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NUI Galway applies for gender equality award – again. Campaign supporters have until May 17th to voice opinions

The Campaign has learned that NUI Galway has resubmitted its application for an Athena SWAN Bronze award. The university’s application for the gender equality award was rejected in 2015, in the first round open to Irish institutions.

Such an award recognises that the “institution has a solid foundation for eliminating gender bias and developing an inclusive culture that values all staff.” The Higher Education Authority last year stipulated that Irish universities should obtain at least a Bronze award if they are to continue receiving certain funds.

The Campaign feels strongly that NUI Galway does not deserve the award because it has failed to recognise key improvements it needs to make to eliminate discrimination against women. To date, everything NUI Galway has implemented has been to improve the University’s image without addressing the real problem of the culture of exclusion.

An Athena SWAN Bronze award is given to an institution that “recognises a solid foundation for eliminating gender bias and developing an inclusive culture that values all staff: that includes [inter alia] [….] identifying both challenges and opportunities.” The key ‘challenges’ not addressed are outlined below.

Micheline will be sending a letter of objection regarding NUI Galway’s application to the UK-based Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), which manages the Athena SWAN awards. We urge any supporters who feel as we do, particularly if they are a member of staff, student or ex-student of NUI Galway, to also send a letter of objection.

Please send your objections to athenaswan@ecu.ac.uk no later than May 17th. They should be no more than 1,000 words.

The objections must be based on aspects of gender equality that the University is failing to address. Personal examples that you may know of are particularly useful. We would suggest the following points. If you have the time, it would be better to put these points in your own words rather than cut and paste them:

1) — The extreme gender imbalance that occurred in the round of promotions to Senior Lecturer in 2008/09 – 16 men (50% of candidates) and only one woman (6.7% of candidates) – has never been addressed by the University even though it has accepted in its submission that there was a problem. Six women were deemed suitable for promotion in that round, but not ranked high enough to be promoted. Subsequently, Micheline Sheehy Skeffington won a case in November 2014 at the Equality Tribunal on the grounds of gender discrimination and was promoted. Her Tribunal ruling made it abundantly clear that the issues were wider than just her case. In the Tribunal Conclusions (Section 4), the ruling mentions seven men against whom she compared more favourably, but who received higher scores than she did. In addition, three of the other five women are specifically mentioned as having been subject to indirect discrimination on the grounds of gender.

a. The University has never attempted to address this obvious case of gender discrimination and has never conducted an internal investigation of that promotion round. The five women also deemed suitable took court cases only after exhausting all other avenues over six months of trying to get the University to deal with the issue. Therefore, the court cases cannot be used as an excuse by NUI Galway for not addressing this issue. Provision for an independent investigation is made in the form of a Visitor under the Universities Act. Such an investigation should be part of the NUIG self-assessment for addressing gender imbalance in the institution.

2) — NUI Galway policy is now to have at least 40% women in key decision-making positions (see Section 4.4. Organisation & Culture of NUI Galway application).

a.  But in the past two years, four of the five male College Deans have been replaced — by four more men. (The College Deans are the Deans with the real power at the University.)

b.  The Academic Council, the University’s top academic decision-making body, is still more than 80 percent male. Of the 150 Council members, 121 are men, which amounts to 80.7%, and 29 are women, which amounts to 19.3%.

c.  More than 95% of new directors of Institutes and research programmes at the University are men.

d.  Therefore, this policy has not resulted in any substantial change in the representation of women in many of the important decision-making roles.

3) — July 2016 HEA figures show that NUI Galway ranks a clear last of all third-level institutions with 21% female senior staff (Senior Lecturers and Professors). The Irish universities with the highest percentage of female senior staff are Limerick (33%) and Trinity (31%). The rest are: UCD (30%); Maynooth (29%); DCU (27%) and Cork (26%). Highlighting the gender bias further at NUI Galway, only 12% of its Professors are women while 52% of its Junior Lecturers are women.

a.  There has been no substantive change in the percentage of females at the Professor level over the last three years and the number of female Senior Lecturers has fallen since 2015 (see Table 3.2.1 of NUI Galway application).

