Jewish Ethnicity and Diversity forms

Graph shows the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the UK over time.

Mark Sandler is a Professor of Signal Processing in EECS. He agreed to talk to us about his experiences of many years of filling in Diversity Monitoring forms and in particular the Higher Education Statistics Agency diversity forms.

Mark is an Ashkenazi Jew and believes it is important for Jewish identities to be recognised on these forms. Describing filling the forms he says “It has always been awkward for me. The precise categories have evolved over the years and changed with our society but normally the form doesn’t even say ‘Jewish’ it just says ‘other’. Most recently I have been writing in ‘Ashkenazi Jew’ and this was a bit of a lightbulb moment as I’ve been filling in these things for forty years” Often he found himself simply ticking a box marked simply “other” (in some older forms he found himself ticking “Chinese and other”).

“I think it’s what David Baddiel captured in his book `Jews Don’t Count because in some sense we are invisible. It’s assumed we are assimilated enough that there is simply no need to take account of us separately. It makes me wonder `Why am I not included? Is there a default assumption I am a Christian? We often have a tendency to keep ourselves quiet and there are good reasons for that, history tells us to do so.”

“There is also an assumption that I’m simply a white man and don’t bring anything to a diversity committee,” Mark said. He discussed several things about Jewish lived experience that would perhaps be surprising to those who didn’t know about them for example. “Any synagogue you go past on a Saturday morning has community members patrolling outside wearing stab vests. On the continent they are often armed. Even Jewish schools and pre-schools have security guards and other protective measures.”

“People treat the outcome of these forms as if they are objective data but they really are not,” he explained. The omission of a Jewish identity on diversity forms worries him and not just in a university context, “Hospital forms often omit a Jewish identity even though there are genetic conditions like Tay-Sachs disease which affect Ashkenazi Jews.”

Dialogues for a neglected illness

Valerie Eliot-Smith, a Visiting Scholar at CCLS at Queen Mary has been championing awareness around ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) as she has been living with it since 1981.

Over the last two years, she has advised on, and contributed to, a film about ME. The film was the final output of a project which was made possible by an award from the Wellcome Institute’s Public Engagement Fund.

The final film in the series was released via this website at the end of last year. This film is an exploration of the history and politics surrounding ME and Queen Mary’s role in the story of ME is mentioned in the film.

The film can be viewed at this link: (1 hour 11 minutes, divided into 6 short chapters)

Raspberry Pi Guide to Culturally relevant and responsive computing

Raspberry Pi Foundation have produced a short (20 page) booklet based on their research into criteria for learning resources that promote diversity. While their research is aimed at teachers of students up to 18 years old there is something we can all pick up from this leaflet.

The booklet has sections about teaching approaches, showing diverse role models and creating examples that draw on a range of cultural contexts.

You can find the booklet online here:

World Bipolar Day

On World Bipolar Day (30 March, 2022), Director of Wellbeing Dr. Mahesha Samaratunga shares her advice on how we might help and support our students and each other by raising our awareness about bipolar disorder.

We have students amongst us who struggle with bipolar disorder and as Module Organisers and Academic Advisors, it is important that we be aware/educate ourselves around what this may look like in the classroom/online.

Understanding bipolar

A student with bipolar will depict very different behaviour to that of other students and they often get misunderstood and labeled as ‘bad, aggressive behaviour’.

Students with bipolar can be misunderstood in social interactions, email communications, and how they interact with the faculty and peers. They also often go unsupported. Common myths need to be eradicated such ‘as students/people with bipolar are aggressive and dangerous or attention-seeking.

Take time to read what the manifestations of bipolar may look like, especially in our learners/staff and what support or signposting we can do so that they have the necessary support:

As always if you are an advisor please advise students to connect with their  GP regularly and guide them to Advice & Counselling. If in doubt please do not hesitate to contact me.

Useful resources

Bipolar myth buster

‘I have bipolar disorder and became one of the top students in the UK’

To share with students – about managing bipolar at the university

How we can support someone with bipolar – friends/family/ lecturers

Real people living successfully with bipolar

About World Bipolar Day

The goal of World Bipolar Day is to bring the world population information about bipolar disorders that will educate and improve sensitivity towards the illness and eliminate social stigma around this illness. You can read more about World Bioplar Day here:

Attitudes towards gender-inclusive language. A multinational perspective

International Conference

9th September 2022 (online)

This international conference will bring together researchers studying attitudes towards gender-neutral language in different languages and countries.

Gender-neutral and gender-inclusive language is currently being discussed in the public sphere, and views on the subject have increasingly been voiced by individuals as well as organisations. These include state institutions, private associations, subject specialists such as linguists, and private individuals / laypeople. Views of and attitudes towards gender-neutral language cover a broad spectrum between extreme ends, and even subject specialists hold conflicting views. Some academic research on attitudes towards gender-neutral language has been conducted and published. However, a multinational/multilingual, comparative perspective is still missing.

Hosted by the School of Languages, Linguistics and Film at Queen Mary University, this event will be free to attend and will address and discuss questions such as:

How are attitudes towards gender-neutral language voiced in different countries and languages? What groups or individuals engage in the debate, and what are their views and attitudes? What are the prevailing discourses? Are there clashes between proponents of different varieties of gender-fair language?

A selected number of contributions will be included in a high-quality edited volume on “Attitudes towards gender-inclusive language. A multinational perspective”, with a publisher of excellent standing.

For more information about this conference, including registering your interest, and submitting a proposal, visit :ttp://

Supporting Muslim students and colleagues during Ramadan

The evening of Friday 1 April marked the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, which is a religious month observed by many Muslims in the UK and around the world. Ramadan falls at a different time each year because Islam uses the lunar calendar. 

