Weekly update from the Vice-Chancellor - 24/07/2020

Posted in: Weekly Update

Dear colleague,

I am acutely aware of the enormous efforts colleagues are making in order to prepare for September and I would like to express my deep gratitude for your commitment and tenacity. I do hope you are finding time for a break from work at some point over the summer and that the recent decision on carrying forward annual leave has relieved pressure somewhat.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I)
Last month, I committed to updating our community about the next steps the University will be taking to tackle racism. We have now had the opportunity to take advice from a number of groups and individuals and indeed to discuss the matter with Council, our governing body.

As you will recall, following the death of George Floyd, we made a statement as a University, acknowledging that we still have much to do to address issues of racism, inequality and diversity in our own community and society. Recognising the importance of tackling racism in particular, we have now agreed to:

  • Establish a Race Equality Taskforce
  • Create and advertise the position of a Head of this taskforce, reporting to me, who will establish and Chair the group once appointed, recognising that this should be inclusive and have as broad as possible a representation from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic members of our community

We have also taken the opportunity to look at equality, diversity and inclusion in our University more broadly, particularly given the intersection of many different factors that may lead to disadvantage or discrimination. Therefore, we will:

  • Invest in the leadership capacity for this area of work by creating an Executive Chair post for the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee (EDIC), reporting to me, who will have lead responsibility for the delivery of the University's ED&I commitments, working with relevant teams throughout the University
  • The Executive Chair will be a member of the University Executive Board, raising the profile of these important issues and enabling them to have a voice at UEB

I would like to pay great tribute to all those who continue to do such important work in this area, including all those involved in the ED&I committee, Georgina Brown and the ED&I team, and in major initiatives such as Athena Swan. My hope is that these measures will reinforce, and build on, the hard work done so far.

Update on summer restarts and research
My thanks to all involved in the Summer Priority Restarts project for continuing to open up activity on campus. In total, 724 people, including 530 researchers, are now signed off to return to campus.

Research activity relating to Covid-19 continues apace and it has been a pleasure to see information on activities ranging from studies by Professor Hurst and his colleagues on evolution of the virus that causes Covid-19 , through research on detecting coronavirus in wastewater led by Professor Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern, to assessing some of the immediate impacts of Covid-19 for refugee communities living in camps in the Gaza Strip by Dr Jason Hart and Dr Luisa Enria from our Centre for Development Studies.

I would also like to pay tribute to those who responded to the COVID-19 global pandemic virtual sandpit led by the Centre for Sustainable and Circular Technologies (CSCT) and other similar activities such as the Call to Arms emerging from the Centre for Therapeutic Innovation. As a result of the CSCT event, in the 9 weeks that followed, 120 academics have been involved in 200 conversations that have led to 15 grant applications with a total value of £10M. I pay tribute to the expertise, innovation and dynamism of all involved, and wish the work that results every success.

Working patterns: help us plan ahead
We know that we are going to have to work more flexibly than ever before in the months to come, with some people continuing to work remotely, some on campus and many others doing a blend of both. In order to help us plan effectively, Keith Zimmerman, our Chief Operating Officer, has just launched a survey to collect data about you and your role in the coming year. This will be an important tool in helping us model the flow of people to and from campus, to plan space and transport options effectively, optimise working patterns and the use of campus, and understand better what critical IT equipment may be needed. I would encourage you to engage in this activity to help us prepare for a successful year ahead.

I’d also like to thank colleagues for participating in the previous staff survey, you can find a summary of the results online.

Health and safety: reminder
I have been asked to remind colleagues about Government health and safety requirements. As you know, since 15 June, the rules in England require anyone travelling by bus, train, ferry or plane to wear a face covering.

In addition, from today (Friday 24 July) wearing a face covering is mandatory in shops in England, including of course the shop on campus. There are limited exemptions to these rules.

There will be further information about University health and safety guidance for staff and students in the coming weeks.

Class of 2020
As you know, colleagues are arranging a virtual event to celebrate and congratulate our graduating students, the Class of 2020. This will take place on 29th July and all members of our community are invited to join. I understand that further information, including the link to the event, will follow early next Wednesday.

With warm good wishes,

Professor Ian White
Vice-Chancellor and President

Posted in: Weekly Update


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