4) — The mandatory 40% female quota being adopted for the next promotion round is only 1% higher than the percentage of women promoted in the last round (2013/14, see Table 4.3.1 of NUI Galway application). This is not a sufficient policy shift to bring about change and does not reflect the more than 50% female lecturers at the level below that.


Here is the link for NUI Galway’s draft submission: https://www.nuigalway.ie/media/nuigalwayie/content/files/aboutus/DRAFT-Athena-SWAN-Application-March-2017.pdf

The website also includes a copy of an undated “Report on the Athena SWAN Culture Survey.” https://www.nuigalway.ie/media/nuigalwayie/content/files/aboutus/Athena-SWAN-Culture-Survey-report.pdf

The Campaign would like to point out another discrepancy here. The introduction of the report refers to the Culture Survey conducted by the Self-Assessment Team in March 2015. Why wasn’t a Culture Survey conducted in 2017?

The Guidelines for Athena SWAN awards are here: http://www.ecu.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Athena-SWAN-Charter-Post-May-2015-guide-to-processes.pdf. NB submissions must not be anonymous and will be sent to NUI Galway for a response, if considered valid.

Micheline Sheehy Skeffington’s Equality Tribunal Ruling can be read here: http://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/Cases/2014/November/DEC-E2014-078.html



Two years on and NUI Galway still haven’t learnt

When Micheline first won her case, Jim Browne, the University President, said he wasn’t concerned about the resulting bad publicity as it would soon be over, replaced by a positive news story about NUI Galway. Well, here we are, two years later and the fall-out from her win is still causing bad publicity for NUI Galway. That’s precisely because management continues with the same attitude that if they ignore it, eventually it will go away. Instead there’s recently been another flurry of press reports.

Meanwhile, the student supporters of the campaign have set up a table on Tuesdays on the University’s main concourse where they are signing people up for a demo at the upcoming High Court hearing. The campaign plans to hire a couple of buses to take everyone. A mass of students demonstrating outside the High Court in Dublin against NUI Galway is going to result in a  tidal wave of bad publicity. Will management never get it?

table-croped-1The student’s table, next to Smokey’s Café on the main concourse.

The students are fired up about the injustice. There are five other female lecturers who deserved promotion as much as Micheline in the same senior lecturer promotion round in which 16 men were promoted and only one woman, despite 50% of junior lecturers being women.  Micheline says she knows this as she saw the application details and scoring for everyone shortlisted. But management refuse to do anything about it, even to set up an enquiry – instead all they do is delay the resulting court cases. IFUT, the staff union that represent two of the five women, issued a statement last week accusing the university of deliberate delay. In response, NUI Galway issued their own press release claiming that was not the case.

But what are the facts? One of the women, represented by IFUT, is taking a Labour Court case. You’d think that would be straightforward. After all, NUI Galway admitted to the Equality Tribunal that one of the promoted men wasn’t even eligible to apply for promotion while the woman who is taking this Labour Court case was deemed next in line for promotion by the promotion board. Thus, she should have been promoted. But instead, at the initial grievance procedure meeting required by the Labour Court, NUI Galway failed to show up. Then when the actual Labour Court hearing happened, five months later, and the judge asked if NUI Galway were prepared to attend a grievance procedure meeting rather than him making a ruling, they said yes. That hearing was in early May, more than six months ago. There still hasn’t been a proper grievance procedure meeting! We hear that when they did finally attend a meeting last month, the three people representing NUI Galway said they couldn’t do anything as they hadn’t any of the paper work – this is despite one of them being at the Labour Court hearing where NUI Galway had all that paper work! It’s no wonder IFUT then issued their press statement accusing NUI Galway of deliberate delay.

