For Chief Diversity Officer Semiha Denktaş, the name change does not entail any major changes to the objectives. “The term ‘IDEA’ makes it more recognisable from an international perspective. In countries like the US, UK and New Zealand, the addition of ‘equity’ and ‘access’ is already much more common. For us, it does not mean a broadening of the programme, but rather a name that better reflects our purpose.”
In any case, the term ‘equity’ deserves some explanation, as it is difficult to translate into Dutch, Denktaş says. The Dutch translation of ‘equity’ in the context of diversity and inclusion is rechtvaardigheid. Unlike equality (gelijkheid), equity is about a fair distribution of opportunities. “This means looking at what kind of support people need to ensure that they truly have equal opportunities”, Denktaş explains.
She gives an example that the WHO often uses to explain the term. Three people get the opportunity to watch a sports game. “There are three people standing behind a high fence. The first person is so tall that he can see over the fence. The second person, if he jumps, can catch bits and pieces of the game. The third is so short that he can’t see anything at all.” The idea is to look at what is needed to be able to see over the fence: in this case, a box to stand on. The tallest person doesn’t need a box, the next person only needs one box, and the shortest person needs two boxes to be able to watch the game. Giving all three a box is ‘offering equal opportunities’; giving each person what they need is equity.
Access for everyone
“A student’s likelihood of success doesn’t just depend on their pre-university diploma: that is a precondition that applies to everyone who wishes to study at a university, just like employees need to have prior work experience and certain previous education”, Denktaş says. “The kind of family you were born into also matters, and whether you feel at home and can develop optimally. Equity is about distributing resources – the number of boxes – according to people’s needs to ensure an equal starting position. Providing access to our university for everyone, regardless of their physical abilities, available networks or origin, is equitable.” This vision of equity and accessibility is part of the IDEA Center’s outreach programme, for example. One of the aims of this programme is to familiarise under-represented groups in the student population with the university and science as early as primary and secondary school.
As of 1 January, the IDEA Center is no longer a temporary programme, but a permanent part of the university organisation. The D&I Office opened in 2015 and has its own office in the Erasmus Building. In May, the IDEA Center will publish a book in which team members look back on their experiences and the knowledge they have gained over the past years.