Guidance on using chat groups

As we begin to use social media and online communication more than ever, we explore some of the risks and dangers students may encounter when using certain mediums.

Social media is a now a part of everyday life and is a great tool to enhance students’ learning experience through the sharing of knowledge, the discussion of ideas and the development of professional and social networks. It can be a useful part of your learning experience to set up course ‘chat’ groups on social media, for example on Whatsapp, Moodle or Facebook.

However, despite the opportunities presented by social media, there are some risks to be mindful of. Sometimes the informality of social media can encourage us to be less cautious than we would be using other more traditional methods of communicating and interacting. These social media guidelines are aimed at students who use, or intend to use, social media as part of their studies.  We also have a Social Media Policy which can be found here:

Top ten tips

  1. Be clear on the purpose of the group – for example to share ideas about a theory
  2. Remember that this is an academic community – although you may be friendly with people on your course, it is important to use appropriate language
  3. Be considerate of others – be careful about what content is shared particularly if it could cause offense or be upsetting. (i.e. videos and pictures etc.)
  4. Think before you post – take time to create an appropriate response as once you post a message then you cannot take it back.  Don’t argue online.
  5. Be careful about sharing too much personal information.
  6. Always ask permission before sharing private details about your fellow students. Such details could include private contact details, pictures or details of private discussions.
  7. If you see something on a social media group that concerns you, you can report it to your programme director or on:
  8. Chat groups can be great for debating and thinking through ideas.  Don’t use social media to attack others who might disagree and remember to respect other people’s privacy and feelings. If you break the law on social media sites (for example by posting something defamatory) you will be personally responsible.
  9. If someone asks you not to message them directly, respect their request.
  10. Remain mindful of the College’s Dignity at Work and Study Policy and the Social Media Policy.

Although staff at Birkbeck will not monitor the groups, the College will:

  • Ensure these guidelines are accessible to staff and students.
  • Investigate complaints regarding students’ behaviour on social media in line with the University’s Student Disciplinary Procedures. (Please note that social media is not recognised as an official channel via which to make a formal complaint).
  • Take disciplinary action where inappropriate behaviour is exhibited in accordance with the College’s Student Discipline Procedures and Dignity at Work and Study Policy.
  • Periodically review and update the guidelines and any other associated policy and guidelines. Staff and students will be notified of any significant changes.

Any misconduct on social media will be dealt with through the Student Discipline Procedures. This could include:

  • Foul and abusive language
  • Discrimination
  • Violence and threats
  • Bullying and harassment
  • Hateful speech
  • Inappropriate graphic content
  • Inflammatory comments – those arousing or intending to arouse feelings of anger or violence
  • Deliberately misleading or defamatory comments – those damaging the good reputation of someone, slanderous or libellous
  • Phishing and spam.


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Is job sharing the future for academics?

Academia operates within a traditional culture where often new practices in terms of working patterns are slow to be implemented. However, could a job share be part of the solution to addressing work stress and the gender pay gap?

Dr Rachel Lewis and Dr Jo Yarker

Dr Rachel Lewis and Dr Jo Yarker

Dr Rachel Lewis and Dr Jo Yarker, Senior Lecturers in the Department of Organizational Psychology, believe just that. Their arrangement represents the first appointment of its kind amongst academics at Birkbeck.

Research by Kinman and Jones recognises the stressful nature of the academic role and working environment, which is particularly acute in those more junior academic positions, and in women. Fifteen years on from the launch of the Athena Swan Charter, the gender pay gap is still at 15.3% and women are sorely underrepresented in Professorial and Senior roles.

“In working together, we can fulfil one FTE and as such be treated equitably on that footing,” said Lewis and Yarker. “This means that our workload is distributed in the same way as full time staff but beyond that, we can support each other and enable our mutual research goals to thrive. Job sharing has allowed us both as individuals to follow our passions, and drive our careers forward; we act as each other’s trusted advisor and support, meaning that we can really focus our goals and deliver more for the university than would be possible if we were working independently.

“Although we have a strong shared sense of where we are heading and what is important, and we often like to vocalise that we are interchangeable, we do do things differently. As a result, students we are supervising tend to gravitate to either of us for different types of support. The result is that our job share arrangement allows us to work to our strengths and our authentic selves.”

Strong friendships and mutual trust

The successful job share didn’t just happen overnight for Lewis and Yarker. It had been preceded by working together for a number of years. This enabled them to forge a strong friendship and develop mutual trust and affection. “When we both started to have families, we covered each other’s maternity leaves. It soon dawned upon us that the co-sharing of work was really valuable for us. We had always worked part time in academia (combining this with commercial practice), and so the job share was not to enable us to work on reduced hours but rather to have a more fulfilling, complete and supportive academic career.”

When asked how they manage the job share practically, Lewis and Yarker responded, “There are a number of different ways a job share can be organised, and we tend to do the ‘whole’ job between us, and flex our lead responsibilities depending on project demands and life demands.”

A growing trend

Lewis and Yarker’s somewhat unusual arrangement has been noticed by two colleagues in their department who have followed suit and applied for a job (successfully) in a job share arrangement too.

Janet Sheath and Dr Susan Kahn share the responsibility for the Department of Organizational Psychology’s coaching portfolio and from Autumn 2020 will be directing four programmes between them. Speaking of how the job share came about, Sheath joked that they sold it to the Department as ‘two for the price of one’: “Between us we have a considerable amount of experience as practitioners and access to broader career and coaching networks, as well as bringing our unique research interests to the role. I wouldn’t want to only teach or only practice, I’ve always done both, and we both continue to bring up to date knowledge as practitioners to the classroom.”

