In Brief

Straight white men barred from equality conference

Lecturers' union says gay, disabled, female and ethnic minorities need a 'safe space' to share personal experiences

wd-racism.jpg

Able-bodied straight white men have been barred from a university equality conference to be held later this year.

The University and College Union (UCU) for lecturers has said it will only admit members who identify themselves as gay, disabled, female or an ethnic minority into its summit in November.

The ruling has been heavily criticised by some union members. However, a motion to give representatives the right to attend conferences without having to identify as one of the groups was defeated at the UCU congress in Liverpool last week.

This effectively means "that even equality reps elected by their union branch who did not meet the criteria cannot participate in discussions", says the London Evening Standard.

Disability campaigner Emma-Jane Phillips called the ban "ridiculous".

"To infer that someone does not understand someone's situation just because you don't tick a box is insulting," she told the Times Higher Education.

Ciara Doyle, a senior lecturer in youth and community studies at the University of Greenwich, said the sessions were a unique "safe space" for those with various characteristics to talk openly about their situations, which might otherwise be dominated by those with no personal experience.

"There were strong views on both sides but in the end members felt that it was important that those from minority groups should be able to discuss their issues together," said the UCU.

This is not the first time the union has been embroiled in a controversy over its attendance policy. Last year, the UCU held separate conferences for women, ethnic minority, disabled and LGBT members.

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