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UU: racism debate calls for self-reflection

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Utrecht University wants to organise talks about reducing racism within the institution. Students and teachers are asked to share their experiences with discrimination. According to UU, the worldwide protests force them to look in the mirror.

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"We have to learn lessons from this", replies UU Vice President Annetje Ottow in a statement on the internet. "Society and UU cannot stay as they are."

The Executive Board opposes "systematic exclusion and discrimination" within the university. The statement refers to a message from Dean James Kennedy to students and staff of his University College Utrecht. He writes, among other things, that more work needs to be done to critically examine lecture material and to expand the diversity of the student population and staff.

At university level, according to the Executive Board, the already existing Diversity & Inclusion Taskforce should take the initiative. There, students and teachers can share their experiences with or thoughts about racism at the university. The Taskforce wants to organise discussions and possibly also lectures that focus on this theme.

Hidden inequality
Other universities also underline the importance of the 'Black Lives Matter' movement. "We acknowledge the anger and sadness in our world, city, and university," writes the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam on its website. The university enters into debates, investigates its own role in colonial history, looks at hidden inequalities in its own structures, and also critically examines its curricula.

The Erasmus University Rotterdam gives eight Black Lives Matter Film Tips. There is also a statement on the website: Erasmusian values exclude racism. "The EUR fundamentally supports the acquisition of knowledge that cannot be hindered by differences in skin colour, language, culture or background.”

The Rotterdam University does get criticism for this from its own students: those are nice words, but what is the university going to do?

In Maastricht, the board writes: "We oppose all forms of racism, from inequality of opportunity to black Pete". Anyone wishing to support Maastricht University’s efforts can report to the advisory council diversity & inclusivity.

State the obvious
There are also universities that don't really want to say anything about it, under the motto 'don't state the obvious': it goes without saying that they are against racism. In Wageningen, students and staff members launched a petition to force the board to react nonetheless, which then happened. The university loves the passion of her employees and students, board chairman Louise Fresco tweeted, and it will organise a dialogue.

At Tilburg University, an opinion piece by Professor Kutlay Yagmur (Language, Identity, and Education) can be found on the website, in which he discusses the problem of racism. The university itself gets away easily. "I myself believe that Tilburg University as an organisation has always resisted racism and discrimination", it says. "Both in the workplace and in education, our identity is based on equal rights and equal treatment.”

Falling behind
The chairman of the board of the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, among others, speaks out against racism: flatten the curve, he says using a corona crisis analogy.

Origin also plays a major role in higher education, according to the figures. Young people with a non-Western migration background fall behind. Student selection, for example, does not appear to be a neutral tool.

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