Tag Archives: Event

FMS Presents ‘My JOurney: The lasting impact of frequent misnaming’

The Faculty of Medical Sciences hosted another ‘My Journey’ event on Wednesday 2nd November via Zoom. This semester’s topic was ‘The lasting impact of frequent misnaming’. The talk was held via Zoom with speakers Vi Parker (she/her/hers), the university’s EDI training lead, and Farhana Chowdhury (she/her/hers), a second year PhD student.  

The talk began with both hosts introducing themselves and their background. Vi is Vietnamese-Australian but has lived in the U.K. for 14 years. Farhana has lived in Newcastle her whole life.  

To start, Vi asked everyone in the audience to state their name so we knew how to pronounce it. This was a helpful exercise as she also asked if some individuals had experienced misnaming with a large majority saying they had, and relatively frequently. Farhana then asked everyone to take part in some poll questions about misnaming. These questions revealed that everyone had spelled someone’s name wrong and also said someone’s name wrong in the past. The majority of people said they felt guilty about it. However, when the question ‘did you make excuses for it?’, the responses were very mixed. It was also very mixed when asked if it was a big deal when the misnaming occurred, but majority did say no. Most respondents also said they apologised after the misnaming. This shows that misnaming, whether a mistake or sometimes purposeful, is a frequent issue but Farhana and Vi used this to show how to approach this situation if it happens and the impact it can have when done often.  

Vi explained how individuals who experience misnaming frequently often become desensitised to it and dismiss it, despite the feelings that come with it (feeling not seen, invisible, unvalued etc.). However, she also emphasised the fact that individuals often stand up to misnaming to begin with, but tend to lose hope when they are met with dismissive responses. Some individuals from certain cultures may be named as part of tradition and/or their name means specific things. A member of the audience also shared the fact that she believes that individuals who have names given to them which means something in their culture e.g. nationality, royalty status, circumstances of birth, etc. often feel a strong association with their identity and being misnamed takes this away. This also removes the individual from being able to connect with others from the same culture or nationality, as the wrong pronunciation changes the meaning entirely and you are then unable to identify others from the same or similar backgrounds.  

The hosts also spoke about their own experiences of misnaming, with Farhana stating that she experienced instances of it throughout her school life and also into university. She said at school, a teacher found her name too difficult to pronounce and so changed her name without permission and called her this throughout her time at school, and at 12 years old, she felt unable to stand up for herself and correct a teacher. This kind of incident went as far as making her want to change her own name to ‘Hannah’ to accommodate for others’ unwillingness to learn. However, Farhana stated that despite this, she still did not know how common it was to be misnamed. At university, she was signed up by another individual to an event under the name of ‘Miss Newcastle University’ and had also been called ‘Fiona’ many times. After many instances of misnaming Farhana decided to raise this issue with her supervisor despite hesitation, and the issue was taken seriously and this lead her to write a blog post about the impact of misnaming. 

Similarly to Farhana’s experiences, Vi had also experienced many instances of misnaming since coming over from Vietnam to Australia as a refugee, and still experiences it now while living in the U.K. When she moved to Australia she changed her name to Vi, despite it originally being a hyphenated name, as people found it too hard to pronounce. She also shared that her family all did the same thing and anglicised their names to ‘accommodate’ for others. However, despite changing her name, she still experiences mispronunciation and misnaming such as; ‘Viv’, ‘Vivienne’, ‘Violet’, and even ‘Number 6’. Vi said that the system which is in place which allows this needs to change as it is far too common of a problem. She shared that studies have shown that among international students, over half anglicise their name, with one audience member sharing that they have done this since primary school and now their educational documents differ from the name on their birth certificate. Vi also explained that misnaming also effects self esteem and confidence, and as a result individuals who experience misnaming are less likely to assert themselves or leads to feelings of impostor syndrome.  

“The system which is in place which allows this needs to change as it is far too common of a problem”

As the talk came to a close, Vi discussed how the burden of misnaming is often put upon the individual being misnamed themselves. People tend to apologise and stress if they accidentally misname someone, but this then falls on the misnamed individual to comfort the other person and reassure them it is okay. There also comes extra effort and learning which falls upon the individual who is misnamed, with one audience member sharing that they had to learn the phonetic alphabet just to be able to spell their name over the phone, which Vi related to and shared that a dinner reservation was once made under the name ‘Victoria Ice-cream’ as she did not know the phonetic alphabet to spell her name ‘Vi’. 

In order to help and be an ally to those who may experience misnaming, Farhana shared some tips on ways in which you can lessen the burden for those who experience it: 

  1. Step in: if you see a colleague or friend being misnamed and they are unable to or hesitant to stand up for themselves, help them out! 
  1.  Share your own pronunciation: by sharing your own name pronunciation you create an open space for others to do the same with theirs. Farhana shared a resource where you can add an audio file to your email signature with how to say your name. There is also the ‘my name is…’ campaign where you phonetically spell your name in your email signature.  
  1. Education: by attending talks like this or reading, or listening to podcasts about instances like misnaming, you can educate yourself and take the burden off others to explain why misnaming is a big issue we need to address and how to tackle the problem.  
  1. No excuses: don’t make excuses when you do mispronounce or misname someone, simply just apologise and learn for next time! 

We would like to thank those who attended the ‘My Journey’ talk, and for those interested in attending future events which we hold once a semester, keep an eye on our twitter @FMSDiversityNCL ! We would also like to thank our speakers Vi Parker and Farhana Chowdhury for their voluntary talk on misnaming, it was extremely insightful and it sparked great discussion among the audience! 

