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Introduction to research

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This presentation was delivered by Phil Barnett, equality and diversity consultant, at a series of events titled 'Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith equality'. These events were …

This presentation was delivered by Phil Barnett, equality and diversity consultant, at a series of events titled 'Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith equality'. These events were organised by the Forum for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Equality in Post-School Education, in partnership with Lifelong Learning UK and the Council for Faiths and Beliefs in Further Education.

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  • 1. Research – key findings and recommendations Managing the interface: sexual orientation and faith Phil Barnett
  • 2. Research methodology
    • Mix of quantitative and qualitative
    • Literature and research review
    • Two online surveys - staff and learners (797)
    • 1:1 interviews (43)
    • Focus groups (10 groups and
    • 111 participants)
  • 3. General observations
    • Anticipated problems greater than any actually experienced
    • Where there are problems they can be acute
    • When problems arise they are often not managed or resolved by the learning provider
    • Failure to manage/resolve can have negative impact beyond the individuals immediately concerned
    • Where relationships were strained, oppressive behaviour had originated from religiously driven
    • homophobes
    • Difficulty in engaging full range of religions
    • and beliefs
  • 4. Interface operates at 6 levels
    • Within individuals
    • Between individuals
    • Between groups and individuals
    • Between groups
    • Between groups and organisations
    • Between organisations
  • 5. Within individuals
    • Religious upbringing inhibits full professional participation of individual lgb staff
    • Religious upbringing shapes the assumptions that inform the work of LGB learners
    • LGB individuals of faith torn between two key poles of identity
  • 6. Between individuals
    • Conflict in halls of residence
    • Partners
    • Coreligionists
    • Authorities play no role in resolution
    • LGB residents leave halls
  • 7. Between groups and individuals
    • Conflict in halls of residence
    • Tension between religious societies and religious LGB learners
    • Groups of religious learners attacking legitimacy of LGB learners in class/seminars
    • LGB learners who hold a religion or belief are forced out of religious communities, or into the closet within them
    • LGB residents leave halls
    • LGB learners do not attend classes/leave
    • college
    • Authorities play no role in resolution
  • 8. Between groups
    • Religious student union societies seek to have funding for LGB societies stopped
    • Christian Union groups picket LGB group activities
    • Positive relationships develop within student union framework
  • 9. Between groups and organisations
    • Refusal to engage in academic discourse
    • Academic disruption
    • Staff unprepared to intervene/resolve
    • Undermining core purpose of place of learning
  • 10. Between organisations
    • Refusal to promote LGB equality due to drive to recruit learners from overseas and from majority Muslim countries
    • Below the radar
    • Priority for income over equality and diversity
    • Hierarchy of protected characteristics
    • Untested and unfounded assumptions
  • 11. Role of chaplaincies
    • Key to challenging religiously driven homophobia
    • Reflect the commitment of the provider to equality and inclusion
    • Open, multi-faith, non-dogmatic, meeting the needs of all including those with no religion or belief
    • Include Metropolitan Community Church in chaplaincies
    • Challenge of consistency and direction of
    • development within different religions
  • 12. Public secularism, private religion?
    • Secular colleges
    • Another strategy for avoidance
    • Fear and ignorance of religion
    • How to oppose dogmatism and fundamentalism?
    • Experiences of people of religion
    • or belief
  • 13. Examples of effective practice
    • Multi-faith centre in NW English university
    • Chaplaincy in eastern English FE college
    • Chaplaincy in NE English FE college
    • Security guard training in SW English university
    • Numerous students’ unions - debates, joint campaigning
  • 14. Role of the law
    • Law will support a provider requiring an individual to comply with an equality policy with which they disagree so long as doing so is a proportionate and justifiable means of achieving the legitimate aims of promoting equal opportunities and tackling discrimination
    • Tribunals reluctant to give latitude to homophobic actions apparently based on religious beliefs of perpetrators
  • 15. What interventions are needed to manage the interface?
    • Clear, comprehensive, embedded, well-led equality and diversity culture and policy
    • Clear and effective discipline and grievance procedures
    • Standard application of existing procedures and policies
    • Policies to address conflict between protected characteristics
    • Equality impact assessment to include assessment of the impact of conflict between protected characteristics
    • Proactive chaplaincies
    • Overarching culture of equality and inclusion
    • Staff training and induction
  • 16. What interventions are needed to manage the interface?
    • Funding of learner societies conditional on compliance with equality and diversity policies
    • Learner and staff charters/codes to require compliance with equality and diversity policy
    • Learner induction
    • Anticipatory
  • 17. Conclusion
    • ‘ The challenge for all learning providers is to deal with these complex relationships in ways that ensure the values and presence of both groups are respected, whilst at the same time neither group feels unfairly treated or discriminated against’ (ECU)
    • Empowering individuals to manage conflicts of ideas and beliefs within the law and within a framework of respect for difference – beyond compliance
    • Requirement for the success of a modern, diverse, liberal democracy