Our commitment to equality

The Vice-Chancellor’s response to an open letter from UCU, LGBT+ Staff Network, and LGBTQ+ Student Society

Dear UCU, LGBT+ staff network, University of Leeds LGBTQ+ Student Society

Thank you for your letter.

The University takes its commitment to equality extremely seriously. Whilst we strongly deny the assertion that we have created a ‘hostile environment’ on campus for transgender staff and students, we do recognise we have further to go to alleviate the concerns that have been raised, and want to work with our whole community on this. That is why I asked senior colleagues to speak with signatories of this letter over the past few weeks – to update you on the progress we are making on issues raised.

Work is also underway to develop a new University equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) strategy, which will help ensure our University becomes truly inclusive and a place where everyone is valued and able to achieve their potential. Similarly, if we do need to make changes to the trans equality policy, we will work with our entire community in a spirit of openness and cooperation to ensure the policy is fit for purpose, deliverable and consistent with our commitment to EDI.

You raised concerns about IT systems. We are addressing our current IT systems’ inability to support name changes or rename login accounts as part of a significant investment programme in our IT infrastructure. This is not a problem that can be fixed quickly, although it is a priority. In the meantime, we are undertaking a short project to improve how we address these issues on an individual basis and apply solutions more widely, where we can.

Our position on Gender Recognition Certificates is that we do not require them, nor other such forms of documentation – but we do accept that the position was unclear for a period.

On your question regarding The Big Leeds Conversation, we employed an external company to facilitate the exercise and they confirmed that no comments were removed. Although some comments may have been uncomfortable to read, they were ultimately maintained as a demonstration of our commitment to free speech and to allow those taking part to express their views.

We want to keep you updated on our work on EDI issues. It is also important that colleagues are given the time they need to progress the work in this space and their efforts are not diverted. We therefore commit to providing you a written update every two-three weeks on EDI-related matters. Any correspondence received by senior leaders in that interim period will be considered within the written update, and not responded to individually.

I hope you are assured how seriously we take issues of EDI here at Leeds, and that we are committed to making sure the University is a place where every member of staff and every student is able to flourish and succeed.

With my best wishes

Prof Simone Buitendijk
University of Leeds