Government task force on gender bias welcomed, but at NUI Galway and other Irish Universities, it helps to look at where the power is

In July, the Higher Education Authority issued this year’s figures for gender percentages in Irish Universities and other higher-education institutions. Because this Web page focused on the four female lecturers’ mediation coming to an end at NUI Galway, we made no comment on the HEA report – and we didn’t produce an updated version of our table ranking the Irish Universities. But we found we didn’t need to: This year’s HEA figures got a lot more media coverage than last year’s, including Page One of The Sunday Times and most reports, including RTE‘s, singled out NUI Galway for still being the worst. It’s even come to the attention of the French science monitoring service!

As a result, we were pleased to hear the announcement by Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor that she would be setting up a Task Force and was inclined to implement gender quotas in promotion to correct the imbalance in Irish Universities. We hope the Minister will note what happened at NUI Galway when an Equality Task Force was appointed in 2015. President Jim Browne made much of the Task Force and the resulting adoption of gender quotas at NUI Galway. But where are we two years later? We have a new promotion round this year from Junior to Senior Lecturer where the gender quota adopted is 40% – just 1% higher than the percentage of women promoted in the last round and 12% lower than the percentage of Junior Lecturers who are women. If it is to have any meaningful effect, the minimum gender quota adopted by the new Task Force must, at the very least, reflect the percentage of women in the positions from which they are being promoted. The quotas should also apply to appointments from outside.

NUI Galway has a sorry record of proclaiming improvements for women and then backtracking on its commitments – as Micheline keeps pointing out.  President Browne also likes to claim that the 2015 HEA report into gender discrimination, commissioned shortly after his Task Force was formed, somehow came about through his efforts and not because of Micheline’s Equality Tribunal win. That HEA report made many excellent recommendations, including regarding the appointment of University presidents, which it considered critical in order to effect real change in the third-level sector. Regarding appointment criteria for president, candidates should have ‘demonstrable experience of leadership in advancing gender equality’ and this should be ‘included in the recruitment criteria and the framework for evaluating the performance of candidates’ (p. 47). We have learned that, at a meeting where the process of the replacement of Jim Browne as President was discussed, NUIG Governing Body instructed NUIG management to implement this HEA recommendation. However, it was subsequently ignored, as is apparent from the ad and on-line brochure for the NUIG presidency. It says it all. So much for NUI Galway being ahead of the curve on correcting gender discrimination.

Everything we’ve seen so far at NUI Galway has been window dressing to make it look like the University is doing something when actually it is doing very little. They created a Vice President for Equality and Diversity and then must have given her a very limited brief. So, as well as rolling out a hugely expensive unconscious bias training programme, which has yet to prove its worth, they have increased the number of women on some committees and on the management team, so that at least some percentages look good.

However, if you want to assess change, you should look at where the power is. It was notable in the recent HEA figures that every single Irish university continues to have a man as President – as they always have. At NUI Galway, every College Dean, virtually every head of a Research Institute as well as the Registrar – the only posts with real power besides the President – is still a man, despite at least a dozen appointments in the last couple of years. Things will have changed when half of them are women.

We gather that the final short-list for the Presidency comprises seven candidates, of whom two are women. What are the chances of either woman being offered the post?

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Hanna and Me: Passing on the Flame: There are only 12 days left to raise the amount needed to fund the documentary film about the centenary of Hanna Sheehy Skeffington’s courageous speaking tour of the US in 1917. To help Micheline follow her grandmother and tell her own campaign story in the US, please support the crowdfunding here.

