Understanding the Practices of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion

Welcome to Episode 4 of Our Student Voice.

To view and interact with the introductory video, click on Start Here in the video screen.

Click here to view a larger sized video in a separate tab.


As a student in TU Dublin, you will meet and have the opportunity to learn from a diverse range of people. This will help prepare you for your future and will enable you to appreciate the value of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) in our society.  

TU Dublin has a responsibility to promote equality, prevent discrimination and protect the human rights of their students, employees, and everyone affected by their policies and plans. This is a legal obligation, called the Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty. Further embedding Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in our practices is a key objective of the TU Dublin Strategic Intent 2030.

Irish legislation defines discrimination as treating one person in a less favourable way than another person. There are nine grounds for discrimination:

  • Gender
  • Race or ethnicity
  • Family status
  • Civil status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Membership of the Traveller community

In TU Dublin, the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Directorate works with staff and students across the University to develop equitable policies and practices, and increase awareness levels of the root causes of inequality, and the mechanisms through which inequalities are reproduced.

As a Class Representative, you have a central role to play in creating an equitable and inclusive environment at TU Dublin where everyone has a sense of belonging.

You can familiarise yourself with some TU Dublin policies in this area, including:

TU Dublin Equality Statement - 2019-2022

Gender Identity and Gender Expression

Promoting Consent and Ending Sexual Violence in TU Dublin

As a class representative, or as a student in TU Dublin, it is important that you:

Treat everyone with respect: Regardless of gender, age, race, disability, ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation, civil status, family status, or membership of the travelling community.

Recognise and embrace diversity: Diversity creates a rich student environment where you can learn about, and from, others' views, opinions and experiences.

Foster a sense of belonging: Proactively engage with everyone in the class and create a spirit of inclusivity where everyone is made feel a part of the group and given the opportunity to become involved.

Treating people equitably sounds very straightforward and in many ways it is. It means being respectful and open to engaging with your classmates, lecturers and other members of the TU Dublin community. 

Yet we know that students from less privileged backgrounds, trans and non-binary students, and students from minority ethnic communities in Ireland, amongst others, do not always feel welcomed by their peers. This negatively impacts their self-confidence, mental and emotional wellbeing, and their studies.  

This isn’t how any of us want to feel about our time in TU Dublin so it is worthwhile taking some time to reflect on why this happens, and what we can each do to build a welcoming community where everyone has a sense of belonging.

Four dimensions of discrimination

To counteract the beliefs, assumptions or practices that may lead to some people being treated less favourably than others we need to understand each dimension of discrimination:

Historical: This refers to our histories; the kinds of norms embedded in society (e.g. a woman’s place is in the home; there are only two genders, man/woman); the way buildings and infrastructure have been built (e.g. narrow doors, lots of steps); and the material impact of historical events (e.g. the drain of wealth from colonies to European countries from the 18th century onwards).

Structural: This is linked to our histories. It refers to how society is structured i.e. what norms, laws, regulations and practices are in place, what assumptions they are based on, and how (intentionally or not) those structures erect barriers to some people’s health, well-being and equal participation in society. We can see this in unequal outcomes in areas such as health, education, employment rates, arrest rates and life expectancy. For example, a 2018 report found that just 1% of Traveller children progress to third level compared to over 50% of the wider population. Only 27% of children from the poorest socioeconomic group goes to university. The structures in society do not enable the same educational outcomes for all of us.

Institutional: This refers to how institutions discriminate against certain groups (intentionally or not). It can be as simple as designing a policy which assumes the person using it is able-bodied with no significant care responsibilities. This would exclude people with disabilities or those with significant care responsibilities from participating fully. Institutional actors need to think critically about how they can prevent discrimination. 

Individual: This refers to interpersonal interactions that are discriminatory. It covers a range of incidents from microaggressions, to name-calling and bullying, to discrimination and hate crimes. These incidents are the most recognisable form of discrimination but they occur in the wider context of our histories, structures and institutions.

What are microaggressions?

Many experiences of exclusion are a result of what are called microaggressions.

Microaggressions are very subtle, they can be thought of as common verbal, behavioural, and environmental indignities, which can be intentional or unintentional, and which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative assumptions or opinions of the target person or group.

