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Open letter from Deans for Diversity and Inclusion – University of Reading

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Open letter from Deans for Diversity and Inclusion

Release Date 04 November 2016


An open letter from Prof Ellie Highwood and Prof Simon Chandler-Wilde, Deans for Diversity and Inclusion

We are writing an open letter to our student community following a social night last week.

The unnamed organisers posted on social media that the participants should dress for a theme using a well-known derogatory term for the traveller community.

There is a full investigation underway to identify the individuals involved and take appropriate action where required.

The vast majority of students studying at Reading are great ambassadors for the university and would never associate themselves with such an event. However, we feel it is important to address the comments, discussion and debate since.

The term "pikey" is a well-recognised abusive term for travellers. The Equality Act 2010 is clear that race is a protected characteristic with Romany gypsies and Irish travellers falling under this legislation. Discrimination based on any protected characteristics, which includes comments and statements made in person and on social media, is not permitted under the University's Student Regulations for Conduct, in addition to being unlawful.

Both Romany gypsies and Irish travellers are documented as being some of the most disadvantaged ethnic groups in Britain today. It is estimated that there are more than 300,000 members of the traveller community in Britain.

We want to underline that the University is a diverse and inclusive community where all staff and students must thrive without fear of prejudice. The University stands for mutual respect and use of derogatory language directed towards any individuals or groups with protected characteristics will not be tolerated and appropriate action will be taken by the University.

Freedom of speech is enshrined in the University of Reading's royal charter and respectful debate is encouraged. We do not police debate, but even if it becomes heated, it should always remain respectful and measured. All of us, students and staff alike, must also take responsibility for the language that we use.

We are an open, inclusive community but, through the national media coverage of this incident last week, we risk sending out a message that some people in our community are closed and narrow-minded. This has an impact on all of us, from prospective students to our tens of thousands of alumni across the world, and does not represent the kind of place the University of Reading is and that we want it to be.

Over the past year we have been starting to put in place a new diversity and inclusion plan covering staff and students - including helping people to understand that every member of the University has a role to play in fostering good relations between groups sharing different protected characteristics, empowering people to challenge and enabling people to report unacceptable behavior. We welcome continued involvement from students in designing and implementing this plan.

Our doors are always open for anyone wanting to discuss concerns and to report unacceptable behaviour and language.

To gain greater understanding about the traveller community, has a wealth of information you can access.

Professor Ellie Highwood 
Dean for Diversity and Inclusion

Professor Simon Chandler-Wilde
Dean for Diversity and Inclusion


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