Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I'm just a marketable educational resource, me

I'm out in the world of job hunting again. It happens around this time every year. I realise that I want something else and start looking for it. Usually, I get very close but don't quite get anything (cf. my two interviews, last year and the year before, at the same college - I came in a close second on both occasions). This year, it could be argued, I have more motivating me than previously. Not only have I been here three years, moving as far up the career ladder here as anyone of my age can, but I've also been ill, tired and less than interested for about the past six months. It's not just that I think I've moved on. It's more that I'm looking for a different role, a different way of contributing, than I can find for myself here.

So, I'm busy applying to, well, everywhere. One interesting aspect of applications, and one that I'm very aware of, is the comparison I can draw between different educational institutions in terms of their equal opportunities policies. I have two application forms that I'm currently working on. One asks you state everything that may in some way prejudice you in shortlisting - gender, ethnicity, disability, even name - on the first page, which will then be detached from the rest of the application; they will judge you on nothing but your qualifications, career history and personal statement. The other, in frightening contrast, includes a long, detailed questionnaire in which they ask you to detail every illness and visit to the doctor you have had in the last five years, and for many conditions they expect you to say whether you have ever experienced it (and of course, mental health conditions come under this category).

Now, I don't know the Disability Discrimination Act in enough detail to be sure, but I can't believe that the second college is allowed to collect quite this much information on my health and disability status before they've even met me. Their claims that the information will not be used during the shortlisting process sound rather hollow when it's being collected at application stage. At my current place of work, I was asked (some of) these questions after I was appointed; all they asked beforehand was whether I was disabled and whether I would require reasonable adjustments for the interview process.

My other concern is how legal any of this is, at all. Do I not have a right not to disclose my disability? Although I always would, for my own protection, I'm sure that I can legally choose not to. Who decides which organisations can ignore this right? And are some educational establishments really allowed to sack people (they threaten this on the questionnaire) for non-disclosure? It all seems extremely un-inclusive to me.

So I shall apply to both these educational institutions, although I may find myself deciding that the second college doesn't really have the equal opps environment that I look for in a place of employment - because, frankly, if this is how they treat disabled applicants then I wonder how they respond to disabled staff members and, more importantly, students. I have this feeling, though, that one of these places is going to go out of their way to accommodate me and the other isn't. And I think that's fine with me.


Anonymous said...

Stress is not as I had imagined. The way it manifests, makes one behave, very strange indeed.

Good luck with the job hunt.

aidanrad said...

Sounds very strange and a little dodgy, though whether against the law or not, am really not sure... (though dubious...)

Good luck with it all, hope the best job and place find you soon as...