 

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Mediation finally fails

The mediation that has been ongoing between NUI Galway and the four female academics taking High Court cases for gender discrimination in the 08/09 promotion round to senior lecturer has finally ended in failure. It began with an adjournment two days before the hearing on May 4th in which NUI Galway were attempting to have the cases thrown out on legal grounds alone. Despite their subterfuge, we were able to show that the mediation had been initiated by NUI Galway, even though they had nothing to lose in that hearing. We believe NUI Galway backed down and went for mediation, after years of refusing to negotiate, because they wanted to avoid the demonstration we planned for outside the High Court (this video will show you why!). The campaign effectively had NUIG management trapped and they knew it: whether they won or lost, NUI Galway’s hypocrisy would be exposed in all the national media. Having insisted all these years that it was for the five women to prove the injustice in court as there was nothing management could do to put it right, this hearing for four of the women’s cases would have shown management were attempting to stop the women from doing that.

The 08/09 round of promotion to senior lecturer at NUI Galway was corrupt: we’ve shown how five undeserving men were promoted and Micheline says there are seven in all. That’s why only one woman was promoted in that round against 16 men, even though more than 50% of the junior lecturers were women. That’s also why management has never attempted to investigate what went on in that round despite admitting there was a problem. They know it was corrupt because, as we have shown, they were involved.

To be fair to them, it’s not really the campaign who now have them trapped — management have mostly done it for themselves. Since President Jim Browne came to power in 2008, six months before the corrupt round of promotions, NUI Galway’s policy has been to fight everything and never give in. In dealing with the unions, grievances with staff and any legal challenges, this management always fight to the bitter end. Senior staff often comment on how the previous president would have had the sense to resolve the matter by promoting the women. Instead the present management, under President Browne, are once again trying to wear down their opponents and bully them into giving in. The campaign is not privy to details of the mediation, but we feel certain that this bullying attitude is the reason the mediation went on so long and still ended in failure.

In any abusive relationship, the abused party has to find the courage to stand up and name the abuse for what it is. It is the female staff at NUI Galway who have particularly suffered under the present regime, as is usual with male bullies. First Micheline, and then the five women who were also shortlisted in the 08/09 round, have had the courage to stand up and face down management. They are doing this for all of the staff at NUI Galway, particularly the women. You can show your support by resolving now to be part of our demonstration outside the High Court for the rescheduled hearing sometime this autumn. If we can manage an impressive demo, we believe management will finally have to agree to what the women want. We know the women are not being greedy, want no more than the injustice corrected and are willing to compromise. Management really want the bad publicity to go away – but to get that they have to realise that bullying is not going to work this time.

With the meditation over, Micheline and this campaign can again publicise NUI Galway’s gender discrimination. Micheline’s lecture tour of the US will ensure there are many opportunities, starting with coverage in Ireland during August before she goes, then in the US with media coverage of the tour there, and then again here when she returns in November. Every time she speaks to the media or gives one of the many lectures about her grandmother’s famous tour, Micheline will also reference the campaign and the injustice for the five women. AS will the documentary about Hanna she plans. You can support what she is doing and help highlight the gender discrimination at NUI Galway by contributing to the crowd funding to film the tour, for the documentary Hanna and Me- Passing on the Flame.

Micheline’s US Tour takes shape

The Dreamland Auditorium in San Francisco,  capacity 8,000, which Hanna filled for the second time today, 16th July, 100 years ago.

Micheline’s tour of the US following her grandmother Hanna’s historic tour 100 years ago now has an outline itinerary, shown below.  Invites have come in from universities, historical societies, Irish American centres and feminist organisations. Their generous offers of financial support are enough to cover all of Micheline’s own costs. The crowd funding to film key sections of the tour has also gone well, with more than half the €21,000 raised from over 130 donations. However, as there were only 7 days left to reach the target – or forfeit all the pledges and get nothing – Joanna McMinn, who is organising the project, has extended the period by the maximum that Indiegogo allows – another 25 days.

Micheline departs – sailing to New York as her grandmother did – on Aug 30th. She has had to pay for the flights and accommodation to film the first section of the tour: through New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. That means we need to find the remaining €9,500 to be able to pay her back as well as to ensure filming in Chicago and the West Coast. Can you help or can you share Hanna and Me – Passing on the Flame  with any feminist networks or friends who might be sympathetic?tour itinery

Micheline will accept further invitations to speak or media interviews, provided they work with this schedule and are for towns and cities Hanna visited. She will particularly welcome invites from Irish American societies, feminist organisations and alumni or other organisations associated with NUI Galway. Please contact the hannasUStour facebook page. Or write to mich3c@gmail.com. Further details will appear on the facebook page nearer the time.

