Recently, an e-mail calling on EUR students to apply for a position on the board of Eurekaweek 2021 caused quite a stir. The message headed off with a specific requirement, printed in a bold, all caps font: ‘DUTCH STUDENTS ONLY’. This did not go down well with a number of students.
DUTCH STUDENTS ONLY? WTF?
Medical student Ferayed Hok got a bit of a shock when he opened a university e-mail…
Medical student Ferayed Hok wrote a critical opinion piece in EM, which in turn led to a discussion about the incident between the university’s Diversity & Inclusion Office and a delegation of student and association representatives. The D&I Office also set to work on various new projects and guidelines. As Office team member Frederick Ntow puts it: “Erasmus is an international university, and Eurekaweek can’t stay behind.”
“That e-mail was very disappointing. None of the university guidelines allow you to exclusively call on Dutch students to apply for certain positions,” says Frederick Ntow, who works as a Communication adviser for the Diversity & Inclusion Office. He calls the fact that the e-mail only addresses Dutch students ‘an unpleasant mistake’. “While you may decide to set certain requirements when it comes to language proficiency, this isn’t how you should make students aware of a vacancy.” Nor does it suit the course the university has charted, according to Ntow: “A university that wants to be international has to do its utmost to appeal to as many international students as possible. This isn’t the way to go about it.”
In response, the D&I Office organised a meeting with the international student organisations and the rector magnificus to discuss how the university and its student community could be made more inclusive. “We have long-standing ties with the multicultural student associations. We often contact them to catch up on possible problems surrounding inclusion within the university. During the meeting, they noted they were unpleasantly surprised by that e-mail and wondered whether the university stood behind it. Which wasn’t the case of course.”
The question now is how such incidents can be avoided. “The D&I Office advises the Executive Board. We have drawn up guidelines for communication within the university and with the student body. We see it as our task to raise awareness.”
Videos about equal opportunity
The D&I Office has initiated a number of projects to achieve this goal. “We’ve made several videos in which we discuss important issues like equal opportunity and women’s rights. In addition, we discuss how we can best create space for different types of students within Erasmus University.”
“We work directly together with students to promote inclusion, and I will personally be visiting the different departments within the university to help them with communication in this area. We’ve also written a communication plan that will be shared with the various faculties.” Among other things, this communication plan clarifies how you can ensure everyone gets the same opportunities when recruiting staff or board members.
Ntow: “Erasmus University is already very vigilant when it comes to diversity. For example, some time ago, we paid attention to the Black Lives Matter movement. But this ‘Dutch students only’ e-mail underlines the importance of preserving this awareness.” At the moment, the D&I Office is mainly working to make more students aware of its activities. “Standing by is no longer an option.” Ntow believes it all boils down to increasing consciousness: “I’m certain this e-mail was not written in faith. But people often aren’t aware of what they don’t know. And we’re here to change that.”