Diversity and Inclusion at Utrecht University: input from a Town Hall Meeting and a follow-up survey
In November 2020, the Utrecht Young Academy organised a Town Hall Meeting and conducted a follow-up survey to provide an opportunity for staff and students to voice their opinion on diversity and inclusion at Utrecht University.
The Town Hall discussion and survey were organised around four main themes: staff, access to the university, curricula and resources. Around 20 people participated in the Town Hall Meeting and discussed these four themes in smaller groups. The follow-up survey consisted of several open questions that asked participants to bring up any diversity-related issues they have noticed, as well as provide suggestions for how to solve these issues.
When considering diversity and inclusion at the level of staff, there were contrasting opinions on what diversity is and why the university is aiming for greater diversity. There was a general sense that the staff at Utrecht University is too white, middle class and male, especially at higher levels. Participants raised several obstacles for diverse staff already present at the university, such as a lack of cultural awareness and inclusion in terms of language and uncertainty about career paths.
Access to the university
Several issues were raised regarding access to the university. Currently, some buildings are not sufficiently accessible for people with disabilities. People with disabilities should also be taken into consideration when setting up online education. Respondents would appreciate guidelines on how to make material accessible to visually impaired and deaf students and a training to talk about race and diversity. Lastly, outreach programs should include groups that are underrepresented.
With regards to diversity in the curriculum, participants mentioned syllabi should be diversified. Some participants applaud the progress that has already been made on this front, but others still find the curriculum too Eurocentric. Participants also suggested that diversity in staff would contribute to the decolonisation of the curriculum. More institutional support is deemed necessary by the participants, including more guidelines on what diversity or decolonising means for particular faculties and fields. Resources, including both time and money, would be necessary to diversify the curriculum.
High workloads negatively affect certain groups and minorities.
Lastly, several issues were raised regarding resources. For example, funding allocation is not always transparent and might privilege certain people. Furthermore, high workloads negatively affect certain groups and minorities. Participants also mentioned that long-term projects should be further developed first instead of starting new initiatives.
In April, the Diversity committee of the Utrecht Young Academy will discuss these outcomes with the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Office at Utrecht University. After this meeting, the full report of the Town Hall Meeting and follow-up survey will be shared via the website of the Utrecht Young Academy.