A London college criticised for previously allowing a homophobic member of staff to continue working says it’s “delighted” to have been included in this year’s workplace equality index by gay rights charity Stonewall.
Newham College was awarded 82nd place in Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers of 2014 – despite the controversy involving disgraced lecturer Dr Mark Walcott.
On 28 November, when the story of Dr Walcott’s homophobic views first broke, Stonewall said it had raised the matter with Newham College “in early 2012”.
In a recording published on YouTube in November last year, Dr Walcott, former head of performing arts at Newham College and a part-time psychotherapist, was heard claiming that he had asked gay teachers to leave schools in the past and claimed gay teachers’ sexuality can stop them doing their jobs properly.
Dr Walcott admitted being prejudiced and said the gay community was like the “Ku Klux Klan, the Freemasons and the Nazis” who all wanted to boost their “memberships” by “indoctrinating people”.
He is heard on the recording saying: “I’ll give the name of someone I’d never have run a school: Elton John. His gayism is so liberal.
He added later: “I don’t like him. His sexuality, his gayism is over-burdensome.”
The recording was made by another staff member who reported them to Newham College in April 2012.
On Friday, Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “It is bizarre that Newham College has remained on Stonewall’s workplace equality index, given Mark Walcott’s sustained homophobic outburst and the fact that the college took no action against him for over a year.
“The college only took action after the whole episode was exposed in the national media.”
He added: “I am sure there are some good staff doing good things at the college.
“However, the college administration clearly failed to take proper steps to address a serious homophobic incident when it was first drawn to their attention.”
On Friday, Newham College released the following statement in response to Mr Tatchell’s comments.
“We are delighted that, once again, Stonewall has judged Newham College as the most gay-friendly employer in the further education sector, and that we are, as last year, the highest-ranked college in the Workplace Equality Index. Over many years, Newham College has focused unrelentingly on equality, and we are pleased that Stonewall – the leading organisation in the field – has recognised this, through its detailed scrutiny of our work and ethos. As well as robust policies across the College, we have a thriving staff network, a range of events and talks, and a commitment to supporting LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) people throughout the organisation. We would be delighted to work with other colleges in this field to share the challenges and actions which have led us to this proud position.
“It was what Stonewall has called our ‘really strong commitment’ to equality that led to the termination of the College’s relationship with the individual (and associated company) referred to in a recent YouTube recording. The individual concerned clearly did not share the College’s values, and was not promoting these values in his recorded conversation with staff. The Governing Body of the College acted on this matter as soon as it was made aware of the issues. As Stonewall has recognised, the unacceptable comments were an ‘isolated incident’, and our College’s culture is far greater than one individual’s actions. We will continue our work as a major contributor to policy development in this and other areas, and to ensure that views expressed in the YouTube recoding find no home in further education. As both we and Stonewall have made clear, they certainly have no home at Newham College – reaffirmed today as the country’s most gay-friendly further education institution.”