FMS Presents: ‘My Journey’- A Disability Panel Discussion

To mark the beginning of Disability History Month 2021, FMS held another ‘My Journey’ event. This session consisted of 4 speakers in a panel discussion; Wendy Leanne Craig, an information security officer who has worked within the university since 1997, Charlotte Brown, a Biosciences PGR student, Emma Slack, a PHSI Research Associate, and Robert Shiel, who had worked for the university since 1980 and was also a student prior to this. The discussion was about everyone’s lived experience with a hidden or visible disability and talking about any barriers they may have faced and overcome to get to where they are now. We ended the panel discussion with a short Q&A session.

‘Coming out’ with a disability

Wendy Leanne Craig began the talk introducing herself, she is an information security officer within Newcastle University, working within the university since 1997. Wendy shared that she has a rare genetic disease known as Wilson’s, which predominantly affects her liver among other things. Her diagnosis also led to other effects such as ‘dizziness, tremors, dystonia, and a shaky voice’. Since Wendy began working at Newcastle, she has noticed lots of positive changes in the space of disability and accessibility.

Wendy began by saying she has an ‘open policy’ around her disability and will openly talk about it within the workplace to colleagues and friends. However, when Wendy first began her job at the university in 1997, she said you could not immediately see that she had a disability, it was hidden. This resulted in what Wendy describes as her having to ‘come out’ to her colleagues and friends that she has Wilson’s so that any issues she faced were not overlooked.

Since her disability became more visible, she has needed more support from university services, and has found the university has helped her a lot by supporting her with access to specialist resources and equipment she might need. Wendy said that she uses a software on her computer called ‘Dragon’. This aids her by recognising her voice so she can speak, and her words type out for her, and she can command her computer to do things using just her voice allowing Wendy to access and complete the same work as her colleagues.

Studying with a disability

Charlotte Brown is a current PhD student at Newcastle University. She studied her bachelor’s in human biology at Sheffield Hallam University prior to completing an MSc in computational systems and biology at Newcastle University.

Charlotte has been deaf from a young age and said that during her time studying, she has had to make sure her experience is not affected by this and she has not let her disability hold her back. Charlotte said her university experience has been helped greatly by the support from the university disability services and from staff in catering to her needs. This has allowed her to continue with her studies and succeed at every level to get to where she is now.

‘…I wasn’t doing enough or letting myself down’

Emma Slack is a research associate in the Population Health Sciences Institute at Newcastle University. Emma has a hidden, fluctuating disability that causes her to feel fatigued very often. She opened up about her struggles during school and at university trying to keep up with her peers but always finding it hard, but still pushed herself as she had nobody else to compare herself to.

After starting her PhD and a new job to support her financially, she had to go part-time with her academic studies. Pushing herself to work more hours than she was able to had taken a toll on her studies and health. After going part-time, she said she felt she ‘wasn’t doing enough or letting myself down’, despite this decision being in her best interests. She said this feeling came from external voices telling her things like ‘you’re just too scared to get a job’.

Emma stated that if she had more representation growing up of people in similar situations or facing similar obstacles, she would never have pushed herself or felt she was ‘behind’ her peers. She has now accepted that her journey in academia may take longer and she may face more obstacles, but that does not make it any less valuable as she has put in the same amount of work as those around her.

Emma also put together a small list of things people can do to help make her, and maybe others, journeys ‘less of a bumpy ride’:

  • Don’t make assumptions like:
    • If someone works part time it must be a good thing
    • If someone looks well, they are well
    • If someone needs to take a break or a rest, they are being lazy, and don’t laugh at them either 
    • You know how to cure someone’s disability or long-term condition
  • Respect boundaries
  • Ask what accessibility needs people have ahead of time for meetings or events etc.
    • Schedule in breaks if over an hour as common practice
  • Use inclusive language, not just in relation to disability
  • Be kind

Making positive changes to University accessibility

Robert Shiel is a Disability Liaison Officer within the university. He has worked for Newcastle University since 1980 and studied here prior to his employment. He then went to Aberdeen to get his PhD. It was when he was driving in a car in Zimbabwe, a tyre burst causing the car to roll. He suffered many injuries as a result of the accident including a broken back, punctured lung, concussion, among other injuries.

After the accident, he was flown back to Britain on what he described as an uncomfortable journey. His boss at the time told him that he had 6 months paid sick leave before he had to return to work. At this point Robert did not know what the extent of his injuries were. He found himself in the position of having to use a wheelchair as his accident had led to him being unable to use his legs.

Upon his return to work, his colleagues were very supportive, and he spent time trying to get facilities adapted for himself. He retired as an academic in 2012 and was hired as a consultant to help with access for disabled staff and students across Newcastle University’s campus. He said that the university facilities improved more and more as he was in his role and after receiving a good budget from a previous Vice Chancellor who wanted to make the campus as accessible as possible to everyone. However, Robert was not met with this kind of assistance to begin with, he said that when he first got into his role of consultant, he was met with negativity from those around him. But since his job, he has helped bring about a lot of changes to the campus and make sure all faculties, departments, rooms etc. are accessible for all staff and students.

My personal reflection of the talk

I found the talk extremely enlightening and it brought to light a lot of issues I had only ever heard in passing. Being able to hear each of the speakers experiences first-hand and learning about how different each of their stories were brought up a lot of questions for myself. I wondered why we aren’t doing more on a larger scale to help represent those with both hidden and visible disabilities, especially within education, to combat issues like imposter syndrome as not everyone within the disabled community will experience the same struggles. This is why making sure everyone’s accessibility requirements are met, whether they have a visible or hidden disability, is vital in making sure everyone feels heard and can achieve their best without facing further, unnecessary obstacles.

Thank you so much again to all of the speakers for taking the time to participate in this discussion. The next My Journey event with new speakers will be taking place in the new year – we hope to see you there! Keep up to date with events over on our Twitter page @FMSDiversityNCL!