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Durham University

Research & business

Thought leadership

Walking with Pride

(26 May 2017)

Professor Antony Long, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, and Lead for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, explains why the University supports the Pride movement.

This week the rainbow flag has flown proudly above Durham Castle, whilst a huge rainbow drape hangs in the atrium of the Palatine Building. 

The rainbow is the symbol of Pride, a movement that recognises and celebrates self-identity, sexual diversity and tolerance. These are values that Durham University shares, as this weekend sees the University and the City host its fourth annual Pride. The event brings together people from across lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) communities, along with their friends, family and supporters to celebrate who they are and raise awareness of the issues that they face.

Some may ask “Why does an event like this continue to be important?” But we need only look back over some of the events of 2017 that have made headlines to understand why. In some states of America we have seen moves to take back long fought for equal rights, whilst in Chechnya people are at risk everyday simply for being who they are.

More than ever recent events have shown we need to come together to tackle intolerance and hatred. Whilst over the last fifty years we have seen laws change to help all people to participate more in society, or for their relationship to be recognised as having full equality in the eyes of the law, there is still so much more to do.

Indeed, there are some areas, even within our own organisation, where people still can’t be who they really are, or don’t feel comfortable talking about what they did at the weekend. It is only by continuing to ask questions and by hearing their stories that we will understand what we can do to make a difference.

So, what has it got to do with me – a white, middle aged, middle class academic? As long as people continue to face harassment, discrimination and even violence for being who they are, I passionately believe we should do everything that we can to make this University and our City places where everyone can be safe and proud of who they are.

The new University strategy has ambitious plans to grow and diversify the student body and workforce. As we do this, we want to create an environment and culture where people feel able to openly be who they are. We recognise that we still have some way to go, but we have started to look at ways in which we can identify issues and monitor change to make this a more tolerant and inclusive work place as our University grows. We must not lose sight of the potential issues that LGBT staff may face in this changing environment. We will be a welcoming place for all where people will be safe and feel part of the wider community.

We can also play an important role in communicating to other employers throughout the region that we value our staff as a progressive employer.

Regrettably I am not able to join in this year’s Pride procession or activities, but Professor Alan Houston our PVC for Education will be there to show the University’s support and to walk with Pride. I urge all of those who are able, to show their support in whatever way that they can.

Link to Pride website

Antony Long, Provost and DVC

Lead for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion