Unlike many public authorities, Lancaster University does not have a policy to ensure management's fair treatment of trans staff and students. Following a freedom of information request, Spineless can confirm that the working group responsible for developing Lancaster's trans equality policy has only met once (18 months ago), and has since been suspended.
The Trans Equality Policy working group first met in July 2018, where they resolved to hold monthly meetings, and to work towards producing a policy by September 2019. However, the group never met again, nor has it produced a policy. The University has not revealed the membership of the working group.
In January, the University created the new position of Dean for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) – would this finally trigger some meaningful progress towards the creation of a Trans Equality Policy? Any hope was sadly misplaced. Just after Dr Ann-Marie Houghton took office as the University's first EDI Dean, it was confirmed by a LUSU sabb that the working group has 'been put on hold.'
Trans Equality Policy Working Group update🚨— Grishma Bijukumar (@LUSUVPWC) January 16, 2020
Due to high demands in the University, discussions surrounding this working group have been put on hold. I will be having another catch up with the Uni’s EDI team and will be pushing for this working group to restart again.
It's encouraging to see that LUSU is finally pushing for action on this – in October, Ms Bijukumar refused to meet with local city councillors to discuss issues including the University's failure to develop a trans equality policy. Lancaster City Council had recently introduced a new Transgender Equality Policy for its staff.
Last month's confirmation that the University has suspended the working group came as an Office for Students report published the following concerning findings from a survey of thousands of LGBT+ students across the UK:
- 39% of trans students would not feel confident reporting any homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying to university staff.
- 7% of trans students have been physically attacked by another student or member of university staff in the last year.
- 36% of trans students faced negative comments or conduct from university staff in the last year because they are LGBT. This rises to 60% for negative comments or conduct from other students.
The experiences of trans students at Lancaster are undoubtedly similar, especially after several recent transphobic incidents. The emergence of a fascist 'traditionalist' society on campus last year brought with it transphobic posters plastered along the Spine. And last summer, the LGBTQ+ Forum released a statement condemning a psychology lecturer for expressing transphobic views in the national media.
The University's failure to produce a trans equality policy sadly demonstrates that management has yet to take trans rights issues seriously.