You can find out more and donate to the film project here.

Mediation is extended again

The adjournment of the High Court case has been extended for another two weeks to allow mediation between the four female lecturers and NUI Galway to continue. Neither Micheline nor the campaign is privy to the details of the negotiations, but the longer the mediation continues, the more hopeful we become. Micheline knows how strong a case these women have because she’s seen how corrupt the 2008/2009 promotion round was, through her own Equality Tribunal win. The tribunal hearing was held behind closed doors, but the campaign has since uncovered much of that scandal — the worst of which we have yet to reveal. So we, too, know how strong a case these women have.

The longer the mediation goes on, the more confident we become that the women will have the courage to hold their ground, to stick by what’s right. If they do that, then, inevitably, the women are going to get what they deserve because university management also knows how corrupt the ’08/’09 round of promotions was. That’s why they’ve never offered an independent enquiry to resolve the problem. But NUI Galway’s recent record in negotiations is one of first trying to bully people into taking less than they deserve.

Hopefully, the university will finally offer the women what they are due as part of this mediation. If they don’t and the pre-trial hearing is rescheduled, we will continue to be fully behind the women. We will again organise a massive demonstration to ensure that the hypocrisy of NUI Galway is revealed. Micheline is prepared to fly back from her US lecture tour to be there. However, we don’t think it will come to that. They will have to give in again. Management are trapped and they know it. If the women win the pre-trial hearing, the full hearing will expose all the scandal. If NUI Galway win the pre-trial, then their hypocrisy is exposed in all the media. President Jim Browne said it was for the women to prove they deserved promotion in court, as Micheline had, but everyone will see how NUI Galway have prevented the women from doing that.

Please stand firm, with us, in your commitment to support these women. You can show your support by helping fund Micheline’s documentary, which publicises the campaign. She now has nearly half of the funding needed.

 

What you can do today to help the five female lecturers.

The only reason NUI Galway have extended mediation with four of the female lecturers for two weeks is our campaign. Management’s usual strategy is delay, delay and yet more delay. But with the campaign involved that means yet more bad publicity. You can help put even more pressure on them with a donation now to the filming of Micheline’s US Tour. Every donation, even a few euros, is another demonstration of what they’re up against!! Please help us by clicking here.

Although, Micheline’s tour follows her famous grandmother and is about Hanna’s fight for justice, every lecture, every media interview and the documentary will reference the campaign and the injustice for the five women. Your crowdfunding donation helps this to happen plus is a show of support for Micheline and the women. Hundreds of backers, even a thousand, that’s a hell of a strong show of support that we can wave at the university!

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Mediation extended!

The Irish Examiner has reported that the mediation between the four female lecturers taking High Court cases and NUI Galway has been extended for another two weeks!  It seems our previous post on Tuesday reporting how it had failed and detailing what we had heard about NUI Galway’s Machiavellian moves may have done some good! We hope this time NUI Galway have the sense to treat the women seriously. As we made clear in our last post, in the short term NUI Galway may have gained by stopping our demo outside the High Court against their hypocrisy, but in the long term they were worse off because the campaign was not going to go away. We would be there demonstrating at the next hearing, when ever it happened, and in the mean time Micheline would be touring the US telling everyone about the gender discrimination at NUI Galway and then making a documentary about it.

All five of the female lecturers have a very strong case. So they are right to stand firm and insist on getting what ever they’re asking for. Most of the facts that Micheline used for her Equality Tribunal win applies equally to them. In fact one of the women has an even stronger case as she was ranked higher than Micheline by the examination board. She was ranked highest of those not promoted. Because Micheline’s case revealed that one of the men promoted wasn’t even eligible to apply, this woman opted to take a Labour Court case rather than the expense of the High Court, arguing that she should be promoted in his stead. We hear that case is also on hold, presumably while the mediation with the four happens.

