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Pressure on NUIG women lecturers from Athena SWAN, research funding link is debated in London magazine

The women junior lecturers’ gender discrimination court cases at NUI Galway have attracted the attention of a UK publication in an article published last week as well as a rebuttal to that article in a letter by Micheline Sheehy Skeffington that was published this week.

Times Higher Education (THE), a weekly magazine based in London, published an article on Oct. 12th arguing that linking an Athena SWAN award to university research fundinis putting undue pressure on the women to accept a settlement. 

According to the article, Kelly Coate, vice-dean of education in the Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy at King’s College London and a former lecturer at NUI Galway, said: “The Athena SWAN programme is being used as a mechanism to bully the women into accepting a derisory offer.”

But Micheline, in her Oct. 19th letter, strongly disagrees. She wrote that:

The pressure resulting from the failure of NUI Galway to receive the bronze award is excellent. Yes, the four women have been pressured by management to accept an inadequate offer, but that is because management itself is under even more pressure. Until the recent mediation, NUI Galway’s management had made no attempt to resolve this matter.

She added:

Continued pressure related to the Athena SWAN award will eventually result in these women receiving what they deserve – not the derisory compensation recently offered by NUI Galway management, but promotion to senior lecturer backdated, as mine was, to 2009.

Below is Micheline’s letter to THE in full:

Athena SWAN pressure will make difference

October 19, 2017

In your article “Athena SWAN funding link under scrutiny”, you report that Kelly Coate has written to Athena SWAN to question the linking of its award to research funding because it has put pressure on the four women taking High Court cases against my university, the National University of Ireland, Galway, for gender discrimination. These cases arose out of my own equality tribunal win for gender discrimination in the same 2008-09 round of promotion to senior lecturer, when 16 men were promoted but only one woman, even though 52 per cent of junior lecturers were women.

I totally disagree with Coate. The pressure resulting from the failure of NUI Galway to receive the bronze award is excellent. Yes, the four women have been pressured by management to accept an inadequate offer, but that is because management itself is under even more pressure. Until the recent mediation, NUI Galway’s management had made no attempt to resolve this matter.

I accept that the Athena SWAN award cannot be tied to an unproven legal case because the university involved could be innocent, but my equality tribunal ruling has already shown that the 2008-09 round of promotion was discriminatory. Furthermore, the ruling mentioned the other women. Despite this, NUI Galway has never agreed to an independent investigation. It was management’s refusal to do this that forced the four women to take their High Court cases (they were out of time to take an equality tribunal case). This is why Athena SWAN must insist that NUI Galway deal with this discrimination before awarding the institution bronze.

Continued pressure related to the Athena SWAN award will eventually result in these women receiving what they deserve – not the derisory compensation recently offered by NUI Galway management, but promotion to senior lecturer backdated, as mine was, to 2009. I am certain of this because through my case I saw the application forms of everyone shortlisted for that round. I saw proof that all four of these women were discriminated against as much as I was.

Micheline Sheehy Skeffington
National University of Ireland, Galway

Click on the link below to read the original article, which appeared in THE’s Oct. 12th issue:

Athena SWAN funding link under scrutiny in discrimination row

Click on the link below to read Micheline’s letter as it appears in the Oct. 19th edition of THE:

Athena SWAN pressure will make difference

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Micheline’s US tour gets off to successful start

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Micheline has successfully completed the first phase of her US tour, speaking and filming in New York, Boston and Connecticut as she retraces her grandmother Hanna Sheehy Skeffington’s epic tour in 1917. At various venues, she connected her talks about Hanna’s striving for justice to her own fight for gender equality at NUI Galway, generating much interest in the campaign to support the promotion of the five women lecturers. She is much appreciative of everyone’s support.

Arriving on the Queen Mary 2 in New York on 7th September, Micheline gave her first talk that evening at the American Irish Historical Association on Fifth Avenue to a packed audience. The film crew covered this event as well as some key places associated with Micheline’s grandmother, including Carnegie Hall, where they met the Director of Archives, who explained the context of the Irish-American community’s hunger for news after the 1916 Easter Rising and their welcome for Hanna;  Ellis Island, where they filmed Micheline being shown the ship’s manifest, which listed Hanna and Owen under their false names; and Glucksman Ireland House, where historian Miriam Nyhan gave a fascinating account of the role Frank Sheehy Skeffington played in meeting many of the Irish diaspora when in the US in 1915.