The month of Ramadan is a time of spiritual reformation where Muslims try to increase their spiritual devotional acts such as prayer, giving to charity, and strengthening family ties, and also to fast and abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours.

Muslim staff and students observing Ramadan may face some changes during this month which may potentially impact their workday or studies.

How we can support our students and colleagues during Ramadan in EECS

Join Queen Mary’s Open Iftar

Queen Mary is hosting Open Iftar and will be providing an iftar experience to people of all and no faiths. The Open Iftar will be held on Thursday 21 and 28 April for food and drinks at sunset in Library Square. To find out more, visit:

Ramadan Mubarak to all our Muslim students and colleagues at the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at Queen Mary.

Mad Hearts: The Arts and Mental Health

A two day Arts and Mental Health event

  • 10 June 2022 | In-person | Pay What You Can
  • 11 June 2022 | Online | Free (Donations Welcome)

The School of English and Drama at Queen Mary is hosting a two-day event exploring

productive, radical, contemporary encounters between the arts and mental health, bringing together clinical, artistic and research perspectives that offer a re-interpretation of contemporary mental health science and practice, with a view of imagining a different future.

This year’s theme is Masked/Unmasked.

The wearing of physical masks to face the pandemic is a prompt to reflect on the metaphorical masks we wear to face the world, how we put these on to protect us from an unforgiving social world at the price of hiding the beauty of our differences. Interventions will examine how the arts can help us see behind the masks and sustain a new vision for mental health.

To find out more about this event and to book tickets:

University Mental Health Day

Photo of Dr Mahesha Samaratunga

On University Mental Health Day (3 March), Director of Wellbeing Dr. Mahesha Samaratunga reminds staff of ways we can help support our students and each other by raising mental health awareness.

‘This #UniMentalHealthDay, (Thursday 3rd March), keep an eye out for the Wellbeing Stalls on campus in Library Square from 12-2pm, featuring information on mental health charities, mindfulness and volunteering. Students can also attend a Mindfulness Taster session in the Chaplaincy from 2-3pm.

‘For academic staff working directly with students, please check in with your advisees and if they are struggling with their mental health do direct them to me or Advice & Counselling.

‘Think about sharing tips on emotional wellbeing with students regularly and let students know that the Student Union wellbeing support also has useful resources:

‘Queen Mary does offer a number of avenues for students to access support with their mental health. Our Student & Academic Services team has information around student wellbeing and the Queen Mary Advice and Counselling’s blog is really informative:

‘Do encourage your advisees to get help for their mental well-being struggles and remind them of the importance of engaging with their GP keeping to their scheduled appointments with Queen Mary Advice & Counselling.

‘If students need a wellbeing meeting with me, please pass on my details to them.

‘The mental wellbeing of our community of staff in the School is of course equally important. Here are some tips on supporting colleagues or finding support and guidance for yourself.

‘Check in with team members and ask them how they are.

‘Share a useful article with your team, for example, this article from the Mrs Mindfulness website on overcoming negative thought patterns:

‘Attend wellbeing webinars or events. Our Employee Assistance Programme is running an online webinar ‘From tired to inspired: keeping engaged and preventing burnout’ on Thursday 17 March at 12pm. Watch via the portal (username: queenmary password: employee): There are also several on demand webinars that staff can watch including Stress buster: Managing and Taking Control of Your Life, Open Communication: Powerful Ways to Create It Sleep Essentials.

‘If you are thinking of getting therapy and you don’t know what may be suitable for you the BACP has a lot of resources

‘If you are looking for a counsellor the ‘Counselling directory’ is a good place to look at

For more info and resources, visit:

Active bystander training

Active bystander training is about how to react when you encounter workplace behaviour that you don’t consider appropriate. QMUL organises it as part of their professional development training. In QMUL over fifty senior members of staff have received this training to act as role-models and champions . The course lasts 90 minutes in total, currently it’s delivered online. The training deals with behaviours from more obvious bullying and harassment to “micro-aggressions”, smaller events that are sometimes unintentional or hard to prove (eg taking more questions from men than women, sighing when some people are presenting).

The idea is to give you an array of possible responses from directly challenging the behaviour to more subtle techniques to support the target of the behaviour or address the problem behaviour more subtly. The training begins with examples and theory and then works through scenarios. It gives you various tools to challenge unacceptable behaviour.

QMUL report and support:
More about being an active bystander:

Mona Jaber elected to Women in Engineering Committee UK & Ireland

Lecturer in EECS Dr Mona Jaber was appointed to the IEEE Women in Engineering in UK and Ireland committee. She is one of ten committee members joining at the tail end of 2021. We asked her to describe the organisation and her role in it for our blog.

Who are we: IEEE Women in Engineering in the UK and Ireland (

What we do: IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE) is the largest international professional organisation dedicated to promoting women engineers and scientists. WIE UK & Ireland adopts the mission and principles of IEEE WIE which are centred on the promotion of women engineers and scientists through various efforts:

  • Industrial and research seminars
  • Career orientated panel events to inspire the next generation.
  • Pop up networking events allowing young scientists to interact with science and engineering of the future.
  • Networking events at conferences.

What is my role: I have been a member of IEEE WIE and IEEE Women in Communication Engineering (WICE) for ten years and have recently volunteered to take an active role in the IEEE WIE UK & Ireland committee.  I will lead the students’ activities in the UK and Ireland universities; for example we recently organised a meeting at Strathclyde University on Ethical Engineering: The Climate Crisis. In addition, I will support IEEE WIE UK & Ireland Industry relations team by (a) supporting early career researchers and students wanting to engage with industry (b) supporting industry partners who want to improve their diversity and inclusion performance (c) engaging industry partners in talks, events, mentorship, and sponsorship.

IEEE WIE UK & Ireland in the social media: