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The new guidelines were drawn up by the Diversity & Inclusion Office, following an e-mail to all students, containing a job advertisement with an all-caps headline of ‘Dutch Students Only’. According to Daisy Ruijter, Minister for an Inclusive and Sustainable Economy in the Students’ Cabinet that was formed last Monday, the new guidelines are long overdue. “That was not an isolated incident,” says Ruijter, a part-time law student at EUR. “I’m glad we’re making some changes.” The D&I Office has embarked on several projects designed to raise awareness of diversity-related issues. For instance, it has created videos in which important subjects are discussed, such as equality of opportunity and women’s rights. Furthermore, D&I seeks to promote inclusiveness, in direct collaboration with students.

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In her new position, Ruijter will seek to promote diversity not just at the university, but in the municipal government. “For instance, at EUR I will help the Chief Diversity Officer get more women to the university. I can tell that the university is doing its best to change, but as far as international students are concerned, they definitely experience more obstacles than Dutch students.”

Little understanding of cultural sensitivity

For his part, medical student Ferayed Hok is happy with the new guidelines, as well. He wrote a critical opinion piece about the job advertisement headlined ‘Dutch Students Only’. “Sometimes incidents like this need to trigger quick changes. If there had been any international students on the Eureka Week Organising Committee, that e-mail never would have been sent.”

According to Hok, the same problem can be seen university-wide. “If the faculties had more diverse councils, they would hire more diverse academic staff, which would then cause a reduction in the number of inclusiveness and diversity issues. We have our work cut out for us there. Thankfully, plans have been drawn up that should change a few things.”

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Ferayed Hok at Studium Generale, International Women’s Day Image credit: Arie Kers

Hok only needs to look at his own department to see that inclusiveness (or rather a lack thereof) is a problem at the university. “Things could be done differently at my department, as well. I often see examples of lecturers not understanding things such as cultural sensitivity.”

Just getting admitted to the degree programme can be a huge challenge for certain types of minorities. “At present, the university mainly selects students who get high marks at school and do well in the faculty’s entrance exam, meaning that students who deviate from the norm or don’t have enough money to receive additional training are less likely to be selected. As a result, there isn’t much diversity at the department, which also means that doctors continue to be a fairly homogeneous bunch.”

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Long-term plan

Ruijter has some ideas herself (in addition to the guidelines drawn up by D&I) on how the university can tackle the problem of minorities being excluded. “I’m very much in favour of conducting research. I think we must find out how international students are being treated – for instance, by holding a survey on how hard it is for them to find jobs. If we find there’s a problem there, we’ll be able to focus on addressing that particular problem.”

Nevertheless, Hok feels that this will have to be a long-term plan. “Society is what it is. We’re talking about a deep-seated problem. Thankfully, I’ve noticed that many students do pay attention to diversity, and the rector does, too. Now we just need to find a way to properly tackle this in the long term. At any rate, the new guidelines are a step in the right direction.”

Although Hok raised awareness of the exclusion of international students in his opinion piece, he does not want to keep focusing on that subject exclusively. “I want to become a doctor, and my studies keep me pretty busy. I’d like to get us to a point where I don’t need to draw anyone’s attention to inequality.” Ruijter understands his position. “Problems like this shouldn’t have to be solved by those students who feel there are problems. It’s everyone’s business.”

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