After three days in New York, Micheline and videographer Eddie Mullarkey continued to Connecticut and then on to Boston, where Dave Barrett of the Irish Cultural Centre in Canton, MA, did them proud. They filmed in  Lowell, MA, where there was a story of a near-kidnapping of Hanna onto a train bound for Canada, and in Boston at Faneuil Hall, which Hanna packed on January 14th, 1917, soon after her Carnegie Hall address. The filming ended with Micheline’s lecture to an enthusiastic audience of American Irish at the Irish Cultural Centre. A discussion arose about how women continue to be ‘airbrushed’ out of history and positions of power, bringing it right up to Micheline’s gender equality win against NUI Galway in 2014.

Micheline has now given two talks in Albany, NY, and one in St. Louis, MO, where, she tells us, the story of her family and her own activism really resonated with the other cultural groups as well as with the American Irish. She will next return east to Maine, via Providence, R.I., to address the American Conference for Irish Studies’ annual meeting in Bangor. She will then work her way to Chicago via Syracuse and Rochester, NY., and Milwaukee, WI, speaking at each venue and travelling by train, as Hanna would have.

Eddie and producer Joanna McMinn will join her again in Chicago for a busy filming schedule leading up to the iBAM! Festival at the Irish Cultural Centre there at the end of October. Later, Micheline will be travelling to Montana, Washington state, Canada and California and then back to New Jersey and New York, finishing her trip at the end of November.

 

 

Leaked offer document reveals NUIG management’s hypocrisy, dishonesty and bullying

The campaign has been sent a copy of the document which details the terms of the final offer to the four women taking court cases. This document, which is appended below, was presented at the last meeting of the university’s Governing Body as mentioned in our previous posting, which also announced NUI Galway’s failure to gain an Athena SWAN award.

Since then, the four women have been under enormous pressure to accept this offer. This pressure has not come just from university management but also from academics, one of them female, with a vested interest in resolving the cases. Dr Elizabeth Tilley, who has been taking a Labour Court case against NUIG for the same promotion round, has accepted an offer made to her, which presumably was similar to this one. The four have been told how unreasonable they are now being and how the University’s Athena SWAN application, and thus all future government grant funding, depends on them being reasonable, etc… But the situation NUI Galway now find themselves in with Athena SWAN is one of their own making. The four women repeatedly delayed starting court cases in an attempt at a resolution, meeting with President Jim Browne several times. He made no offer then. Instead, he told them it was for the women to prove they deserved promotion through the courts!

As well as the hypocrisy of putting the blame on the women, this document is also dishonest and bullying. It is, in fact, typical of the way management has behaved. We will point out five examples:

1. The offer includes €50,000 as compensation ‘in recognition of the administrative flaws identified in the 08/09 SL process’. This is a reference to one of the promoted men in 2008/2009 not being eligible to apply, as revealed by Micheline’s Equality Tribunal ruling. But we have already shown  this was not an administrative mistake, as claimed by management, but a deliberate act by management to promote the ineligible man concerned so he could take up a senior management role. We have so far not revealed all the documents we have which prove this, as some give the name of the individual and we believe he has suffered enough. When management discovered we had these documents (which were sent to management when they were sent to us), Jim Browne wrote to the man and asked him to resign his post because he was not good enough at it!

2. The document detailing the offer fails to acknowledge that the women have a far greater case than simply one man being ineligible for promotion. Micheline has always said that her access to all the application forms through her Equality Tribunal case showed her there were six other men who did not deserve promotion over the women. We have already worked out who four of them must be: three were men recently appointed to the top end of the Junior Lecturer pay scale whose research brought in large grant money. They didn’t qualify for promotion according to the guidelines for the ’08/’09 round but were fast tracked, nonetheless. A retired senior academic has told Micheline he saw a list of individuals with FT written next to some names. We believe that was management arranging for that fast tracking.

3. The offer includes the possibility of the four women’s current application for promotion to Senior Lecturer being assessed by an ‘independent, external academic peer review adjudicator panel’. Well, if NUI Galway can do that for the current promotion round, why can’t they do it for the round of ’08/’09? They still have all the application forms for the four women as well as the men who were promoted – we know that because they had to supply them in Micheline’s case to the Equality Officer, who concluded that Micheline deserved promotion over several of the promoted men (see the ruling). But management has never, ever considered any such investigation into the ’08/’09 promotion round. Why? Because it was corrupt and they were at fault.