The four other women have to take High Court cases based on gender discrimination. In October, NUI Galway’s lawyers applied for and received permission for a pre-trial hearing that would deal with the legal arguments alone. NUI Galway claimed this was to potentially save the cost of a full High Court hearing but what it will also do, if successful, is prevent the facts from coming out, the reasons for sixteen men and only one woman being promoted – facts that would, if Micheline is right, be very embarrassing for management. The date the four women have now been offered for this pre-hearing is May 4th, 2017! That means that even if NUI Galway lose the pre-hearing, the actual High Court action itself might not happen until 2018! And the University claims they are not delaying things!!

This continual delay is truly awful for the five women concerned, but it is also detrimental for the university. It means NUI Galway continues to get bad publicity. For instance, the students will be there demonstrating outside the pre-hearing as well as any main hearing if that also happens. It means NUI Galway can’t be considered for an Athena Swan award while there are pending legal cases – something the HEA has told universities they have to receive if they want continued funding. It makes no sense. Promoting the five women would cost less than the annual salary being paid to the new Vice President for Equality. That’s a post that seems to be mostly about optics rather than change. But what’s the point of spending all that money on optics when you continue to undermine her by refusing to promote the five women? The only people that seem to gain from this continued delaying are the management themselves. At the rate they are going they’ll all be well out of the place before anything happens. Jim Browne himself certainly will be. He retires at the start of March 2018.


IFUT Press statement: http://www.ifut.ie/content/nui-galway-punishing-women-who-highlighted-gender-discrimination-says-ifut



University tries to shut down this Web page!

NUI Galway’s solicitors have written to Automattic Inc., the company that owns WordPress.com, threatening the company with legal proceedings for defamation. They also wrote to the Micheline’s Three Conditions campaign, using our e-mail address, threatening the same.

In both letters, they cite content from the piece we posted on 9th May titled ‘Continued delay to the court cases of the five women is not in NUI Galway’s interest’ (https://michelinesthreeconditions.wordpress.com/2016/05/09/continuing-delay-to-the-court-cases-of-the-five-women-is-not-in-nui-galways-interest/).

Automattic Inc. told us they are not going to take down our blog as we have not infringed on their terms of service. But still, this is a deeply sinister move on the part of NUI Galway, one that is in line with the recent pressure that, we have been told, they have put on local reporters not to report our activities. It is also typical of the kind of bullying we were highlighting in the piece they challenge.

The obvious question that arises is: Why are they doing all this and why now? The campaign has been running for eighteen months without anything like this from NUI Galway. We have been selling and promoting T-shirts that lampoon the management and the President, criticising them over and again on this Web page and reporting speeches Micheline has made about them, and there has been lots of media coverage. Through all that, there hasn’t been a squeak out of management, but now they are reportedly leaning on the press and have instructed their solicitors to write a letter that cites these five statements as defamatory:

  • ”from what we hear, prevention and delay is a standard strategy for NUI Galway management to court cases arising out of staff grievances”;


  • “doing the same thing with the five women gives the lie to the President’s statement that the reason he could not simply promote them is that there was no legal basis for their promotion”;


  • “…the perception of NUI  Galway as misogynist … “;


  • “…six months ago, the campaign was sent proof of deliberate interference by management in the promotions of 2008/9 “; and


  • “…there is a whistle-blower from senior NUI Galway management who, it is also reported, details fifteen instances of promotion malpractice by NUI Galway”.

The answer, we feel, is in this list. The first three statements are not new; we had already reported Micheline as saying the same, and we have published far worse. Additionally, the whistle-blower mentioned in the last statement has already been mentioned in several news outlets, as we have reported. Consequently, those statements can’t be the real reason for the letter. Thus, that leaves only the statement that we have been sent proof of deliberate interference by management in the promotions of 2008/9. That point has never been mentioned before. So we can only conclude that that must be why they are trying to shut this Web page down and stop the press from reporting our activities.

