UU talking about racism and discrimination

We have been deeply wracked by the injustice caused by racism, which has been made so prominent by the unjust murder of George Floyd in the U.S. and by the global Black Lives Matter movement. How do we reckon with this at Utrecht University?

"Far away and near, racism leads to discrimination, exclusion, humiliation and oppression. Hidden or outspoken, incidental and institutional. Many of us are also wracked with the pain and injustice that people inflict on each other. That is why we speak out against racism and other forms of unjust inequality. We are committed to an inclusive university community, to a just society, to equal rights and equal opportunities"

This message, very well expressed by our colleagues at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, was endorsed by Utrecht University on the day that a major Black Lives Matter protest took place in our city. We endorse the importance of actively working within our university to speak out against systematic exclusion and discrimination, as aptly expressed by James Kennedy of University College Utrecht. 

But how do we move forward with this and put it into practice? "We have an essential task here as a university," says Vice President Annetje Ottow. "Of course, this isn't something we're only just starting now. But the developments of the last few weeks call for self-reflection. We have to look critically in the mirror. What could be better? We need to talk to each other about that. We want to listen very carefully to people inside and outside the UU community. But this is not enough to affect change. We also need to talk to each other. If we want to change something within our university and in other places in society, we have to stand up for each other and speak out when we witness racism, discrimination or some other form of inequality. In addition, as a university we have a task in educating young people on these themes. And with our research we will contribute to the social debate. We must make that research clearly visible and findable".

The Diversity & Inclusion Taskforce plays a pioneering role. Chairman and REBO dean Janneke Plantenga: "We ask UU employees to share their experiences. We are also looking forward to ideas that can contribute to positive change. This can be done by e-mail, but also in conversations that we will initiate. In addition, it has been suggested to organize a series of lectures on the subject. We believe in the power of diversity and inclusion. Racism and discrimination are diametrically opposed to this. It is our joint responsibility to prevent students and staff from being exposed to racism and discrimination and to support them if that is the case. These changes will take time, but let's use the energy of global protests to accelerate this process".

Annetje Ottow: "We must learn from this. Society and Utrecht University cannot stay as they are now, and we need to reflect on how our research, education and organisation should be optimally open to what needs to be done in the next time"

For more information about the Diversity & Inclusion Taskforce and UU activities in the field of diversity and inclusion, see UU.nl/diversity. If you have a story you would like to share, or a suggestion, please contact the Taskforce at Diversity@uu.nl.

If you have unfortunately been confronted with or witnessed unacceptable behaviour, or if you are seeking support, please refer to these pages on the Confidential Advisor and our complaints procedure.