The LGBT Staff Network contributes to the development and maintenance of an environment at the University in which everyone feels welcome and where the needs of individuals are recognised and addressed so that they can reach their full potential, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Network supports the University and LGBT staff by:

  • providing a safe environment in which to raise issues experienced by LGBT staff and students;
  • identifying and highlighting specific needs of LGBT staff and students and how to meet these;
  • raising awareness of and celebrating significant events in LGBT culture and history;
  • providing links with external LGBT communities, groups and organisations;
  • promoting good relations between LGBT and non-LGBT staff;
  • providing support, advice and information on LGBT matters to all staff, exercising confidentiality as and when appropriate.

Membership is open to all staff employed by the University and/or working on campus, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity – straight cisgender allies are encouraged to join.

The Network’s activities are determined and overseen by a twelve-member Steering Group, profiled below.

For further information, see the LGBT staff network constitution.

Steering Group


Helen Sauntson

Professor Helen Sauntson (she/her)

At York St John University, I am a Professor of English Language and Linguistics. Much of my teaching and research focuses on LGBT+ issues, especially in relation to language and education. As a former teacher, I maintain an interest in how gender and sexuality identities are constructed through linguistic interaction in classroom settings. I have, for example, conducted research into the role that language plays in constructing sexuality discourses in educational contexts, with a specific focus upon linguistic manifestations of homophobia in UK secondary schools. I regularly liaise with local schools over LGBT issues and sexual diversity more broadly.

Naomi Orrell (Co-Chair, she/her)

I have been the Chaplaincy Administrator at York St John since June 2022. As well as supporting the Chaplain (Jane Speck), I am in charge of organising the varied events and services our multi-faith Chaplaincy team provide. Alongside the Steering Group, I am also a member of the Trans-Inclusive Network which provides support for trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming staff and students. I feel very lucky to be part of a Chaplaincy that offers a warm welcome to LGBTQ+ people and I’m excited to explore how the network can work together with the Chaplaincy to make YSJ as welcoming as possible.

Robyn Slater (Chair of YSJ’S LGBTQ+ Society, Co-Chair)

I am the chair of York St John’s LGBTQ+ society and I aim to provide a regular friendly and inclusive space for the student LGBTQ+ society to meet and keep in touch. I spearhead regular socials, both sober and alcohol inclusive, and run events relating to mental health, sexual health, and LGBTQ+ awareness. Providing a less formal link to aid students in their journey through university I can act as a friend with the rest of my committee as well as bringing issues up to rest of the staff team. We have ties with the rest of York’s LGBTQ+ community such as local meeting places, groups and the pride team and will happily make these connections for students who would like them.

Rian Craske (Co-Chair, he/they)

I have worked in the York St John Disability Support and Inclusion Team since October 2022, and I have a background in theatre and student outreach with a focus on equality, diversity and inclusion. I am passionate about inclusivity across all aspects of the university for both staff and students, and am excited to see what the Network can achieve.


Holly Keable (Co-Chair, she/her)

I joined the Executive Support Office at York St John in February 2020 and moved to the Strategic Projects and Change team in March 2022 where I now work as a Project Manager. I come from a background in the arts, having worked in Theatres as a Box Office manager. I am extremely passionate about equality, diversity and inclusion and I will always work towards creating a working environment that is safe and supportive. My work at the University is primarily focused around driving and facilitating positive change for the organisation, staff and students. Through my involvement with the LGBTQ+ Staff Network, I hope to continue and expand this work.

Sebastian Forrester (SU LGBTQ+ Officer, they/he)Sebastian Forrester

I’m Sebastian, the LGBTQ+ Liberation Officer at the Students’ Union for 2022/23. I act as a liaison between the student LGBTQ+ community at YSJ and the staff network, ensuring that the student voice is heard. I am working hard to aid the staff network in ensuring we have a diverse and welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ students.


Claire Curran (Staff Network Secretary & Co-Chair, she/her)

At York St John, I have worked as the Executive Assistant to the Pro Vice Chancellor: Education since May 2022. I come from a background in social care and have an invested interest in supporting and promoting equality, diversity and inclusion focussed events and projects. I now work at the university because I was once a student here and have always felt it is an inclusive and accommodating campus. As Secretary of the Network, I hope to help support others and make everyone feel welcome here.

For further information, email us.