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Minister: ‘Men and women can sit wherever they want at the UU’

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Universities should not obstruct women’s emancipation, says education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven in response to parliamentary questions about a lecture at the UU in which men and women were seemingly separated. The minister says there’s no obstruction of emancipation happening at the UU.

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Three VVD congresspeople had asked the minister whether there are meetings at the university at which men and women are separated by gender, after a photo from student association Insan was published. In the picture, taken during a meeting of the multicultural association held in a UU lecture hall, all female visitors seem to be seated in the back, while the men are in the front rows.

Although the UU responded by saying there was no forced separation at play, VVD congresspeople Tielen, Becker, and Yesilgöz-Zegerius were not satisfied with the answer. They sent in questions to education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven.

The minister has now answered these. In response to the questions, she writes: “Emancipation is a long-term process, and we may expect universities to ensure there are no barriers to obstruct women’s emancipation, such as forcing separated seating of men and women. In response to the photo and the ensuing attention on Twitter, Utrecht University has discussed the matter with Insan. In this conversation, Insan’s (female) president emphasised that men and women can sit wherever they please during any and all activities organised by the student association.”

The minister sees no reason to suspect the ‘equality between men and women’ isn’t guaranteed at the UU. The minister says the same is clear from the university’s guidelines. The code of conduct mentions, for example, that students should treat each other with respect, and student associations that ‘maintain or encourage discrimination’ are not recognised by the UU. The latter means they will not receive (financial) support.

UU spokesperson Maarten Post adds in a response that student association Insan is aware of the fact that forced separation of men and women is not allowed within the university’s walls. The spokesperson says that at the moment, there’s no reason to doubt the president’s statement that students chose their own seats – and that ‘in no way, separated seating was called for’.

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