UCL News


Sexual Orientation Working Group established

20 May 2004

Although Jeremy Bentham, UCL's spiritual founder, wrote prolifically against English hostility to homosexuality, the prevailing taboo on public discussion of such issues prevented his writing's dissemination.

Some 230 years later, a Sexual Orientation Working Group, reporting to the Committee for Equal Opportunities, has been established to examine UCL policies, procedures and practices as they relate to lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) staff.

In accordance with the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, the group will seek to define employment issues which may affect LGB staff, promote recognition and awareness of discrimination, address any inequities and ensure issues of sexual orientation are integrated into the operation of equal opportunities at UCL.

Professor Michael King (Mental Health Sciences) serves on the group. His research has included an epidemiological study of the mental health of gay men and lesbians and their experiences of health care. He has also examined the effects on gay men of medical 'treatments' to change their sexual orientation. He says, "Visibility is the key to changing social attitudes to gay, lesbian and bisexual people. It is a pity that so many senior academics in higher education are reluctant to be identified as gay or lesbian. Their silence is evidence of the continuing discrimination within academia and shows we still have a long way to go."

Dr Valerie Hazan, Head of the Department of Phonetics & Linguistics, who also serves on the group, says, "A recent survey of 800 staff from six UK universities showed that lesbian and gay academics suffered significantly higher levels of discrimination and harassment than their colleagues, but tended not to report incidents to the authorities. Addressing these issues at UCL is therefore an important step in improving employment conditions and opportunities for many hundreds of UCL staff, and should not be dismissed as an example of political correctness."

Staff who wish to participate in the group are invited to contact Mr Richard Woloshen x09766; Human Resources Project Officer; the group also welcomes comments on sexual orientation issues at UCL, which may be made anonymously if wished.