The ‘micro’ relates to the individual nature of these interactions, which are so common that they are frequently overlooked. However, whether intentional or not, microaggressions cause harm and have a significant impact on those targeted over time. They imply distrust of, and difference and distance from those affected.

Examples of microaggressions include:

Theme Microaggression Message
Alien in own land – When Irish people from minority ethnic communities are assumed to not be Irish. ‘Yes but where are you really from?’
‘Where were you born?’
‘You speak really good English.’
You are not really Irish
You do not belong.
Colour Blindness - Statements that indicate someone does not want to acknowledge race or ethnicity. ‘I don't see colour'
'We're all just human beings'.
You need to assimilate to the dominant culture
Systemic racism does not exist.
Ascription of Intelligence - Connecting a person's intelligence to their disability, gender, religion, race or ethnicity for example. ‘You're a credit to all Black people'
'You're so good at that, for a girl'
'I'm amazed you can do that as a blind person, well done'
‘You’re wearing a headscarf and you’re in a job like this!’.
It is unusual for someone like you to be intelligent and capable.
Minority Faith Communities as Mysterious and/or Oppressive – Being openly dismissive of or uninformed about minority faith communities. ‘Does your family allow you to do that?' (to a Muslim woman)
‘Did your parents meet before they got married?’
‘Do you sleep in your turban/hijab?’
‘I have no problems with you, it’s your religion I don’t respect (to Muslims).
All Muslim women are oppressed
Indirect allusion to gendered Islamophobia tropes (forced marriages)
It is ok for people from a majority community to be totally uninformed about minority faith communities
Islam is a problem to begin with, and you belong to a contemptuous religion.
Assumed universality based on membership of LGBTQI+ community - When members of the LGBTQI+ community are expected to all be alike, have very similar experiences. ‘Oh you're gay, you should meet my friend Jack, he's gay too'. Straight people are individuals
People from the LGBTQI+ community are one-dimensional or all more or less the same person.
Assumption of sexual pathology - When heterosexual people consider LGBTQI+ people to be sexual deviants or overly sexual. ‘Hey I’ve no problem with gay people, so long as they don’t hit on me!’ People from the LGBTQI+ community are a ‘problem’ to begin with and overly sexual. The speaker also mistakenly flatters themselves.
Centrality of the gender binary - Connecting every expression of gender or sexual orientation to the gender binary. Yes but which one of you is 'the man' (to a same sex couple)
'Yes but do you think you're more masculine or more feminine, you know, deep down' (to a gender non-conforming person).
Unless you can relate your experience to the gender binary it is not valid.

Think Impact, Not Intent

If we unintentionally say or do something that is discriminatory or offensive, our intentions do not lessen the impact on the person experiencing it. We need to think impact, not intent.

For example, if we accidentally spill coffee on someone, we are not usually surprised or offended if that person is upset.

We don’t generally say ‘why are you so upset when it wasn’t my intention to pour a hot drink on you?’.  Usually we acknowledge our mistake, apologise and move more carefully in the future (Anderson et al, 2020).

Yet when someone says that we have done or said something offensive, it is common for us to be offended and to make the interaction about our intentions and feelings, rather than the impact our actions had on the person affected. This response does not orient us toward reflection and working to produce change. If we do or say something offensive, often unintentionally, the most helpful course of action can be to:

  • take a deep breath
  • acknowledge our mistake
  • apologise and move on
  • and then further deepen our understanding of wider histories and contexts (it is not the job of a person from a marginalised community to help us with this)

We are shaped by the cultures we inhabit, their histories and the dominant norms in those contexts. It takes effort, but it is worthwhile to go beyond our comfort zones, and learn more about:

  • Why racial categories were invented to justify colonisation and enslavement for example and their ongoing impacts; or
  • How gender operates differently in various cultures, some of which had more than two genders, or within which gender was not important in understanding people’s roles and position in hierarchies; and/or
  • Understandings of disability as a positive social and political identity rather than a health issue or something to be 'fixed'.

By thinking about how we benefit from current norms and structures (even unintentionally) and those same norms or structures disadvantage others, we all become more aware of why recognising diversity and building a world where we can all participate equally is important.

