What do you think about the new rainbow crossing, the discussion about pronouns and the ‘decolonisation’ of education? We’re curious to hear your opinion on diversity and inclusion. EM is taking part in a national survey among students and staff at universities and universities of applied sciences.

Student? Use this link to go to the survey.

Employee? Use this link to go to the survey.

Abdessamad Bouabid, criminologist and associate professor at the Erasmus School of Law

“When people come to my house, it’s my responsibility to make them feel at home. I think hospitality is a very important value, also at a university. You can never be 100 percent inclusive, but you have to try.

“The university is a gatekeeper to opportunities, and can give people opportunities as well as take them away. Examples include opportunities for a good job with good working conditions. If students don’t feel safe, you deprive them of that dream. A university also provides access to power, to the upper echelons of society. If you only educate white men here, then only white men will occupy those influential positions.

“There are two things that make promoting diversity and inclusion more difficult: first of all, not everyone knows what we’re talking about. These are broad concepts. The social discourse is the second point. Since the 1980s there has been a shift to the right, with less of a focus on diversity and anyone who falls outside ‘the norm’. Since 2010, movements like MeToo and against Zwarte Piet have given vulnerable social groups the chance to participate in the discourse. These voices are now facing off. That is the playing field where the university finds itself.

“How does a university become more diverse? More research is needed. Although sometimes you have to take action without measuring the impact. Not everything can be measured.”

Inga Hoever, associate professor and associate dean of Diversity and Inclusion at the Rotterdam School of Management

“Given my position, it shouldn’t surprise you that my answer is ‘yes’. For several reasons: as an employer, you want staff to feel that they belong here and can be who they are, and I think that’s what inclusion means.

“Second, as an educational institution, we have to provide an environment where all different kinds of people can learn. To do that, we have to step outside our comfort zone, experiment and make mistakes, and then learn from them. That is only possible if you feel at home.

“Third, as a university, we create knowledge. The production of that knowledge is better when our workforce is more diverse. If we put five people together, they shouldn’t be ‘clones’ of each other, but all different people who contribute their own perspectives. The research on this is clear: there’s a small but significant positive effect on the creativity and innovation of teams, the more diverse they are. But this happens mainly when diversity is combined with inclusive behaviour.

“This theme has increasingly become a priority for universities in recent years. That recognition is very important in itself, but there’s definitely still room for progress. For example, we don’t know how diverse our workforce actually is because there’s a lot of data we simply can’t collect. We also haven’t fully examined how inclusive people feel. That is an important piece of the puzzle as well. But collecting data about diversity and inclusion is a complicated and delicate matter.”

Arjan Non, economist and associate professor at the Erasmus School of Economics

“It’s good to think about diversity and inclusivity. It’s a relevant theme, but it’s also important to do good research before policies are created. What can be done? What is the desired effect? Which policies will lead to that desired effect? In my opinion, what a university can and should do varies for each discipline. Economists are concerned with identifying the effects of policies such as gender quotas. In other studies, diversity policies will come into play in a very different way.

“What can a university do? Many students feel anonymous, for example, and I recognise that sense of anonymity myself. Students say they feel lost, but is it the university’s job to do something about that? We can’t force them to make friends, can we? Tutorial groups are composed randomly so that students of different backgrounds get to know each other more. Maybe this is a good example of diversity policy.

“I think we should guard against polarisation. I was recently in a small building that had only one toilet. The sign said: men/women/gender-neutral. To me, thart sounded like a statement. We all have a gender-neutral toilet at home, so why not just say ‘toilet’? Then it’s nice and clear for everyone.”