed how to merge the respective Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committees. Our Chair, Jenny Dunn, will write to the our colleagues in Geography, Theresa Mercer and Harriet Moore, to discuss this in the new year.

Meeting – 15 November 2021

After a search for a new member of our committee, today we welcomed Dr Manabu Sakamoto. We then discussed at length how to define an early career researcher. We are mindful of not discriminating against age (and therefore time since PhD) or job role (teaching and scholarship role versus teaching and research role), and we have now a working definition that we will share with the Research Committee at the School level. The reason for defining an early career researcher, is that we want to rejuvenate the early career research committee in the new year.

The next item on the agenda were the student and staff culture surveys: while we are developing a new student culture survey, we are in the process of transferring our staff culture survey from our previous platform, Qualtrics, to our new platform, JISC. As every year, the staff survey should be launched by the end of November.

Finally, we also had an update on Decolonising the Curriculum. While we do not have a Champion for this role yet, we had a group discussion on the various representation, from within and outside the EDI committee, that we would like to see on this new working group.

Spotlight – Dr Jonathan Hughes

Jonathan Hughes with a dinosaur skull
Jonathan Hughes in the lab

My current role is as the technician with responsibility for those practical classes that fall under ecology and zoology, although my background is in molecular biology so I’m often involved in molecular biology and microbiology sessions as well.

I completed my PhD looking at how to improve crop water use efficiency via modulation of the number of stomatal pores in the epidermis of barley, at the department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at Sheffield University. This was followed by a brief stint as a secondary school teacher before I joined the University of Lincoln in my current role in 2018.

I decided to become a technician as I really enjoy the hands-on aspects of science and I was also seeking a career with a more favourable work-life balance after being a teacher.

My current role is great as it’s very varied in terms of the different practical classes we offer here. Also, the Ecology and Conservation practical classes provide me with many opportunities to work outdoors which I really enjoy, even if the weather is often uncooperative!

Meeting – 21 September 2021

At our meeting this month we welcomed a new member, Dr Jonathan Hughes, representing the technical team on the committee. One of the first items for discussion was the Athena Swan application. Following a delay in our original submission, the application is now with the Eleanor Glanville Centre team for comments and feedback. We expect to revise our application and submit it by the end of November 2021.

The next item on our agenda was “Decolonising the curriculum”. Work on this topic has started at the university level but we have been asked to consider the implications for our teaching strategy, relevant policies as well as equality, diversity and inclusion at the School level. Iain Stott, Carol Rea and Graziella Iossa will represent the EDI committee on a school-wide working group including programme leaders and members of the Learning, Teaching and Assessment Committee. The first actions of the working group will include a statement of intent, identifying a champion to take this work forward, and preparing a presentation for the School meeting in October.

There were a few changes in committee membership. Alex Aitken and Paul Eady stepped down and the committee would like to thank them both for their hard work, especially for running the culture survey and establishing a coaching scheme. Meanwhile Ambrose Tinarwo and Mat Goddard joined the mentoring subgroup, and Oliver Burman joined the culture survey subgroup.