The approach of NUI Galway’s management in dealing with recent gender equality issues has become increasingly bizarre in the last week as the university continues to respond to dreadful press coverage, criticism from TD’s and Senators, staff and student protests and negative story after story by repeatedly announcing that it has a “task force” or is setting up a ‘review’
The university made national headlines in the last few days as a story first printed in The Connacht Tribune that a pre-screening questionnaire asked such questions as “Do you suffer with any problems with your menstrual periods? Do you suffer any breast problems? Have you ever been treated for gynaecological problems?”. The university responded to claims that this bordered on misogynistic by saying that it’s questionnaire equated to “best practice internationally”. It also announced that it would suspend the questionnaire pending a ‘review’ (read the full story)
The university’s bad press fire fighting has become so comically common that it has begun inspiring satirical commentary with a Facebook account under the heading “University President” providing a light-hearted portrayal of what the university has come to represent to many within the staff and student body
After a huge demonstration on Wednesday (read more) last demanding independent and transparent investigation into Gender Equality issues at the university, the management announced on Thursday the composition of its ‘independent’ task force, the members of which were appointed by the management itself and is largely comprised of academics from within the university and whose parameters were also set by the management. Presumably there are no professors of English on the task force who might have been able to provide a more accurate definition of “independent”. Nevertheless, the university announced the composition of it’s independent task force with no less aplomb that the previous 5 times it had announced that it had a task force.
Indeed, regardless of what the problem might be, the university is only to happy to initiate its own review and even happier to announce it. On the day of the previous demonstration on January 30th in which demonstrators demanded the promotion of the 5 women left unpromoted in the previous round as well as the accepting of Micheline’s three conditions (https://michelinesthreeconditions.wordpress.com/the-three-conditions/the-campaign-for-michelines-three-conditions/ )The university relieved all our fears by refusing to accept the conditions but announcing instead? You guessed it – a task force! (yes the same one) but not only that, that task force now had a head – Dr. Jane Grimson
In late December, as the university responded to a petition signed by 2,700 people demanding change. As news spread that it was (and still is) appealing a case against Mary Dempsey (read about Mary Dempsey) which it had previously lost at the equality tribunal. The university management announced it was taking concrete action and calling for…….. a review, but not just any review, a BIG review, a review done by the HEA or the Department of Education of the whole higher education sector.
In December of last year, as the university struggled to deal with the bad press from the fallout of its loss of a case at the gender equality tribunal to Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, it announced that there would be a task force! and that she would be on it. Though they later withdrew this as they had forgotten to check with her first (read more).
So, even if its unclear who makes the decisions at NUI Galway, even though its unclear why they need to know about women’s menstrual cycle, even though we may never know why they spend thousands of euro fighting women in the high court and appealing at the equality tribunal. Though you may feel bewildered how an independent task force could be appointed without any independent representation. Though you may wonder why 87% of professors at NUI Galway are male, why the academic council is 81% male and why it is the second worst in Europe for the glass ceiling index.
There is one thing that we know with absolute certainty.
The university has a task force.