We in the campaign are not privy to what is going on in the mediation but we wish them all well. What they are doing is very brave. High Court proceedings are very expensive and NUI Galway has bottomless pockets. But NUI Galway also really cares about its reputation and there’s a lot of scandal which will be exposed in any public court cases.

If you haven’t done so already, please support the filming of Micheline’s US tour for the documentary by clicking the picture opposite this post on our web page or here.

Mediation fails – the fight for justice and gender equality goes on.

The mediation between NUI Galway and the four women taking High Court cases for gender discrimination in promotion has failed. A report of the failure will be published in the High Court on Thursday and another date for the pre hearing will then be arranged.

It means the four women’s cases have been delayed yet again. They had to wait more than six months for the previous date. They will also incur substantial legal costs for their lawyers’ time in mediation. And of course, in addition, the demonstration against the hypocrisy of NUI Galway that Micheline and the campaign had worked towards for six months didn’t happen. We now estimate that at least 200 and perhaps 400 supporters would have been outside the High Court on the day, and television, national papers and even the The Times of London were going to cover it. Obviously the four women are pretty disappointed, as are we.

We are told that neither party initiated this mediation, which we find hard to believe. The four women certainly didn’t – they knew nothing of it till 5.30pm on the Friday before the court hearing. However, President Jim Browne walked into the meeting of the university’s Governing Body at 2pm smiling and announced that things were moving with the court case and that he didn’t expect it to be a problem. We’ve also been told university management appeared to be making no preparations for the court case or demonstration during any of that week, as if they knew they weren’t going to happen.

Someone who fought a long legal case with NUI Galway tells us that they were treated to tactics by NUI Galway’s lawyers that were similar: surprise legal moves at the last moment, the stress of having to deal with decisions over the weekend, being cut off from their support, bullying and delay.

Micheline and the campaign didn’t hear about the adjournment for another four days. That’s because the women were advised to tell no one while they considered what to do. By then it was too late for us, or their unions, to suggest caution and that they should ask for some guarantee from NUI Galway’s management to show that they were serious. Instead, all we could do was hope for the best.

We fully understand why the women agreed to mediation. Preparing their cases has taken a lot of time and caused them a lot of stress. They all have families as well as full time jobs, so of course they would welcome a resolution. We know they were prepared to compromise and we would have supported them in what ever they accepted. What really annoys us, is not the fact that NUI Galway seems to have been so Machiavellian but that the university management then offered them what must have been peanuts in the mediation. We don’t know the details as the women had to sign confidentiality agreements, but we know they all turned it down without question. NUI Galway are loaded with money, they have 57 million euro sitting unused for years in their foundation , they spent  €700,000 on the office of the new Vice President for Equality, but they couldn’t find their way to offer these four women anything they could accept. That smacks of bullying and vindictiveness to us.

So the fight must go on. Personally we feel a renewed sense of determination because of the way NUI Galway have just behaved. If you do also then please make a resolution now that when the High Court case comes around again you will be there with us demonstrating against NUI Galway’s actions. We are convinced that justice will win out if we don’t give in.

You might also consider supporting the filming of Micheline’s US tour. The eventual documentary, as well as her lectures and media interviews in the US, while primarily about Hanna Sheehy Skeffington’s fight for justice and equality, will also cover Micheline’s own campaign for the five women and for gender equality at NUI Galway. Let’s ensure that NUI Galway management are kept uncomfortable while we wait for the next High Court hearing.

Please share this post. It’s important that everyone knows that this injustice hasn’t gone away – that’s what university management want!

Note: this post initially reported that the mediation failure would be posted at the High Court on Tuesday. It will be Thursday. We apologise. We are not allowed to talk to the four women involved until the mediation is over so we have to rely on other information.