Racial tension dogs celebrated centre

June 23, 2006

Dean reminds staff of legal duty to promote equality after receiving race-related grievances. Phil Baty reports

The dean of one of UK higher education's most celebrated centres for promoting race equality has admitted that racial tensions among staff are damaging working relationships.

Gwendolen Bradshaw, dean of Bradford University's School of Health Studies, wrote to staff at the school last month warning that they had a duty under the law to "promote race equality and good race relations" and that they must not risk the university's "reputation for promoting equality and valuing diversity".

The school is home to Udy Archibong, who was made Bradford's first professor of diversity in 2004 and who also holds the senior management job of "race equality champion" for the university and runs the Centre for Inclusion and Diversity from the School of Health Studies.

But The Times Higher has learnt that at least five members of staff in the school have taken out race-related grievances.

In her e-mail, Dr Bradshaw wrote: "I am aware that there are tensions within the division of nursing and that these have been exacerbated by speculation about colleagues and their supposed actions.

"I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the sensitivities and complexities of the current circumstances, within the division, and ask that at this time we all extend extra consideration to the colleagues with whom we work in the interests of further harmonious working relationships."

She said: "Can I please in addition remind you that the...

university has an obligation under the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 to 'promote race equality and good race relations', a duty that is also binding upon all staff in the conduct of their professional functions."

She stressed that staff had a right to initiate grievance procedures, which should remain confidential to ensure that they were resolved. She added:

"The university is proud of its reputation... it is in the interests of all colleagues... that this reputation is upheld."

Bill Gulam, chair of the equal opportunities committee of the University and College Union, is representing staff with grievances. He would not confirm the number of cases or details, and said only: "I have been representing a number of UCU members in the nursing school, but I can't comment further as cases are ongoing."

Professor Archibong was not available to comment, but a spokesman for Bradford said that the memo went out to "a number of staff within the School of Health Studies" but he could not reveal their identities.

He said: "We are committed to celebrating diversity and confronting inequality, and these values lie at the heart of our work.

"As part of this commitment, we recognise the need to address concerns of members of staff. We do this through fair and proper procedures, both formal and informal. On this occasion, we have written to staff within the School of Health Studies to encourage greater sensitivity in professional relationships at this time."

phil.baty@thes.co.uk

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