Statement on Black Lives Matter

The brutal murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis on 25 May has deeply shocked us all. The subsequent North American and global protests against police violence, racism and discrimination also touch our College.

As a multicultural, international college, University College Utrecht unequivocally condemns US police brutality against Black citizens, structural racism, institutional and individual discrimination of any kind. Correspondingly, we fully support Black Lives Matter and efforts to combat structural racism. It is of vital necessity that the security, health, well-being, civil and human rights of Black communities and people of colour are fully safeguarded. All legislation and policies required to achieve this should be developed and implemented effectively and with a due sense of the epidemic of police and social violence that is devastating Black American lives.

However, finger-pointing to the US does not suffice.

As empirical evidence has shown time and again, systemic racism, as well as covert and overt discrimination against people of colour are deeply rooted and widely institutionalized in the Netherlands and throughout Europe: through our education systems, employment practices, health, tax and welfare systems. Ethnic profiling is a standard practice throughout the Netherlands and Europe. As in the United States, people of colour are disproportionally likely to die in police custody. The loss of tens of thousands of brown and black lives in the Mediterranean is also informed by structural racism.  

At our own College, our minds are with all students and staff members of colour. We are committed to providing unconditional support to them and dedicate ourselves explicitly – in deeds as much as words – to making all feel respected, safe and at home here. At times this will be an uncomfortable process of learning and growth. We welcome such discomfort, undergirded by a profound conviction that this is what enables equality and justice.

This is very much in line with our Liberal Arts and Sciences philosophy and mission. These strive to educate world citizens who actively seek to use their knowledge for empowering others in the face of ignorance and fear whilst remaining committed to open-mindedness and a sense of responsibility through civic engagement. As our mission statement renders explicit, our College is a place that strives to expand socio-economic, ethnic and philosophical, and religious diversity amongst students as well as faculty.

University College Utrecht continues to work towards embodying these values. Yet we are also aware that there is still a lot of work to be done. As an institution and a community, such work requires us to critique and challenge ourselves.

That is why we must and will have on-going conversations with students, alumni, teachers and other staff members since learning together through this process is necessary. We aim to translate these conversations into action, beginning with the following:

  • critically reviewing, evaluating and decolonizing our curriculum;
  • expanding student diversity (ethnic, socio-economic, philosophical and religious as pledged in our mission);
  • diversifying academic and support staff;
  • developing programmes that make our community more aware of racist and discriminatory structures, practices and behaviors;
  • supporting the new Diversity Committee as the institutional organ through which key aspects of these actions will be developed.

This is the community we aspire to become. This is something we can only achieve together.

James Kennedy

black lives matter
Photo: Malaika Chidzero.