Tag Archives: women lecturers

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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NUI Galway will negotiate with women lecturers: Thursday’s High Court pre-trial hearing and demonstration cancelled

 

The Campaign has just learnt that the four female lecturers and NUI Galway have agreed to mediation.

As a result of the agreement, the pre-trial hearing regarding the gender inequality case that was scheduled to be held on Thursday May 4th in the High Court in Dublin has been adjourned. So the student demonstration outside the High Court that was planned for Thursday has also been cancelled. However, because Micheline is concerned that some people may not receive or hear this news, she intends to still be there outside the High Court in Dublin at 11.30 am on Thursday to explain and thank anyone who turns up.

The four women who are lecturers at NUI Galway had sued the university last year, saying they were not promoted to senior lecturer in the 2008/09 promotion round because of their gender and, with this pre-trial hearing, the university had been trying to have the case dismissed.

The Campaign would like to thank everyone who contributed their time, hard work and money to the women’s fight. It is because of YOUR commitment that this has become such a high-profile case. We believe this is why the university and the women are now undertaking mediation. It is because of YOUR support that the women’s voices are being heard. We thank you immensely for everything.

The Campaign will stand aside while the women seek what they require through mediation and we are wishing them well. If they are satisfied by the outcome, we will celebrate but not be triumphalist about it. But if they are not satisfied with the outcome, the Campaign will continue until they get justice. So please watch this website for future developments.

Thank you again to all our supporters!

Micheline in Village magazine: ‘NUI Galway is actually worse, much worse, than others’

SUMMARY: In case you missed it, Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington has written an excellent article in the January 10th, 2017, edition of the Village magazine about the lack of progress regarding gender equality at NUI Galway since winning her gender equality case at the Equality Tribunal in November 2014. The article, titled “Gender-isory: Not much has changed in NUIG on gender equality, two years after successful EAT case”, details the ongoing problems at the university. 

Quoted below is an excerpt of the article:

mich-crop

Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington

 

My case was a landmark case partly because, despite being in the public service, universities have a lot of autonomy, as they should. However, this has led to a lack of transparency in processes such as the promotion and appointment of academics. This has in turn led to an abuse, or perceived abuse, of power. The universities have been getting away with this for a long time now. 

 

 

 

 

The article is reprinted here in full on this page or you can read it and view accompanying photos and a graph by clicking on the following link:

http://villagemagazine.ie/index.php/2017/01/gender-isory/

Gender-isory

Not much has changed in NUIG on gender equality, two years after successful EAT case

This November marks the second anniversary of my successful gender equality case at the Equality Tribunal against NUI Galway for its failure to appoint me to the post of Senior Lecturer. It was hailed as a landmark case and should have been a call to arms, not just for NUI Galway, but for all third-level institutions. However, the awakening is slow and I doubt that much has changed on the ground – or in attitudes amongst university management.

Currently, many staff in NUI Galway are disillusioned and afraid. Few staff feel able to challenge the authorities. Many are in precarious posts or worried they won’t be promoted. Some staff, I gather, have been reprimanded for speaking out. Fear has filtered through to the students. Recently a society was told it could not display images of Jim Browne, the NUI Galway President in its ‘Mr Browne’s Boys’ cartoon T-shirts at a table supporting five women lecturers pursuing similar litigation. Last April a cartoon exhibition to raise funds and awareness about the five women was booked on campus by the Students Union, but was taken down by Security in the middle of the night.

My case was a landmark case partly because, despite being in the public service, universities have a lot of autonomy, as they should. However, this has led to a lack of transparency in processes such as the promotion and appointment of academics. This has in turn led to an abuse, or perceived abuse, of power. The universities have been getting away with this for a long time now.

However, change comes slowly because university management is not answerable to any board of trustees or shareholders. The governing bodies seem powerless or unwilling to effect change. Ireland has an appalling international record for gender equality in academia. It has been ranked second worst in Europe after Malta for its Glass Ceiling Index in academia. Irish third-level institutions have a lot of catching up to do.

I donated my €70,000 award to five other women who, despite being fully deserving of promotion, had been unsuccessful. Their course of action is far more difficult, with only the High Court as an option because the Equality Tribunal deadline was long past. What I find extraordinary is that the university, instead of conceding errors were made, has chosen to spend large sums of taxpayers’ money fighting these women in the courts through an on-going, protracted and emotionally draining, to say nothing of financially stressful, legal wrangle.The facts were stark in NUI Galway when I took my case in 2009. The proportion of successful applicants was stunningly different for men and women. 50% of male candidates were successful compared to the 6.7% of female candidates who were successful (see Table 1). Summing up twelve points in my favour, the Equality Tribunal ruling highlighted that “perhaps the most significant frailty in the respondent’s [NUI Galway’s] rebuttal” was that in all four recent rounds of promotion to Senior Lecturer combined, men had a one in two and women less than a one in three chance of being promoted. One successful man had not even been eligible to apply.