4. The document makes reference to a ‘duty of care’ that NUI Galway has towards the academics involved in assessing the ’08/’09 round. This is the most gob-smacking claim in this document. Duty of care? What about their duty of care to the four women they have treated so atrociously? What about their duty of care to all the other women whose careers have been blighted by their misogyny and bullying? What about their duty of care to all the academics, male and female, who have been excluded from promotion because of management’s sole pursuit of large research grants? And what about their duty of care to the poor ineligible guy whom they promoted and then forced to resign when his appointment became an embarrassment? Management are not really concerned with their duty of care to the academics involved in the ’08/’09 selection process – many of whom will now be retired and none of whom are going to be harmed by this. It is themselves that management are concerned about protecting!

5. The document concludes with some typical bullying by management.  ‘As NUI Galway is a public body, it is obliged to seek legal costs against the plaintiffs if it is successful in its defence of the litigation issued against it. These actions are likely to cause extensive cost.’ Thus, management first told the women it is for them to prove they deserve promotion through the courts, then tried to have their cases thrown out on a technicality so they couldn’t put forward the details of what actually happened in the 2008-2009 promotion round, and now is threatening them that if they don’t agree to this offer, then they will be hit with all the university’s legal costs as well as their own. That is both hypocrisy and bullying.

What management utterly fails to understand, and what anyone who thinks this is a fair offer also fails to comprehend, is that the four women simply seek due recognition of their worth, not compensation to make up for it. They deserved to be promoted to Senior Lecturer in ’08/’09. If that round had not been so utterly corrupt, they would all have been promoted. That is how 16 men were promoted in ’08/’09 and only one woman, even though more than 50% of Junior Lecturers were women. These four women also deserved the opportunity to put themselves forward for a professorship, as they could have if they had been promoted to Senior Lecturer. Most of those 16 men are now professors. In a fair system, most of these women, including Micheline, would be professors by now. This is what promotion in academia is really about: recognition by your peers of your academic worth. But at NUI Galway, only 12% of professors are women.

Up until now, this campaign has never called for an independent investigation of the ’08/’09 round of promotion because we believed that any body set up by NUI Galway would not be independent. We knew President Jim Browne would do the same as he did with the ‘independent’ Task Force investigating gender inequality in NUI Galway. He chose all the members himself and included cronies he could trust who knew nothing of gender equality, but would make sure it did what he wanted and no more. But Jim will be retired in three months to be replaced by Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh of UCD. When the new president of the University of Limerick took up his post, he immediately set up an independent investigation into the scandal involving the bullying of women by management that had occurred under the previous president. We now call on the next NUI Galway president, Professor Ó hÓgartaigh, to do the same when he takes up his post. He has nothing to lose by doing this and much to gain. We also encourage the four women to stand firm and let management squirm. What the four women are doing is not solely for them, it is for all academic women, all of whom deserve due recognition of their worth.

Attached below is the three-page document circulated to all members of NUI Galway’s Governing Body:

Udaras Memo 1Udaras memo 2Udaras memo 3

 

NUI Galway’s derisory offer revealed as they fail Athena SWAN application again

At the last meeting of the Governing Body, two weeks ago, to our great surprise NUI Galway revealed the details of their final offer made to the four women last month. These details were supposedly strictly secret, so we have never known what it was that the women turned down, but then NUI Galway circulated the offer to every member of the Governing Body! That means that over 40 people got to see it and the university has been full of gossip about it since. We have still to see the actual document (it can be sent to us via mich3c@gmail.com) and were waiting before we posted a blog. But now we have another development that we strongly suspect is related. NUI Galway has again failed their Athena SWAN application!

Athena SWAN is an award for addressing gender discrimination in higher education and research. The Irish Higher Education Authority has made it a requirement for all Irish universities to achieve the first level, bronze, before 2019 or they will no longer receive government research grants. By this last application only Maynooth and NUI Galway were left not having achieved bronze, so management were desperate for success. But Micheline, and others inspired by this campaign, wrote in to detail the situation for the four women and their impending High Court gender descrimination cases. It now seems we succeeded!

And how are these two developments related? Well, at the start of the mediation process, something that was initiated by management although they tried to hide it, President Jim Browne was that confident they would succeed in bullying the women into accepting less than they deserve, that he announced to the last Governing Body (Údarás) meeting that the High Court cases were sorted. How embarrassing to then have to tell the Údarás that they had not succeeded. And how much more embarrasing when NUI Galway fails the Athena SWAN application again and cites the High Court gender descrimination cases. Management would have known the result before the meeting, as they are told before the public announcement.

