Reply from Kent Deputy Vice-Chancellor Richard Reece


From: Richard Reece <R.J.Reece@kent.ac.uk>
To: Alan Sokal <as2a@physics.nyu.edu>
Date: Fri, 15 Oct 2021 10:42:27 +0000
Cc: DVC Education & Student Experience PA <dvceducation@kent.ac.uk>
Subject: Fwd: TRYING AGAIN re Expect Respect

Dear Prof Sokal,

Thank you for your message [of 12 October -- AS], and please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you.

A number of the reports made in relation to the Expect Respect module have focused on specific examples without their wider context. This is a broad-ranging course developed with our students as part of supporting a welcoming and inclusive environment at the University of Kent. While we encourage all students to take it, no one would face any action for not doing so.

Along with bias, Expect Respect introduces a range of issues and perspectives on racism, sexual harassment and consent. It was put together with input from a number of student societies following requests that we promote greater awareness of the things we can all do to make everyone feel safe and supported on our campuses. For us, this is about ensuring everyone here is treated with kindness and respect and that our students know how to access the wide range of support services available to them when issues arise.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity are core values at Kent, and we are committed to being open and welcoming to all who study and work with us. We are also fully committed to academic freedom and free speech – these two values are not in conflict and form part of our same determination to enable everyone to reach their potential free from prejudice.

To address your specific query in regard to compulsion, student registration on the module is compulsory. All of our students - both undergraduate and postgraduate - are automatically registered on the module and it is available for completion on our VLE. However, the completion of the module itself is not compulsory, and there are no sanctions for non-completion.

I would also like to stress that the module has been running for a number of year and was initially developed, and has been continually updated, in conjunction with our students. The students’ union at Kent fully supports the module and they, like the rest of the university, are keen to ensure that our campuses are places where students should feel safe.

Please do not hesitate to let me know if I can be of further assistance.

With kind regards,

Professor Richard J. Reece
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education and Student Experience)
Office of the Vice-Chancellor
The Registry
University of Kent
Canterbury
CT2 7NZ



To: Alan Sokal <as2a@physics.nyu.edu>
From: Richard Reece <R.J.Reece@kent.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 15 Oct 2021 07:20:45 -0400
Cc: DVC Education & Student Experience PA <dvceducation@kent.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: Fwd: TRYING AGAIN re Expect Respect

Dear Professor Reece,

I am extremely grateful for your detailed response to my query. May I have permission to use it in my article? (Because of its length, what I propose to do is to place it on my website and put a link to it.)

May I also ask you a few more questions concerning your response?

> I would also like to stress that the module has been running for a
> number of year[s] and was initially developed, and has been continually
> updated, in conjunction with our students.

Yes, indeed: I am aware that the module has been running since at least 2018 (https://blogs.kent.ac.uk/staff-student-news/2018/07/02/expect-respect-e-module/). In fact, that webpage gives a link to External Moodle where I viewed the entire 2018 training.

But as you say, the module has been continually updated; and from the articles in the press as well as some screenshots that I have seen, it seems clear that the current version is very different from the 2018 version. Would you be willing to make the current version publicly accessible on External Moodle, just as the earlier one was?

Indeed, as you correctly say,

> A number of the reports made in relation to the Expect Respect module
> have focused on specific examples without their wider context.

That is exactly why I would like to view the entire module in order to give, in my article, a balanced view of its contents. But more generally, I think it would be a positive step if the module were made available not only to me (which you could do e.g. by giving me a temporary guest account at Kent) but also for the general public as a whole. Indeed, if you do make the module available on External Moodle, I would be very happy to include the URL in my article, so that every reader can see for themselves and come to their own reasoned judgment.

> To address your specific query in regard to compulsion, student
> registration on the module is compulsory. All of our students -
> both undergraduate and postgraduate - are automatically registered
> on the module and it is available for completion on our VLE. However,
> the completion of the module itself is not compulsory, and there are
> no sanctions for non-completion.

Well, if I understand correctly what you have said, registration on the module is not really "compulsory", it is simply automatic. The real question is not about registration; it is whether completion of the module is compulsory. The statement on the University website (https://blogs.kent.ac.uk/staff-student-news/2020/10/08/launch-of-the-expect-respect-module/)

The Expect Respect module is a compulsory module for all registered students at the University of Kent, regardless of what you are studying or whether you are an undergraduate and [sic] postgraduate student.

will surely be understood by students to mean that completion of the module is compulsory. But you now say that

> However, the completion of the module itself is not compulsory,
> and there are no sanctions for non-completion.

Has this been announced to the students? And if so, when, and by what means (e.g. a mass e-mail, an updated webpage, etc)?

With my best wishes from cloudy London,

Alan Sokal



From: Richard Reece <R.J.Reece@kent.ac.uk>
To: Alan Sokal <as2a@physics.nyu.edu>
Date: Fri, 15 Oct 2021 14:37:22 +0000
Cc: DVC Education & Student Experience PA <dvceducation@kent.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: TRYING AGAIN re Expect Respect

Dear Professor Sokal,

Thank you for your reply, and for the additional questions. I am content for my previous response to be used as you see fit.

In terms of making the module available publicly available, this is not something that we plan to do. It was not designed for this purpose, and I am not convinced that benefit could be derived from doing so. I have nothing else to add to my previous comments with respect to the compulsory nature of the module, but we will certainly consider the messaging when the module is advertised again.

With kind regards,

Professor Richard J. Reece
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education and Student Experience)
Office of the Vice-Chancellor
The Registry
University of Kent
Canterbury
CT2 7NZ