The Equality Tribunal ruling specified that NUI Galway should send a report to what is now the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission within 12 months of the ruling. I recently got hold of this and am stunned at what took them 13 months to deliver. It comprises two parts, the larger part being an appendix. The first part, three pages long, sets the tone in stating that “a review had already been underway” but fails to specify that this ‘review’ was actually completed in 2011, three years before the Equality Tribunal ruling and is in fact referred to in the ruling.

The first part goes on to repeat the recommendations from that report and devotes one page to the recommendations for the 2013/14 round of promotions, initiated a year before the ruling. No reference is made to the fact that 20 of the candidates deemed suitable but not promoted in that round appealed and that only 18% of female candidates were promoted compared to 35% of male candidates. The consultant’s report commissioned on the back of these appeals is not available even under Freedom of Information (FOI).


There was a burst of outrage in the university on foot of my successful case and the action taken by the five other women. The injustice to the five women was immediately raised at the NUI Galway Údarás (Governing Body). I understand the discussion was heated. However, the minutes of that elevated body are only available under FOI where, as part of the process, any useful information has been redacted. Several heated meetings of the NUI Galway Academic Council, that comprises professors, deans and heads of school, and so is overwhelmingly male, resulted in nothing. It was told it was powerless to change matters.

Large numbers of students joined the campaign to support the five women, horrified to learn that they had not been promoted. “I am joining the campaign because [name of one of the five women] is the best lecturer I’ve ever had” was a common refrain. The Students Union and both staff unions gave their full support and 26 student societies signed up in solidarity to the campaign. This support continues.

What has happened since? A task force was established with much public fanfare and it delivered its final report in May 2016. This was hard-hitting, if limited, since it did not address the position of the five women or focus on non-academic staff, where matters are even worse.

The recommendations of the task force are not faring particularly well. It recommended that 50% of the “major influential” committees should be chaired by women by 2018. However, College Deans (all men) chair such committees and three of them were recently replaced by three more men. The task force suggested a cascade system of promotion. This is being watered down. Although 52% of lecturers are women, only 40% and not 52% of those promoted are required to be women, according to Equality Manager Aoife Cooke.

A new Vice President for Equality and Diversity has been appointed with a starting salary of €106,000 per annum. She may bring about some change, but I have always queried the necessity for this new post that costs more than it would to promote the five women. Sadly, the new Vice President appears to be focusing not on results but on the message that “NUI Galway is no worse than any other university”. This sums up the university’s concern. Image supersedes staff welfare. They are even planning to apply for an Athena Swan award, that recognises advancement of gender equality in universities, while continuing to fight the five women in the Courts. NUI Galway is actually worse, much worse, than others, as HEA figures show.

The Higher Education Authority set up an expert group on gender issues and its report, published last June, includes gendered statistics for Higher Education Institutions. This year’s rankings show NUI Galway, with 21% female senior staff (Professors and Senior Lecturers) to be a clear 6% lower than the next in line, UCC with 27%. These rankings, however, are never referred to and other rankings don’t include gender balance in their metrics. One can only hope there will be competition to avoid being bottom of the list in the rankings, thus bringing about at least some real improvements for female academics.

 

In latest stall tactic, NUIG gains approval for pre-trial hearing

Just the legal arguments, not the facts?

SUMMARY: As noted on this website on July 22nd, NUI Galway applied recently to the High Court seeking a pre-trial hearing of the cases being taken by the four female lecturers who are suing the university on the basis of gender discrimination in the 2008/9 round of promotion to Senior Lecturer. The judge ordered the preliminary hearing yesterday, as reported in The Irish Times. The Times story, which follows below, is mired in legalese, but basically the ruling means the judge considers that most of the issues in the women lecturers’ case can be decided independently of factual matters at the hearing. This is a stall tactic that is typical of the university, which is trying to prevent the facts of the case from coming out. It remains to be seen what will be decided at the pre-trial hearing, but this is only the beginning of the women lecturers’ fight for their right to be promoted. We’re not giving up.

Judge orders preliminary hearing in NUIG discrimination case

Four female lecturers alleging gender discrimination in a competition for promotion

The Equality Tribunal found in 2014 that NUIG lecturer, Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, was discriminated against on grounds of gender. File  Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy/The Irish TimesThe Equality Tribunal found in 2014 that NUIG lecturer, Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, was discriminated against on grounds of gender. File Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy/The Irish Times

A judge has granted an application by National University of Ireland Galway(NUIG) for a trial of preliminary legal issues before a full hearing of actions by four female lecturers.

They are alleging gender discrimination in a competition for promotion.

