UCL and the Stonewall Diversity Champions Programme and Workplace Equality Index
16 December 2021
Following a period of debate within our community and careful consideration of the issues, UCL has now taken the decision that we will not re-join Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Programme or make a submission to the Workplace Equality Index.
It is crucial to stress that this does not reflect any change in UCL’s unwavering commitment to upholding the rights of LGBTQ+ staff and students or to working to ensure that UCL is a diverse community to which everyone can bring their whole self without fear of discrimination, bullying or harassment.
This decision has been informed by thoughtful and respectful debates at both EDI Committee and Academic Board, which have recognised the importance, complexity, and sensitivity of issues relating to sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex. Those in favour of UCL’s participation in the two Stonewall schemes cite the benefits of a clear external framework to shape and measure UCL’s work on LGBTQ+ inclusion, and the support that participation signals to trans staff and students in particular. Those opposed raise concerns about academic freedom in the light of Stonewall’s positions on sex and sex-based rights and the impact on academic debates about sex and gender identity that may stem from alignment with Stonewall, with implied endorsement of its positions. In votes following their respective discussions, EDI Committee supported participation in the two Stonewall schemes, while Academic Board voted against participation in either.
In weighing up all opinions in this debate, UCL’s senior leadership team has accepted Academic Board’s advice about the fundamental need to uphold academic freedom and freedom of speech in an academic context, recognising that a formal institutional commitment to Stonewall may have the effect of inhibiting academic work and discussion within UCL about sex and gender identity. At the same time, recognising the advice of our EDI committee, and the position of those in our community in favour of Stonewall participation, UCL’s senior leadership team is making a clear commitment that we will re-double our work around LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion, with a particular focus on supporting trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming members of our community. UCL’s senior management team will establish an LGBTQ+ Equality Implementation Group, following the model of the Race Equality Implementation Group, which will develop a strong programme of action to tackle all forms of inequality, marginalisation, and discrimination experienced by LGBTQ+ colleagues and students. The LGBTQ+ Equality Implementation Group will be tasked with understanding the concerns and priorities of members of the LGBTQ+ community at UCL in its diversity and with developing a set of recommended actions and a plan to address them.
UCL’s institutional relationship with Stonewall is a highly contested matter about which many in our community feel strongly. The discussion of the issues has been conducted in a constructive manner. UCL hopes that we can move forward in that same spirit, so that we might continue to disagree well and build UCL as a genuinely diverse community in which people are able to express their beliefs and be themselves.