Bullying in higher education

December 18, 2014 in Blog, Gus in the Media, Highlights, Print by Gus John

We should be worried about the competence of those running our universities, says Gus John, who identifies three reasons why bullying goes unchecked in academia.

‘Publish or perish’ research culture in universities is damaging staff morale. Photograph: Donna Yates/Donna Yates

‘Publish or perish’ research culture in universities is damaging staff morale. Photograph: Donna Yates/Donna Yates

The results of the Guardian higher education network’s survey on bullying in higher education should give the entire sector cause to worry about the competence and style of leaders and managers in the sector.

As someone who has examined the equality policies and action plans of every institution in the UK in the last 12 years, I identify three key problems:

1) University leaders put money ahead of learning

Vice-chancellors, provosts and principals are running institutions that see themselves more and more as corporations or conglomerates. They are not understanding that financial management and brand leadership should not displace the fact that universities are first and foremost learning communities – and that the principal function of education is to humanise society.

Management competence must be measured as much as anything else by senior managers’ capacity to demonstrate a knowledge of employment law and acceptable practice, and its convergence with equality and human rights legislation. They need to know how they would ensure that it forms the foundation on which they set about building and sustaining a culture of equity. Read the rest of this entry →

Patriotism in Black and White

November 23, 2014 in Blog, Highlights by Gus John

Former Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry and the image she tweeted from Rochester (PA)

Former Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry and the image she tweeted from Rochester (PA)

There is something very instructive about the events that unfolded in Rochester last week. For me, the most disturbing and dangerous is the reaction to Emily Thornberry’s tweet. Disturbing, because of the assumptions that underlie the popular narrative. It was felt that Thornberry was sneering at the working class, Labour’s traditional voters for whom it was ‘normal’ to display their patriotism by flying the Union flag and the English flag. But no one seems to have paused to consider who and what constitutes that working class.

For decades, Labour has taken for granted the support of a growing section of that working class, the African and Asian Diaspora in Britain. They are patriotic, too, but do not adopt and unfurl those two flags because they see them as emblems of racial oppression, depicting Britain for what it is, a nation of complementary forces for evil and for good, emblems that have been appropriated by the Far Right (National Front, Column 88, BNP, Britain First, etc), even as they are used to demonstrate an inclusive Britishness. It is after all the flag with which all our great British African Olympians and national heroes such as Lewis Hamilton wrap themselves. Read the rest of this entry →

Book review: ‘Black British Intellectuals and Education’

October 15, 2014 in Blog, Gus talks, Reviews by Gus John

The Empire Windrush. Credit: PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

The Empire Windrush. Credit: PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

It is not for nothing that the arrival of the ship Empire Windrush at Tilbury port in East London on 22 June 1948 is seen by many commentators as marking the start of the growth of the black population in Britain. That ship brought 492 passengers from Jamaica, the largest group of West Indian immigrants to arrive in Britain immediately following the end of the Second World War. Most of them settled in Brixton in the London Borough of Lambeth, a place that would later become the site of some of the fiercest confrontations between the African population and the state as represented by the police.

The African heritage population of Britain now stands at 1.87 million, having been a mere 28,000 at the end of the Second World War. One million of us currently live in London alone and in some boroughs we make up more than 25% of the population. Among the Global African Diaspora (GAD) in Britain, therefore, there are 4 generations of British born Africans in relation to whom the old narrative about ‘coloured immigrants’, ‘newcomers’ and ‘integration once the newcomers have settled and produced British black children’ is increasingly meaningless, as the GAD population remains marginalised and subject to widespread discrimination and social exclusion.

West Indian immigrants came mainly from agrarian economies and from villages where poverty and deprivation defined people’s lives and life chances and limited their capacity to access quality health care, among other things. But theirs was a poverty of means; it was neither a poverty of spirit nor a poverty of aspiration. They came to Britain with high ambitions for their children, especially with respect to schooling outcomes, progression to higher education and to the sorts of careers they had dreamt of back home for their children: typically, doctors, dentists, lawyers, civil servants, architects, engineers. Read the rest of this entry →

Launch of Black History Month in Wales

September 26, 2014 in Blog, Gus talks, Highlights, Speeches by Gus John

Credits: Black History Month - Wales

Credits: Black History Month – Wales

On September 26th, Prof Gus John delivered the following speech – entitled ‘The Past in the Present: Working Together to Make the Future We Face the Future We Want for Wales‘ – at the Riverfront Theatre and Arts Centre, Newport. It marked the launch of Black History Month in Wales.

Dear land of my fathers, whose glories were told
By bard and by minstrel who loved thee of old
Dear country whose sires, that their sons might be free
Have suffered and perished for thee!

Wales! Wales! Land of mist and wild
Where e’er I roam
Though far from my home
The mother is calling her child

The Lords of great Snowdon in brave days of yore
For thee fought for freedom by Mona’s green shore
Their courage undaunted inspires all our leys
Our harps e’er resound to their praise.

Wales! Wales! Land of mist and wild
Where e’er I roam
Though far from my home
The mother is calling her child

Good evening everyone.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to share a few thoughts with you as you launch Black History Month, Wales, 2014.

As the Chair’s kind introduction indicated, I am a ‘Voice of the Caribbean’ that has had cause to comment on Welsh affairs in the past, not least through the research undertaken some 7 years ago for the Higher Education Council for Wales on the performance of your 14 universities in implementing equality legislation.

There is much that I would like to share with you this evening, but we have limited time. I therefore want to commend to you, most emphatically, this excellent book by Alan Llwyd: ‘Black Wales – a history‘. This book should be the history textbook for all of Wales and a manual not just for Black History Month but for understanding the history of Wales, how that history has helped to shape the present and why it is imperative that Wales understands itself so that the people of Wales, racialised as ‘white’ and as ‘black’ could work together to make the future you face the future you actually want for this proud, beautiful country, a country with an abundance of hope. Read the rest of this entry →

SBL… and things that are defined as real

August 27, 2014 in Blog by Gus John

Royal Courts of Justice ("Courts' Closed") by Chris Kealy (Flickr - CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Royal Courts of Justice (“Courts’ Closed”) by Chris Kealy (Flickr – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

If anyone were to suggest to SBL members that that acronym translates as a ‘Stinking Bunch of Layabouts – who cannot be depended upon to act with integrity’, rather than the Society of Black Lawyers, there would no doubt be outrage to the extent that SBL members would reach for the nearest lawyer, with protests such as: disgraceful, disgusting, defamatory… and no doubt more.

When in May this year the Solicitors Regulation Authority published my report of the independent comparative case review of disproportionality in regulatory action and outcomes for BME solicitors which they commissioned me to conduct in July 2012, SBL sent a note round to its members decrying the findings of the review and suggesting, in terms, that I must have received my ‘thirty pieces of silver’ in return for not concluding that the SRA had discriminated against black and ethnic minority solicitors and was guilty of institutional racism.

There then followed a SBL press release which charged that the report was ‘fundamentally flawed’, with one of the ‘flaws’ being a potential conflict of interest, the alleged details of which formed absolutely no part of my report. Read the rest of this entry →