The preliminary issues centre on whether the lecturers’ claims can be dealt with by the High Court or must they be first determined by the Workplace Relations Commission and/or Circuit Court.

Mr Justice Donald Binchy on Tuesday granted the college’s application for a preliminary trial. A date for that will be fixed later.

Lawyers for the lecturers had argued the issues would be most appropriately dealt with at a full hearing as the cases raises “complex issues of Irish and EU law” and “matters of national public interest”.

In his brief ruling, Mr Justice Binchy said he considered most of the issues could be decided independently of factual matters at a pre-trial hearing.

Those include whether the Employment Equality Acts modify the lecturers contracts of employment to include an implied contractual right to gender equality and/or confer a cause of action for alleged breach of contract which can be heard by the High Court.

If the answer to that question is yes, the judge said the High Court should also decide whether the Acts require that any proceedings for redress for alleged breaches of rights be heard by the WRC or Circuit Court or could a claimant also seek redress under common law.

Other issues are whether EU law gives rise to an independent cause of action for damages in the High Court for alleged breach of an implied contractual right to gender equality and whether the Universities Act gives rise to a cause of action in the High Court for breach of contract.

Statute barred

Another issue concerning whether the lecturers’ cases were statute barred (brought outside the legal time limits) may involve mixed issues of law and fact, the judge noted. If the judge hearing the preliminary issues considered the statute point could not be determined without a full hearing, that issue would go forward to the full action, he said.

He will give a written judgment later outlining his full reasons for directing a trial of preliminary issues.

The cases arises after Dr Sylvie Lannegrand, Dr Rosin Healy, Dr Margaret Hodgins and Dr Adrienne Gorman made unsuccessful applications for promotion to positions of senior lecturer under a promotion process operated by the college between October 2008 and April 2009.

The four say they were treated less favourably by NUIG on grounds of gender and/or family status. They want various declarations including the promotion process breached their contracts of employment and contractual entitlement to gender equality along with provisions of the 1997 Universities Act, the Employment Equality Acts and EU law.

They also want orders promoting them to senior lecturers from July 1st 2009 and associated adjustments to their salaries, pension rights and other benefits effective from that date. They are also claiming damages.

NUIG denies the claims, pleads the lecturers have no cause of action against it in the High Court and the Workplace Relations Commission is the proper body charged with determining complaints of employment discrimination.

The actions were initiated after the Equality Tribunal found in 2014 another lecturer at NUIG, Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, was discriminated against on grounds of gender during the same promotion process.

The college was ordered to promote Dr Sheehy Skeffington, pay her €70,000 and review its appointments system.

And here is the link to the actual story in The Irish Times:

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/courts/high-court/judge-orders-preliminary-hearing-in-nuig-discrimination-case-1.2734943

Secret Cartoonist exhibit taken down hours after President Higgins speaks at NUIG to say colleges must foster ‘capacity to dissent’

Exhibit note

 Note on otherwise blank wall in Arts Millennium building where the exhibit was states: SECRET CARTOONIST EXHIBITION TO SUPPORT WOMEN LECTURERS WAS TAKEN DOWN DURING THE NIGHT BY NUIG SECURITY!! IT WAS SPONSORED BY STUDENT UNION.

How’s this for irony?

The Secret Cartoonist exhibition taking a satirical look at NUI Galway’s management of gender discrimination issues at the university was taken down in the middle of the night – only hours after President Michael D. Higgins, speaking at a conference at NUIG, said it is critical for universities to encourage opposing opinions.

A Gender Equality campaign supporter says the exhibition was still in place Thursday night at 10:30, but was gone by 5 am when the cleaners arrived. Security admit they dismantled the exhibit on orders from ‘management’ but will not say who ordered them to take it down. They also admit that the exhibit was damaged, acknowledging that glass covering one of the cartoons was broken.

NUIG Students Union President Phelim Kelly is furious and fighting for the exhibit to go back up, insisting that the SU has the right to display it. He added that he has a mandate from 26 student societies for the SU to support the Gender Equality campaign.

Meanwhile, nearby in the Bailey Allen Hall where the annual conference of the European Universities Association was being held Thursday, President Higgins said universities are facing an ‘intellectual crisis’ over their role in society.

Universities, he said, must be allowed to flourish as spaces with the intellectual courage to reject dominant ideologies and encourage the seeking of truth from fact, The Irish Times reported.

‘Fostering the capacity to dissent is another core function of the university’, President Higgins said. ‘Third-level scholarship has always had, and must retain, a crucial role in creating a society in which the critical exploration of alternatives to any prevailing hegemony is encouraged.’

Needless to say, the universities still need to do their homework.

The full text of The Irish Times article on the president’s speech is available by clicking on this link: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/president-higgins-universities-facing-intellectual-crisis-1.2602607