There was an impressive feeling of solidarity, commitment and determination as a large number of students gathered outside of the Aula Maxima at NUI Galway to protest against the university’s deplorable record on gender discrimination.
Protesters were in high spirits and stayed for over an hour and a half in cold conditions after a decision by the university management to postpone the meeting in the hopes that the crowd would have dispersed by the time that the Governing Authority members arrived.
That did not happen, instead a number of speakers including Rebecca Melvin of the Student’s Union and Dr. Micheline Sheehy Skeffington applauded the determination of those present to stay the course until the demands of students and staff are met
As Governing Authority members arrived, chants of “Gender Equality Now” and “Promote the 5” reverberated around the natural amphitheater created by the the stone walls of the historic quadrangle
Those inside the meeting were left in no doubt that this is an issue that will not go away, that those who are prepared to stand up will not be silenced and that this campaign will run and run until gender equality is taken seriously by the university.
As some protesters conversed with a senior member of management in the entrance to the meeting, It became clear that what we are fighting against is not only a systemic oversight, but a deeply ingrained mindset which sees women as lacking in the characteristics necessary for success and sees natural care giving characteristics and roles such as child rearing as a “disadvantage”. It is clearer and clearer that this is a university predominantly concerned with an ethos based on overworking, centralized decision making and cold hard cash.
Many students at the protest were left wondering what is the role of the student in this university?
Are students voices of importance?
Are academics outside of the Golden circle valued?
Are representative bodies such as unions valued?
The university seemed to answer many of those questions with its own announcements yesterday
In another insight into the ideology of the university’s management, which seems to not be too distinct from its approach towards the promotions procedure, Professor Jane Grimson was announced as the Head of a new Task Force at the University without any consultation with SIPTU, concerned students or the campaign.
Nevertheless, there is hope that Professor Grimson will rigorously and independently carry out her role and step out of the domineering shadows of those who appointed her.
The unversity also announced that it has refused all appeals for the 2014 round of promotions.
The hope is that some of these individuals will have already taken their cases to the Equality Tribunal since the university waited for this deadline to pass before making the announcement that it was refusing the appeals.