For many liberation groups at universities, we’re used to hearing commitments to equality, diversity and inclusion. Actions speak louder than words, though, and for many groups at our university, I fear these platitudes are merely performative.
When it comes to showing support, the University has always shown some form of verbal or visual commitments. For example, the LGBTQ+ rainbow flag is – at the time of writing (beginning of March) – still flying beside Central Hall, even though LGBT+ History Month has passed. Additionally, credit should be given to the University’s Equality & Diversity team for the pages they post, such as the calendar and information page for Black History Month published earlier this year. It’s also been refreshing to see, more recently, tweets and posts on significant days of pride come from official, main University channels as opposed to just accounts focusing on diversity and inclusion.
Last week was International Women’s Week, where we celebrated and showed love for our favourite feminist icons. The University of York put out a tweet in commemoration, which was later quoted by @PayGapApp stating that “women’s median hourly pay is 18.6% lower than men’s”. Many conclusions can be drawn from this, especially since pay gaps are part of the UCU four fights; one could argue this is just one justification for strike action relating to this dispute.
However, I feel there is a greater need for more action. Whilst the university can tweet their support a thousand times over, this holds nowhere near as much weight as the support that could be given by actually sorting out the pay gap. These actions, some simple and easy to implement, can make all the difference.
A notable, recent example is the University’s trialling of free sanitary products: York Vision reported that the University “[would] be trialling a new programme to provide free student sanitary products on campus” during the Spring Term. This centralised scheme, as opposed to an ad-hoc scheme run by colleges and YUSU, is arguably a far better example of commitment and support to those who menstruate than 280 characters in a tweet once a year.
The bottom line here is that the University should put their money where their mouth is when talking about support and inclusivity. Buzzwords such as “inclusive” and “diverse” are often thrown about flippantly, so if the University is really committed to these then they should show it through meaningful action.