Salford staff claim bosses close ranks

November 18, 2005

Managers at Salford University are "complicit in acts of discrimination"

and close ranks to protect each other against misconduct claims, staff have alleged in an equality audit commissioned by the institution.

A report on equality and diversity at Salford, seen by The Times Higher , calls on the university to take "urgent steps" to "ensure that there is management consistency in dealing with cases of misconduct" to help restore trust among the university's black and other ethnic minority staff.

The report, based on survey responses from almost 1,000 staff and students at the university, reveals a "widely held view that there is a policy at executive level to 'protect managers come what may'", and that this is "impacting upon staff morale and engendering distrust" with regard to the university's commitment to equality.

The report, by consultants Gus John Partnership, comes almost two years after The Times Higher reported that the university was facing scrutiny from race-equality watchdogs after a number of tribunal cases against it.

There has been racial tension on the campus. Tony Wentworth, youth leader of the far-right British National Party, is a student there.

The report lists 12 key strengths of the university, including the increasingly diverse student profile, some "unheralded champions" of equality and diversity and a "zest for change".

But there are also 26 key challenges and "opportunities for improvement".

Among these problems, the report identifies "general perceptions of a culture of bullying among managers and the lack of a positive approach to whistleblowing". It says that disabled, black and other ethnic minority staff reported a "keep your head down" approach.

The report says that there was a suggestion that the executive team had been "complicit in acts of discrimination and in protecting managers who have discriminated".

It says: "It remains a matter of some concern... that some staff, black and ethnic minority in particular, remain deeply affected by their experience at the hands of managers, yet have no confidence that the institution will do other than support those managers and minimise the importance of their complaint."

It says that while 15 per cent of respondents said they had experienced discrimination, only a quarter of those had complained.

The report is based on 961 responses to a questionnaire, and a further 120 face-to-face interviews with the consultants. It concludes that, in general, the issue of race is "still seen as peripheral, despite the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000".

It says that there is a "general feeling among black staff of being devalued and lacking in worth to the institution".

It was one of the first universities to commit to publishing the full results of the report to staff and students.

A spokesman said the university was giving "urgent and serious consideration" to the issues raised, but added: "We are concerned that a number of the comments received do not necessarily represent the collective attitude or behaviour of the university's leadership and management."

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