Being open to further learning and understandings of the world we live in; the categories used to construct hierarchies; and their impact on all of our experiences, is a core part of building equitable cultures.


The concept of intersectionality originates and was developed by Black women scholars, including Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw and Professor Patricia Hill Collins.

Crenshaw points out that the way we talk about gender discrimination foregrounds the experiences of White women, and the way we talk about racism foregrounds the experiences of Black men. She highlights that thinking about race and gender as separate in this way, makes Black women's experiences invisible.

Taking an intersectional approach means not only looking at 'who' is in what spaces, but also, and kind of more importantly, looking at 'how things work' in various spaces. The focus on reflecting on how lived experiences are made invisible or silenced is a very important part of this approach.

This means we have to look at how, processes of discrimination based on sexism, racism and homophobia - for example - disadvantage some people, and, very importantly, how they work to advantage other people.

As a class representative or student in TU Dublin you can foster a sense of belonging by:

  • Including your whole class in any class communications.
  • Making an effort to pronounce people's names correctly: Our names define us, provide us with roots, origins and meaning. It is a matter of simple civility to try to pronounce everyone's name correctly. It shows you are paying attention to them in that moment. If you are unsure how to pronounce someone's name just ask the person how to say their name.
  • Using considered language particularly when referring to names and pronouns (she/her; he/him; they/them): You may not be able to determine a person's gender identity immediately so it may be helpful to first introduce yourself and state your own pronouns, affording them the opportunity to also state their pronouns, if they wish to do so. See the Gender Identity and Gender Expression Guidelines.
  • Organising events that suit a diverse range of people.
  • Contributing to policy making, taking into account the diverse range of people that policies impact upon.
  • Taking seriously reports of experiences (or witnessing) of sexual harassment and violence: TU Dublin is actively promoting a culture of zero tolerance for sexual violence and harassment.
  • Being aware of the four dimensions of discrimination – historical, structural, institutional and individual.
  • Thinking Impact, Not Intent when you make a mistake (as we all do!).

These learning activities are designed to help you develop the knowledge and skills required for this episode. These learning activities are also a requirement for the Active Class Representative, Curriculum Co-Designer, and Quality Assurance Expert Digital Badges.

Learning Activity 4.1. Student Life in TU Dublin

Consider all aspects of the life of a student in TU Dublin, including teaching, learning, assessment, student support services, travel, social life. How can students and staff work together to ensure that the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion shape and inform all these aspects of student life?

Create a diagram / brief essay (<1 page) / video (<1 minute) to communicate your views.

If you are applying for a Digital Badge, include this (or a link to this) in your E-Portfolio.

Learning Activity 4.2. Microagression

With our diverse student population at TU Dublin there is a responsibility to be sensitive to the comments and actions we make and the questions we ask that have the potential to microaggress.

Your task is to identify a microaggression that you have personally experienced while in TU Dublin. This could be based on gender, age, ethnicity, disability, marital status, family status, discipline of study, physical appearance (e.g. height, weight, hair, etc.), accent, postal address etc.

Reflect upon why you categorise the experience as microaggression, the context of when and where it took place, and how it made you feel. 

Reflect upon what can be done to minimise, avoid or stop the microaggression from recurring.

If you are applying for a Digital Badge, include this (or a link to this) in your E-Portfolio if you are comfortable doing so. If you'd prefer, you can simply indicate that you have completed this task.


Visit the section of the TU Dublin website on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

Learn about the TU Dublin Disability Support Service.

Visit TU Dublin’s Speakout tool. This is an online anonymous reporting tool that can be used to disclose incidents of bullying, cyberbullying, harassment, discrimination, hate crime, coercive behaviour/control, stalking, assault, sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape. This tool provides information on relevant supports and on formal reporting procedures, both within TU Dublin, as well as to external agencies.

Listen to the Podcast Series Black and Irish.

Read A Brief History of the Insitutionalisation of Discrimination Against Irish Travellers.

Watch this BBC Bitesize video on White Privilege.

The following article was referred to in the sections above: Anderson, L. Gatwiri, K. Riley, L. Townsend-Cross, M. (2020) 9 tips teachers can use when talking about racism. The Conversation. May 16th. Available at: https://theconversation.com/9-tips-teachers-can-use-when-talking-about-racism-140837