Management knows what we were sent. We know that because one of them inadvertently told someone they had also received a copy. So why are they panicking like this? Their actions are like a Third World despot who hasn’t caught on yet to how the modern world of the Web and social media works and who doesn’t realise that the Internet can’t be silenced by their usual threats and bullying. So what is it they so desperately don’t want you to know?

The campaign has learnt a lot since it started. Individuals have contacted us, usually via our e-mail address, and shared instances of NUI Galway management interfering with the promotion process and/or bullying. Then there was the piece we were sent for publishing mentioned in the statement which included minutes of university meetings and memos to prove what was asserted. This campaign, however, was set up only to achieve Micheline’s three conditions. It is not our role to force management to resign by exposing their wrongdoing, at least not for its own sake. The way for NUI Galway’s management to shut us up is not through threats but to simply put right the past injustices and promote the five women.

Until they do that, the campaign will continue. And now that NUI Galway’s solicitors have sent threatening letters, we feel we should reconsider our policy and reveal some of the things we know. With bullying, you need to demonstrate to the bully that it will not work. We want them to realise that the more they do it to us, then the more we will reveal. The details we post cannot include any information that Micheline found out from her Equality Tribunal case, or from the court cases now being undertaken by the five – neither of which the campaign is privy to. But there is a lot else we could choose to tell you. We intend to release some of this information on this Website, a few bits at a time from everything we have learnt. We do not expect the site to be shut down because of this – but should it be, we will simply continue elsewhere.

To get our posts as soon as they are uploaded, sign up to the Web page by clicking on the small icon with ‘follow’ in the bottom right of this page. If this site should disappear, you can simply write to mich3c@gmail.com to find out where to go next, or go to the Facebook page run by other supporters of the campaign (www.facebook.com/supportformich). You can also use the e-mail address to send us anything which you know management would not like revealed, or that might help the court cases. We can then pass it on but we will never reveal our sources. Watch this space to see what happens next!

Finally, we can’t resist finishing by sharing with you one last aspect of the solicitors’ letters that points again to the surprisingly old-world thinking of a management which has just boasted with their ‘Bricks and Clicks’ European conference about how savvy NUI Galway is about the modern Internet. When prosecuting someone for defamation, to ensure your case is strong you should inform them of the alleged defamation within ten days of finding it out yourself. Our post went up on the 9th of May – we know they monitor this Web page –  and the solicitor’s letter is dated the 19th of May, so that all seems OK. However, the letter arrived in our in-box at 16.09 on the 20th May. With modern e-mails, you can’t put the wrong date on your letter’s heading and blame the Postal Service for its delay. If it arrived with us on the 20th, it was sent on the 20th! We are not lawyers, so we don’t know how important that mistake is. But we are certain that you cannot prosecute someone for defamation if everything they have said is true – as Oscar Wilde famously found out. So their solicitor’s letter is just bullying which is meant to scare us.

A recent image which encapsulates everything for us was Jim Browne, our ‘glorious President’, giving his boast-filled speech about NUI Galway and modern technology at the Bricks and Clicks conference with a ‘modern’ conference Twitter feed running beside him. It contained all the tweets of complaint, forwarded by the Students’ Union, about management taking down our Secret Cartoonist exhibition during the previous night for the entire audience of European university management to read. To us, NUI Galway management now feels like some tin pot regime, somehow just hanging on, but about to be swept away by the tide of change. All bluster and bullying but really with little power anymore. We append their solicitor’s letter to the campaign. Note how the second page still has the correct date of 20th May 2016. You couldn’t make it up!


How you can help:
1. Forward the link to this post. The more people who see this post, the more powerful it makes our response to the University’s bullying. https://michelinesthreeconditions.wordpress.com/
2. Follow this blog by clicking on the small icon with ‘follow’ in the bottom right of this page. It would also help if the number of people following us doubled because of their bullying.
2. Write to the President and the Governing Body. Complain about the bullying and tell them to promote the five instead. https://michelinesthreeconditions.wordpress.com/write-to-the-university/