This Sussex Life: Interim PVC Kevin Hylton: "Equalities work necessitates the continued support of all staff."
By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Monday, 29 November 2021
This Sussex Life. Interim Pro-Vice-Chancellor Culture, Equality and Inclusion, Professor Emeritus Kevin Hylton, reflects on his past six months as his time at Sussex comes to an end.
In my meetings with staff and students at Sussex, I have been able to get to grips with many of their hopes, fears and challenges, and that has helped me to understand the scale of my task. The role of Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Culture, Equality and Inclusion is new at Sussex and is an important, executive one. To flesh out and establish a coherent workplan emerging from community consultation and having a critical eye requires an engagement with the University motto, Be Still and Know.
I will take with me a fondness for a beautiful campus, the thoughtfulness of colleagues and memories of one of the most novel universities I have ever experienced! I will take away my wins, draws and losses, while hopeful that my successor, David Ruebain, will notch more into the ‘win’ column as the years go by. My time at Sussex has shown me how equalities work necessitates the continued support of all staff, and that there may initially be inconsistencies in what people believe and how they behave regarding some issues and concerns.
My main challenge was scoping out a work programme for the PVC Culture, Equality and Inclusion.This needed to shift from being an aspiration to a reality where we tackle the structural, policy and implementation challenges of culture, equality and inclusion at Sussex. Further, the community’s consternation with racial justice was writ large in an open letter with more than 1000 signatories. This required a response and, crucially, ongoing work and maintenance. In parallel with this were issues of trans and non-binary inclusion, freedom of expression, and the spirit of Sussex, which have forced us all to better consider the importance of Be Still and Know as we work toward a progressively inclusive and intellectually challenging place of higher learning.
I was involved in working with colleagues to write Antiracist Sussex: A Pledge. It is a milestone statement for Sussex in that it makes explicit our institutional duty to be actively antiracist. There is no place for race neutrality in an organisation like ours. We cannot escape how we are implicated in social justice projects, where we must use our own power and eschew the prospect of being a bystander. Such pledges are statements of intent and part of a journey to accountability that challenge our University values of courage and integrity.
The structure of our equalities work is also shifting as roles and activities become more transparent, resourced and sustainable. Equality and Diversity Leads, Staff Networks, the EDI team, our charters work, and EDI in schools have had immediate attention or are part of our work to streamline, coordinate and share excellent practice. Watch this space!
I have had several milestones over my career that I am proud of. I was the first Black Professor in my faculty in Leeds in over 75 years, and being the first Interim PVC at Sussex sends a message out to the sector. I am also very proud of the work that I have been involved in at Sussex and I will continue to write and research in the areas that I hold in equal esteem regarding social justice, ethnic and racial studies and race equality.
I’m now looking forward to completing the reporting of the Sheffield Race Equality Commission, as its chair. Regarding the broad equality agenda, the bar in higher education is low and we must ensure ours is high and then moves beyond any sector standards. This we must know and cannot be still.