Most Universities in the UK like to state in their manifestos that they are all for equal rights, that they are a University of shared and equal beliefs; ‘We want you, you belong here, we’re ready for you’…
They have supporting departments, as does UAL, that publicise policies to better support trans students that includes non-discrimination of gender identity and gender expression, 207 have gender-inclusive housing, and 156 allow students to use a chosen first name on campus records and documents. The question is, what’s driving these positive changes?
But how many Halls of residence at UAL have gender neutral toilet facilities? How many colleges have gender neutral toilets (Foundation Centre at Wilson Road has only 1 gender neutral toilet that was previously a toilet for the disabled)?
It is quite difficult to quantify the success of these policies as we enrol students who may not have had much trans-gender support from their previous place of Education, they may not feel like they wish to disclose, perhaps Colleges don’t give the students the ability to self-identify. There haven’t been many trailblazers for the next generation to say ‘That College supported ‘X’ so amazingly that I feel it would be a great place for me to consider studying at’; perhaps the nature of our University of The Arts enables a more diverse range of students to apply but is this truly enough? Who, indeed, wants to be considered a minority within a minority within a minority ?
What can we do to alter this? Perhaps mentioning this in all UAL interviews, all enrolment brochures and pamphlets… discuss these issues with the students early in their enrolment.
The Foundation Centre at Wilson Road had an incident with a student last year. Graffiti was found in the girls toilet that stated that student ‘A’ was thinking of committing suicide as her Lecturer kept using the wrong pronoun when talking to her. The graffiti was followed by a mixture of supportive AND abusive feedback written on the wall which made the situation far worse as the student could see the only negative comments and was blinded by the supportive ones. The toilets are used by Students and staff alike so the graffiti was actioned on as quickly as possible, the student identified and asked if she would like some support from Bethan Williams, Equality and Diversity Officer. All staff were made aware of the situation and it shocked me as to how things can spiral so quickly through ignorance or lack of memory… perhaps registers could be adapted to help this? My memory is poor, I teach fly students only 4 hours per week, I have 65 students in my class… it’s not always easy to use pronouns or too remember ISA’s.
But we do have Bethan’s contact details always to hand in the weekly bulletin that our Head of Foundation sends to each Sunday that gets printed and placed in each class’s register. The premise would be more open if it were a subject that we can include in a brief that all students could learn from.
The simple act of sharing the Gender Diversity at UAL website information with the students might start the communication off.