And what was the offer to the four women? We hear that it had three elements: a payment of €50,000, a year’s sabbatical with money for someone to take on the lecture duties of the women and ‘a route to promotion’. This ‘route’ we hear, was actually something already available to any lecturer at NUI Galway: to apply for a senior lectureship post elsewhere and, if offered it, to then apply for promotion at NUI Galway on the basis of that offer.

To understand just how derisory this offer was, we should put it into context. When Micheline won her gender descrimination case in 2014 her promotion was back dated to 2009 and she received back pay. For the four women, we estimate that the pay lost will now exceed €90,000 for each of them, it has taken so long to resolve this. Then there is their future pay loss and their loss in pension, which will more than double the sum to at least €200,000, should they not be promoted before they retire. In addition, they have also missed out in the possibility of being awarded a professorship (as has happened to nearly all of the 16 men who were promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2009) and the pay rise associated with that. This would have been one of the reasons the Equality Tribunal awarded Micheline, in addition to her back pay, €70,000 tax free. This was the money she then offered the women so they could take their cases.

For the four women, however, this has never actually been about money, but about NUI Galway’s failure to recognise their worth. What they seek is an admission that in 2009 when 16 men were promoted and only one women, despite over 50% of junior lecturers being women, that an injustice occurred and that they, shortlisted along with Micheline, and like her deemed eligible for promotion and then not promoted, should have been promoted. That’s what is important to them. And it appears that it is also what is important to Athena SWAN. There has been a blatant case of gender descrimination at NUI Galway and it has to be corrected.

To suggest that these four women, all with families, should apply for jobs elsewhere so that they might then be promoted at NUI Galway, is an utter insult. What amazes us most is that University managment actually thought by revealing these details they might be seen as having made a reasonable offer to the women!

We suspect with this latest set-back, NUI Galway will soon be forced to give in and put right the injustice to these women. We hear managment are applying again for Athena SWAN in November. During that application round President Jim Browne will retire, which will hopefully put an end to managment misogyny and the bullying of women. The new president has already been given a warning of what he needs to do. The Irish Times article announcing his appointment gave as much wordage to the need to address the problems for female staff and promote the four, as it did to him.

We are proud of how strong the four women have been. We know what pressure they have been under to capitulate. Now they are starting to get their reward: management running around like a headless chicken!

Micheline sets sail to America

QMii-4

Micheline on the Queen Mary II in Southampton Harbour.

Micheline’s US tour is underway! She set sail on Thursday, following her grandmother, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, to the United States. Hanna sailed from Glasgow with her young son, Owen, Micheline’s father, using false passports. She kept to her cabin for the crossing, fearing recognition, as the British government had banned her from travelling.  Micheline departed from Southampton on the only available crossing this month — aboard the Queen Mary II — and she’s making the most of it. She tells us it’s been blue skies so far, with dolphins following the ship.

Micheline is travelling with Joanna McMinn, who helped arrange her tour. They arrive in

QMII-1-2

At sea with Joanna.

New York soon after dawn on 7th September where Eddie Mullarkey will be stationed to film them disembark. They have a hectic schedule for the first ten days, which Eddie will be filming: Ellis Island, Carnegie Hall, the New York hotel Hanna stayed in, the home of anarchist/feminist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, interviews with historians and curators as well as the lectures and media interviews Micheline will be giving. They will travel by train, again as Hanna did, from New York via Connecticut, where Micheline is to give another lecture, to Boston where she will give at least three lectures.

Micheline is determined that every lecture and interview in the US will reference her ongoing fight against NUI Galway for the promotion of the five women, who, like her, were shortlisted but not promoted in 2009. The women still have not been promoted as they were out of time to take an Equality Tribunal case as she did.  She expects extensive media coverage and has already undertaken more than 10 radio and newspaper interviews with journalists interviewing from the States before she arrives. Here is one of the articles in the  Chicago Sun Times.

The proposed film of the tour “Hanna and Me: Passing on the Flame” now has a producer, Margo Harkin, and director, Sé Merry Doyle, who made an excellent documentary on the feminist doctor Kathleen Lynn.  Joanna’s crowd funding eventually raised €24,000, enough to film everything they want to of Micheline’s tour. They are now hoping to help fund the next stage: Micheline will be encouraging her US audiences to donate to the cost of editing the footage and paying a researcher to assemble archive material of Hanna’s original tour. You can also contribute, if you’d like — Joanna has adapted her crowd funding site so that it can continue and raise the further €20,000 needed.

