In her interview with Wulf, Dr. Wendy Dossett described how her university, the University of Chester, had signed a pledge marking its commitment to challenging stigma surrounding recovery from addictions, to supporting students and staff in recovery, and celebrating their contribution to higher education.
This Recovery Friendly University Pledge is an official commitment to welcoming and supporting people in recovery, valuing the contribution they make, reducing the barriers to university for people in recovery, and fostering a supportive environment that enables people in recovery to thrive and reach their full potential. The University of Chester is the second university to sign the pledge, the first being the University of Sunderland.
Wendy is involved in a recovery community within her own university in Chester. This community is not allied to any classic form of mutual aid, nor to an abstinence programme. Staff get together to discuss various matters, including about their vulnerabilities in this area and in dealing with working in a high pressure environment.
Wulf mentions the Recovery Friendly Universities project in which Wendy is involved, one part of which is about getting universities to recognise that many people in recovery want to go on to higher education and this is an important part of their journey. Wendy wants universities to realise that recovering people are an asset, bringing an important set of life experience and strengths to a diverse university community.
Too often recovering people are stigmatised, like people in active addiction, being considered vulnerable due to their past problems. Universities need to welcome recovering people in, and give them a voice as part of their diverse community. Wendy emphasises that this is the way we can tackle stigma in wider society. ‘You can’t tackle stigma anywhere else, but within institutions.’ Institutions must come out and say, ‘This stigma is unacceptable and we are going to stand against it, formally, collectively.’
Wendy points out that her university has formally signed the Recovery Friendly Pledge, something that many more universities need to sign. Wendy and Wulf go on to discuss how institutions often don’t address problems such as those related to drugs and alcohol, because they think there is more stigma attached to being publicly seen to do something about such an issue than not doing something.
The article Pioneering pledge by the University of Chester celebrates people in recovery is well worth reading and illustrates the great work that Wendy and others have done at the university.