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Leeds and Saudi Arabia

March 16, 2011

A Times Higher Education story published this week has its origins, we believe, in a @leedsucu tweet, and, if so, is a good example of the new media informing the old.

The story, entitled ‘Just for men: brickbats for Leeds over Arabian night‘ details how the University of Leeds has been accused of breaching its own equality policies by agreeing to hold an event in Saudi Arabia advertised as ‘for men only’.

The story was first reported by us on twitter:

University of Leeds discrimination

We then received some responses in that medium. Leeds Alumni office, perhaps alerted to the news story, then adjusted the copy on their web page from:

University of Leeds discrimination


University of Leeds discrimination

Try to google ‘EMAARA authorisation’ – you won’t find it. No further clarification has come about.

Members of Leeds UCU then began to ask – if it is possible for authorisation, why go ahead without it?’

If we had alumni in an overseas country that Amnesty International describes as maintaining “severe discrimination against women and girls”,  “inadequate protections against violence, including domestic violence” and where “women remain unequal under family law, are denied equal employment opportunities, and banned from driving or traveling alone”, would we go ahead with a meeting there which conformed to a local culture that dictated male-only or female-only meetings, if there was no opportunity of gaining any income as a result?

Our Royal Charter clearly states:

“As the Governing Body of an institution that is proud to be a multi-cultural community, the Council shall take steps to ensure: that all individuals are treated fairly, with dignity and respect; that the opportunities it provides are open to all; and that the University provides a safe, supportive and welcoming environment for staff, students and visitors.”

Do we override this obligation for opportunities to be open to all where an opportunity for income is available?

An article published yesterday in the ‘comment is free’ section of the Guardian is apposite here:

University of Leeds discrimination

Click on image for full article

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