The eventual film will also reference the gender equality campaign against NUI Galway and include footage from our demos for the five women. The bad publicity for NUI Galway will continue to mount until they give in and promoted them. We hear that the next High Court hearing for the women’s cases against NUI Galway is now unlikely to happen before the end of this year. So when Micheline returns on 22nd November she’ll be in time to support us in making sure the next hearing gets the same large amount of publicity the last one did.

You can follow Micheline’s tour on facebook at hannasUStour, which will have news updates and all lecture details. Or you can follow Micheline herself on Twitter @MichelineShSk.

Dear Supporters: Thank you! (but the work continues)

The Campaign would like to sincerely thank everyone who contributed to the ‘Hanna and Me: Passing on the Flame’ crowd-funding film project. As of the fundraising deadline at 8 this morning, a total of €23,530 EUR was raised by more than 250 backers — 112% of the €21,000 fixed goal!

We are most grateful for your generosity. Raising more than the target amount allows for filming beyond what was originally thought possible. But also, the fact that over 250 people backed the project is a terrific endorsement of it. People want the story to be told – about Hanna and about how her story is so relevant still today, including the campaign to have the five women promoted in NUI Galway.

In fact, because of your generosity we were able to meet the initial fundraising goal on Indiegogo.com, so that allows us to now continue the fundraising. This will allow additional filming of Micheline’s US tour this autumn, leading to an even better documentary film.

With the extra funds raised so far, the film crew can expand their work to:

  • Buffalo, New York, where we now think the attempted abduction of Hanna took place, rather than in Lowell, Massachusetts, as reported in the newspapers at the time.
  • US West Coast, particularly San Francisco, where Hanna’s 18-month tour began to unwind in 1918. The extra funding will allow us to explore how that happened.

Joanna McMinn, a producer of the film who set up the crowd-funding page, is using Indiegogo.com’s option to keep the crowd funding going. Through this option, Micheline will be able to use her lectures and media interviews in America to promote the site. That way it might be possible to gather additional funds to help with making the documentary upon her return.

Micheline and her two-person crew will be working with Loopline, an independent film company based in Dublin. Sé Merry Doyle of Loopline, who will be the film’s director, directed an excellent documentary about another famous Irish feminist, Kathleen Lynn – Rebel Doctor (http://ifiplayer.ie/kathleen-lynn-the-rebel-doctor/).

We wish Micheline, Joanna and cameraman Eddie Mullarkey well and hope they come back from the US with lots of footage to make a great documentary.

 

 

 

Hanna documentary film nearly there!

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Hanna with her son Owen, Micheline’s father, in 1917 on her epic US tour.

The crowd funding to film Micheline following her grandmother’s US tour this autumn has reached €15,000 with 174 separate donations. That is 72% of the €21,000 total! Thank you to everyone who has helped! Micheline and Joanna have now found a production company interested in taking the project on, who have a successful track record with documentaries many of which have been shown on RTE. If they can come to a formal agreement the company will apply for a grant to complete the filming and to produce a documentary about Hanna after Micheline returns from the US.

Donations continue to come in steadily but there are now only 6 days left to reach the total, or the money is returned to the backers by Indiegogo.com. As a result, Micheline is donating €3,000 herself in the hope the remaining €3,000 is offered by others before the deadline of 8pm on Tues 15th. If you want to help, you can do so here. Even the smallest of donation is welcome! Having more supporters is also a further endorsement of the project.

As well as filming some of Micheline’s many lectures, media interviews and receptions, Joanna also plans to film the old hotel in New York where Hanna stayed before giving her first lecture in Carnegie Hall, then in the Carnegie Hall archive room with the archivist, at Ellis Island with a historian, in Boston where Micheline is hosted by the Irish Cultural Centre, at the train station near Buffalo where British agents attempted to trick Hanna onto a train crossing the Canadian border where they could arrest her, at the iBAM! festival in Chicago where Micheline is a headline ‘act’, at the anarchist grave yard where two famous feminist friends of Hanna are buried, and in Butte, Montana, which still has a vibrant memory of Hanna’s visit 100 years ago. They will also film some of the many train journeys Micheline will take, and her arrival in New York by transatlantic liner, as Hanna did.

The documentary will reference Micheline’s historic gender discrimination win and this campaign. Micheline has been invited to give lectures on her case, and the gender inequality at NUI Galway and in Ireland, at several American universities, and for human rights groups. Footage of the benefit concert and other campaign events will be used. Thus, by supporting this project you will also help keep the pressure on NUI Galway to stop the gender discrimination and promote the five women!

Please help the project by donating to Hanna and Me: Passing on the Flame.