Staff and students are more productive when they have the freedom to be themselves in the Higher Education sector.
This was the overwhelming message to come out of a De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) seminar that brought together three speakers to discuss LGBTQ+ inclusivity.
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Professor Dave Clarke
The #DMUpride seminar was organised as part of a month-long programme of events to celebrate equality and diversity, which continues throughout February.
The audience heard from Professor Dave Clarke, Professor of Nursing at University of Leicester, Dr Zowie Davy, Senior Lecturer in DMU’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, and Chris Hall, DMU’s Head of Equality and Diversity.
They all agreed that the smallest of changes to HE curriculums can make the biggest of differences in getting the best out of people.
Professor Clarke said everyone needed to work together to ‘create a cultural shift’ so that all universities had inclusive curriculums to represent everyone.
He said: “We need to enhance LGBT representation and visibility in teaching and learning activity. This would create an inclusive environment for LGBT staff and students.
“A little difference made to curriculums can make a huge difference to people’s lives.
“We know people perform the best when they can be themselves. All environments need to be completely non-judgemental.”
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Professor Clarke went on to examine the need for lecturers to use inclusive language. For example, examples of diverse forms of families should be used, rather than making heterosexual family assumptions or using out-dated stereotypes.
He discussed a previous project at Cardiff University, which found that LGBT students didn’t feel as safe on campus as their heterosexual counterparts because of the increased likelihood of bullying or harassment.
This project also found that academics lacked knowledge about LGBT issues and didn’t have the confidence to bring up certain subjects through fear of saying the wrong thing. But mostly, he stressed that academics simply didn’t know how LGBT issues could fit into the curriculum.
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Dr Zowie Davy
Professor Clarke also talked about his PhD research titled ‘The Experience of Gay Male Student nurses: Private Lives and Professional Boundaries.’ He discussed how men only made up 10 percent of the nurse population in Britain and gay nurses felt trapped in the ‘straight spaces’ of hospitals.
Professor Clarke, who worked as a nurse for 27 years, said it was ‘hugely problematic’ that gay men did not feel comfortable working in hospitals because of ‘gendered stereotypes and the feminised space of nursing.’
He said: “Stereotypes are very active in nursing.
“Being a gay nursing student in a clinical placement is very different to being at university. Students can be themselves at university, they can be out and open about it, all their friends will probably know they are gay.
“But when they are on placement in a clinical environment they have to hide away their sexuality. They feel that they have to be asexual or heterosexual in terms of performance.”
Dr Davy examined the facilitators of and barriers to LGBT medical, health and social care teaching in HE.
She said: “Teaching does tend to position heterosexuality and gender normality in the HE curriculum.
“We have to become change agents to tackle this. We need to immerse LGBT+ issues in each and every lecture.
“Saying the curriculum is too full or blaming a lack of time or resources are just excuses. We need ‘Pride in Practice’ so we create LGBT friendly spaces.”
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Meanwhile, Mr Hall discussed what DMU was doing to create ‘a body of change,’ highlighting several programmes and policies adopted as part of the DMU Freedom Charter.
He said: “At the end of the day, it is people that matter to us.
“We are providing a welcoming space where everyone has the opportunity to be themselves.”
To find out more about the events being hosted as part of #DMUpride, visit the website to download a brochure.
Posted on Monday 12th February 2018