This week I’d like to showcase the podcast Ouch! which is a BBC offering where ‘real disability talk happens’. Recently, their coverage of the Paralympic Games in Tokyo has been engaging and offers a brilliant insight into life behind the games.
One episode which was released recently is an interview with Eddie Ndopu and discusses the campaign WeThe15. WeThe15 is a new global movement set up by a collaboration of huge organisations from around the world. The meaning behind the name is that 15% of the world’s population is disabled and the movement wishes to change attitudes, create more opportunities and improve accessibility across the world. As Eddie puts it in the podcast they was to show that persons with disabilities are both ‘ordinary and extraordinary’. The founders of WeThe15 recognised the need for a movement for persons with disabilities, like BLM and MeToo, to empower and encourage people around the world.
In the episode Eddie also discusses the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and how the movement is inherently linked to and in support of these goals. The episode is only 25 minutes long and well worth a listen!
“As a result of identity prejudice, certain individuals are more vulnerable to conflict and violence when they are in the field. It is paramount that all fieldworkers be informed of the risks some colleagues may face, so that they can define best practice together: this paper recommends strategies to minimize risk for all individuals conducting fieldwork.”
I regularly come back to this paper, to make sure that I am really thinking about how to assess and minimise risk in the field. As supervisors, it is our responsibility to assess and work with students/ colleagues to mitigate risk.
I recently watched the film “The Imitation Game” which is quite an old film about the work carried out at Bletchley Park to crack the enigma machine which was used during World War Two to send encrypted messages. Although like most films based on true events the story is exaggerated, but the key to the story is Alan Turing and, as many of you may be aware, he was a gay man. The sad truth was he suffered because of his sexuality and committed suicide in 1954. A picture of him now adorns the new fifty pound note which is at least a tribute to his work and a sign that our society has changed for the better over the past sixty years since his death.
As reference requests for graduates appear in our inboxes, I thought I’d share this one page poster on “Avoiding Gender Bias in Reference Writing”. I find it a useful aide memoire when writing a reference and reducing gender-biased language that might (unconsciously) creep into my letters. We know to ‘emphasise accomplishments’ and ‘avoid giving personal information’ in our references (which are highlighted in the document). However, based on research that underpins the content of this poster I’m also avoiding the use of adjectives such as ‘hard-working’, ‘diligent’ and ‘conscientious’ to describe women graduates which perpetuate stereotypes and can be potentially damaging to their selection. If you find yourself describing your women graduates in this way, “Avoiding Gender Bias in Reference Writing” has a useful list of alternative ‘adjectives to include’ such as ‘accomplished’, ‘knowledgeable’ and ‘resourceful’. Check it out…!
I would urge everyone to watch Crip Camp on Netflix. It begins with a look into the world of Camp Jened, a summer camp which ran from 1951 to 1977 and provided a place for disabled young people to find inclusion, a sense of normalcy and a break from the stigma they experience in their daily lives. A quote that really stuck with me was that Camp Jened helped disabled people realise that they were not the problem, the problem was with the rest of the world. The conversations, acceptance and feeling of liberation in the camp became a springboard for a vital movement fighting to secure basic rights for disabled people in the United States. The documentary follows some of the Jened campers from 1971 as they campaign, protest and storm government buildings to fight for equality.
I don’t like to attribute the word ‘inspiring’ to the struggles of others but this documentary really feels so. There’s no request for sympathy or pity behind it, just an incredible story of a group of people changing the world, from a perspective many may not have considered.
In 2017, Sara Ahmed a senior academic in Goldsmiths resigned in protest in how Goldsmiths was dealing with sexual harassment issues of PhD students and staffs. Goldsmiths reputation took a beating after that and they had to shell hundreds and thousands of pounds to students and staffs as a result of that. This blogpost, in snapshots provides an incisive insights into all the issues the EDI team is concerned about (e.g. questions of gender, race, class, sexuality, disability, decolonisation agenda, transphobia) and how systems and procedures of Universities can indeed be restrictive for the aggrieved person. I thought this post could give us, especially the decision-makers in the University, some reflective points to think about. Especially on the question, how should we deal with complaints within the School should they arise and reach the EDI Committee for resolution?
If anyone has any thoughts on this and would like to contact the Committee, drop Katy Sawyer an email – we’d love to hear from you
As part of Black History Month last year, I wrote a piece about the American chemist Percy Lavon Julian. This started me off thinking about who were the most noted black scientists in the UK, since when doing any research all the examples seemed to be from the USA. Having searched for information I came across the following book and purchased it over the internet. It is well worth a look at especially the opening chapters as it asks some thought-provoking questions about the information we teach in schools. If anyone would like to borrow the book just get in touch.
Congratulations to SNES colleague Dr Adriana Humanes who is one of the co-authors of this week’s EDI reading which was recently published in PlosOne Bio. The paper argues for expanding how success and impact is assessed in the academic reward system (which is still narrowly focused on paper citations and grant funding success), and provides examples of how change can be achieved.
Adriana and colleagues argue that mentoring can have a significant positive contribution to the career development of mentees and should be a measure of success. This is particularly poignant because within Newcastle we are aware of more colleagues who would like to be mentored than there are willing mentors. Perhaps in SNES we can commit to both the value of mentoring and develop an infrastructure to do this?
For this week’s EDI related reading I’d like to recommend Wonkhe’s “Why can’t we get financial support for disabled students right?” Support to students with a disability is an area often overlooked by Higher Education Institutions and Government – look no further than the Government’s problematic roll out of Universal Credit and it’s accessibility to disabled students across the UK. This is particularly concerning given that it is already twice as likely that a non-disabled student will attain a degree level qualification than a disabled student.
It is Pride month, which is celebrated every June as a tribute to those who were involved in the Stonewall Riots. It is fitting therefore to share with you the American podcast series ‘Making Gay History’, founded and hosted by Eric Marcus, with a focus on US queer history. Eric narrates the fight for equality through extensive archive conversations with those at the centre of it. For centuries global legislation, religious and cultural philosophies, medicine and public opinion amongst other powerful influencers meant that the majority of LGBT+ people were either accepted and silenced, or persecuted. We know that LGBT+ individuals have always lived and walked this earth, as they are often degraded in the earliest versions of text. Centuries of stigma has meant that an accurate record and contextualisation of historical events and LGBT+ societies have been denied, redacted or destroyed from records. If the LGBT+ history could be described as a library, it would be the Library of Alexandria. In this powerful podcast series, Eric is bringing 20th Century LGBT+ stories to life, providing a platform in which to share the voices of the LGBT+ trailblazers who lived the 20th Century. Most importantly, Eric is creating an archive and history in the making. Each episode is approximately 15 minutes long and available for free, I hope you find the series as inspiring as I have. Furthermore, it is important to note that the basic human rights for many LGBT+ people and other marginalised groups don’t exist in many countries, by documenting historical events, it sets a framework to inspire peoples of the future.