UCC to launch LGBT+ allies scheme for staff

Maeve O'Riordan, Lecturer in Women's and Cultural History, UCC and Dr Michael Byrne, Head of Student Health. (Photos: Tomás Tyner)

UCC is set to become one of the first universities in Ireland to launch an LGBT+ Allies Scheme for staff, as part of its Equality Week (March 4 to 9).

Hurling legend Dónal Óg Cusack will launch the UCC LGBT+ Staff Network-led initiative, which invites all staff to support gender and sexual diversity, on Thursday.

As part of the voluntary initiative, staff will be encouraged to wear the new UCC Rainbow Alliance lanyards and pin badges as a visible sign of support for their LGBT+ colleagues and students and attend awareness training. An exhibition of portrait photographs of ‘launch allies’ will be unveiled next week.

Similar initiatives have been adopted by other universities including NUI Galway, the University of Oxford and the University of Cardiff.

The University will also launch its Gender Identity & Expression Policy during Equality Week. Sara Philips, chair of the Transgender Equality Network (TENI), will launch the policy, which supports transgender and non-binary staff and students to change their gender identity on UCC records without the need for changed legal documentation, on Tuesday.

Speakers at the UCC President’s Athena SWAN Symposium (March 8 and 9) will include Labour Senator Ivana Bacik, Traveller activist Dr Brigid Quilligan, and Professor Pat O’Connor from the University of Limerick. The event will explore issues of gender equality and other forms of equality in an intersecting way.

Ireland’s housing crisis and homelessness are central to the play No Fixed Abode, which will be performed by Charleville Traveller Women’s Group in the Aula Maxima at UCC on Wednesday (10:45 – 12:30).

The play, which involves child and adult actors, and focuses on Travellers’ experiences, will be followed by a discussion around issues of racism and poverty facing Travellers in Cork and beyond.

According to UCC’s Deputy President and Registrar Professor John O’Halloran, “Equality Week is about saying to the world, and reminding ourselves, that we are a place that unapologetically engages diversity, challenges inequality and builds inclusion.”

BAFTA award-winning game designer Brenda Romero will be speaking at the Women in STEM: Experiences in Industry and Research event on Thursday, while the UCC Women in Law Forum on Friday will welcome speakers including Ailbhe Smyth and Senator Alice Mary Higgins.

Other events will include a Wikipedia Equality Edit-a-Thon, organised in response to research that has shown that women and people of colour are significantly underrepresented both in the ranks of the volunteers who curate Wikipedia and in the articles they produce. Students and staff will have the opportunity to attend a short masterclass and contribute to efforts to redress the imbalance.

Professor Nuala Finnegan, Chair of UCC Equality Committee, said the week is “a snapshot of the exciting work UCC staff and students have been doing for some time in collaboration with the communities UCC serves. Equality and diversity work needs to be meaningful and authentic for it to have a real impact. Equality impact is what we are focused on generating, both inside and beyond the campus in a range of different ways.”

For the full line-up of events, which are all free and open to the public, see: bitly.com/UCCEqualityWeek