Vibeke Fussing’s design narrative: I’m not … the only gay in the college.

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Vibeke Fussing
12 April 2015

Title 

Vibeke Fussing’s design narrative: I’m not … the only gay in the college.

 Narrator

As a UCU (University and College Union) branch union chair and member of staff actively involved in various aspects of an FE/HE college in South East London time has come to do something. My role is perhaps part instigator and part facilitator as well as participant.

Situation

The situation is a predominantly FE college based in South East London. The college also has increasing HE provision as well as incorporating a new 14-16 College. There has been a degree of social isolation of LGBT+ staff and students at the college (own experience and that shared with me by some of the students that I come in contact with). There is a need to raise awareness and provide a safe and inclusive environment for all students and staff (who are often left out of initiatives mostly provided for the benefit of learners) at the college, in this case, particularly those who identify as LGBT+ and their friends and colleagues. This only began to develop at the end of March 2015 and is still in its early stages. It is likely to be a cross college initiative, across two campuses incorporating the use of student common room areas and online using the college moodle. Key people at this stage are union representatives; the NUS (National Union of Students) Vice President/Higher Education Officer (an HE student) and UCU branch Chair (also the UCU branch Equality Rep), and of course the target audience of LGBT+ across the college.

Task

My initial intention is to join forces with NUS to decrease the sense of isolation felt by LGBT+ staff and students using a variety of methods; to establish regular meeting slots with recreational activity as focus at both campuses, to establish message boards for online communication, to raise awareness using the college ‘Pop-up shop’, to gauge interest in joining this years London Pride.

How will we measure our success? This is where I think I need to remain open to possibilities and the unknown. Initially I just wanted to have an OU style forum, a bit like a social network to communicate with other LGBT+ staff because although I have worked there since early 2008, I still felt like ‘the only gay in the college’. So my measure of success would have been forum posts from more staff than just me. 

Actions 

  1. To make contact with NUS Vice President/Higher Education Officer; Having been told by the UCU Equality Support Official (with specialism for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans equality and age equality) that there was an active NUS LGBT+ rep at my college I made some enquiries and emailed him to arrange a meeting. Our initial meeting was gate-crashed halfway through by a nosey busybody but productive nonetheless. We discussed potential initiatives and went away with a few actions.
  2. To contact the eLearning manager about having space on the moodle. I have had no reply to this but have had various email communications with NUS rep and other members of staff. I decided to just try creating one anyway and deal with requesting that a link be put on the front page when I know it works. I also looked into a variety of social network style options outside of the college domain.
  3. To build a moodle course page that includes a news forum, message boards and chat facility as well as other relevant links and resources.  I’ve built a moodle page for staff, am waiting for feedback as of the three people who I sent the link to for testing, one was unable to log in and the other two have not got back to me yet. This unfortunately requires me to be patient (not always easy for me) as it is now the Easter break and few are likely to get back to work till afterwards. When I know it is working I will request that a link be sent to all staff (I don’t have permission for all staff emails).
  4. To gauge enthusiasm or interest in a college presence at London Pride 2015. This partly requires the moodle page to be accessible to staff for the discussion forum on the subject. Responses from students have been positive. The college principal has responded positively and more staff members are becoming involved in the organisation of this. The NUS report interest and support from the local police force’s ‘Hate Crime’ Unit and the local healthcare trust.

Results

Responses have been positive and encouraging. It is too early to measure the success (or not) yet of the intention to raise awareness and communication amongst the college LGBT+ community.  What does seem to have grown out of this however is an eagerness by some at the college (for whatever reasons) to encourage a presence representing the college at London Pride this year (27th June 2015). This was unexpected as when I first broached the subject, tentatively we didn’t imagine that this year would have enough active interest. 

Reflections

This was the wrong subject for me to choose for this activity. It is not part of my usual teaching job and is at very, very early stages so not yet possible to talk about results or see as a complete learning design narrative. Another reason for it being a very bad choice is that it is not a formal or planned narrative – it seems to have a life of it’s own. If I were to do this activity again I would use one of my formal taught lessons instead.

Taking part in two recent events kick-started me into action. First was a CPD workshop with colleagues on PBL (Project Based Learning) in which we discussed a hypothetical project (a local LGBT+ Pride event) for students that might incorporate collaboration across a number of departments. The second was taking part in a focus group for research undertaken by The National Council of Faiths and Beliefs in FE (fbfe) and the UCU Forum for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Equality. Adding to this is my experience as a teacher who tries to maintain a good, honest relationship with my students, particularly (but not only) those for whom I have a pastoral care responsibility.

In hindsight a more formally planned design narrative would be a distinct benefit to this ‘project’ and I may well start to develop that as term starts again next week.

  

 LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.

Lesbian = a woman who is attracted to other women
Gay = a man who is attracted to other men
Bisexual = individuals attracted to men and women
Transgender = someone who transitions from a man to a woman, or a woman to a man. This includes individuals who are considering transitioning and individuals who define a gender identity that is different to the person’s sex at birth.

LGBT+

The + relates to other sexual and gender identities, including (but not limited to) pansexual, asexual, intersex, questioning, queer, genderqueer, polysexual.

From http://www.swansea.ac.uk/personnel/equal-opportunities/networks/lgbt/  (accessed 30/3/15)

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