The initiative urges everyone within the university organisation – whatever their position – to make work of this theme. The letter has since been signed by over 350 students and staff members, before it was published. The signatories include the entire University Council, as well as several prominent professors, both men and women.
Time for self-diagnosis is over
Headed by Hanneke Takkenberg (professor at Erasmus MC) in her capacity as Chief Diversity Officer, the letter’s authors call on the university community to actively work towards an institution in which we “not only give thought to diversity and inclusiveness, but actually take action in these areas.” According to the authors, “the University may have adopted the motto ‘Diversity and inclusion is in our DNA’, but virtually every leading position within the organisation is occupied by a white Dutch male. The deadline for EUR to perform a self-diagnosis and determine which areas are in need of a treatment plan expired some time ago.” “It is not only about genderdiversity”, emphasizes Takkenberg, “but it is about taking full advantage of all the diversity of talent in this university”.
Actually do ‘yes’
The letter specifically calls on a number of parties to take action, including lecturers and researchers, but also students HR-officers and the Supervisory Board. “We purposely did not address the letter to the Executive Board and the deans, since we’ve been talking with them for a long time already. It’s time to not only say ‘yes’, but actually do ‘yes’,” explains Takkenberg. “Of course, I do hope that the deans and the Executive Board decide to sign the letter too.”
We also find Professor of Sociology Willem Schinkel among the authors, who recently posted an impassioned plea about this issue on the Rotterdam news blog ‘Vers Beton’. In this post, Schinkel reproaches the EUR administrators for a form of ‘academic homophilia’: white men who anoint someone in their own image as ‘crown prince’, robbing women and members of cultural minorities of the opportunity to enter the upper academic and administrative echelons of the University.
Not an issue of minorities
Takkenberg was overwhelmed by the large number of declarations of support – 350 so far – since the letter was first informally shared this Friday within the ten authors’ own networks. “We don’t want to continue complaining, but rather create broader public support for positive action. We want to make the members of the community aware of all the things they can do themselves. For example, a lot of students believe that diversity and inclusiveness are limited to that one issue of minorities, while learning how to deal with diversity is actually an essential part of every student’s education.”
In the letter, the writers call on the university community to make ‘concrete agreements’, regarding e.g. more diversity within the lecturer corps, ‘re-gauging the quality of research and research staff’ and greater transparency within the selection and promotion of staff members. And they have the following message for EUR’s students: “Get to know one another and learn from one another – including people beyond your own familiar circle of friends. By trying to connect, you will actually discover that fellow students who at first glance may not resemble you often have a lot in common with you.”