Kahn echoes Lewis and Yarker’s sentiments on the personal and professional benefits of job sharing: “Starting the role together removed the feelings of isolation that sometimes accompany a new position and we’ve developed a safe, supportive space in which to explore new ideas. We also have the same sense of humour and share a lot of laughs, too!”

Perhaps this is a sign of the future?

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Birkbeck is launching a short course on antisemitism – here’s why. 

This article was written by Dr Brendan McGeever. Dr McGeever is based in the Department of Psychosocial Studies and the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism. He is part of the teaching team for Facing Antisemitism: Politics, Culture, History alongside course leader Professor David Feldman (Department of History, Classics and Archaeology and Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism) and Dr Ben Gidley (Psychosocial Studies).

Image credit: domoskanonos

Antisemitism sits at the centre of British political debate like never before. It is a subject that is explosive and controversial, but one that is often poorly understood, leaving some people troubled and others perplexed. The persistence of antisemitism, both in Britain and globally, provokes urgent questions that should concern us all.

At Birkbeck we have developed a new short course to explore the sources, development and contemporary forms of antisemitism – and never has a course been so timely and so needed.

Facing Antisemitism: Politics, Culture, History is open to students and the public. Taught over three evenings, it draws on history and the social sciences, to answer questions such as: How can we recognise and define antisemitism? How does it relate to other forms of racism? How widespread is antisemitism? Where does it come from? Why does it persist?  What is the impact of antisemitism on Jews? What is the relationship between anti-racism and opposition to antisemitism? Birkbeck is ideally placed to provide this course: it is the only university in the UK with an institute dedicated to the study of antisemitism.

Those who take the course will learn about the manifestations and sources of antisemitism and be equipped to recognise antisemitism, both in the past and in the present. Antisemitism has no single home: it can be found across religious and political divisions. For example, there is a long tradition of antisemitism on the political right, particularly on its fascist fringes, which today are increasingly encroaching into the political mainstream. But antisemitism has also been a recurring feature on the left, and to a great extent this is what generates controversy and confusion today. What this tells us is that antisemitism resides within political culture: there is a reservoir of myths, stereotypes and narratives about Jews that traverses the political divide, and it is there to be drawn on whenever Jews – implicitly or explicitly – become the subject of political debate.

For me, as a sociologist, with a special interest in racialization, one of the important features of the course is that at Birkbeck we consider antisemitism as a form of racism. This perspective makes it possible to identify the specificities of antisemitism, as well as its connections with other forms of prejudice and domination. Students will also learn about the changing place of antisemitism within the politics of anti-racism. Half a century ago, opposition to antisemitism and opposition to other racisms were closely aligned. Today, these connections are slender, and for many, there has been a parting of ways. This is nowhere more apparent than in the debate over Israel and Palestine. This course navigates this contested history and provides the concepts to understand the relationship between anti-Zionism, anti-racism and antisemitism. It is a course for today’s troubled times.

If you want to learn more about antisemitism, this course is for you.


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24 hours until the start of my 5,000km journey….

Robert Hargreaves, an undergraduate in BSc Psychology with Neuroscience, is doing a 5000km bike ride in aid of the world’s first Toddler Lab currently being built on campus. Robert shares his feelings as he prepares to embark on his journey. Please support Robert as he undertakes his fundraising bike ride.

I leave Paris and head through Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany into Denmark. Once I reach Skagen, I’ll take a ferry over to Gothenburg and then head up through Oslo all the way to the top of Norway, along the Lofoten Islands to just above Narvik. Well within the Arctic Circle, the trail heads East through Lapland until I reach Finland and the Gulf of Bothnia, where the home run starts from the top to the bottom of Sweden, through Copenhagen and finally on to Berlin.

It will be an amazing experience taking in the Eiffel Tower, Dutch canals, Danish ports and peninsulas, Norwegian fjords, glaciers and untouched countryside. There will be lots of interesting people to meet and maybe even a few saunas along the route that will help with any aches and pains I may incur.

I think the solitude will take its toll; the climate will be tough, supermarkets sparse.  I will mainly be wild camping, but I’ve got Kandel, Dennett, Eryn Saks, Pinker, Blakemore and Plomin audiobooks to keep me company, so going into the final year of the bachelors it’s a great opportunity for learning, meditation and self-reflection.

We have some great professors and lecturers at Birkbeck who are teaching us about developmental neuroscience and psychology from the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development. They covered a lot of research from the BabyLab, so it inspired me to get involved and help raise money for them to enable them to buy more equipment for the new ToddlerLab centre.

Although this is going to be difficult, I have some experience.  In 2017 I cycled 6,000km in 100 days for BEAT the UKs eating disorder charity and the Body Dysmorphic Foundation, so I’m using the same kit and anything I’ve had to buy or consume is entirely self-funded and 100% of any donation or gift aid will go directly to help Toddlers with Neurological problems.

I will be posting photos of the journey, the people I meet, some beautiful sights, landmarks and maybe even a few wolves and bears along the way. The Birkbeck owl mascot will be coming along for the ride, and will pop up across eight countries and might even call in at some other universities along the way!

Please follow the social media feed, send messages of support along the route and, if you’re able to, donate to ToddlerLab.

You can follow Robert’s journey on Instagram and Twitter, with the hashtag #RobsBikeRide


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