Steering committee regarding slavery past and colonialism

The Executive Board (CvB) has set up a university-wide steering committee to address Utrecht University's slavery past and colonialism. The steering committee has been tasked with connecting faculty initiatives and making them visible.

Study on slavery past and the role of Utrecht University

In 2021, a study on the slavery past of the city of Utrecht was published. The study revealed that Utrecht University also has ties to slavery. The CvB then asked a committee led by James Kennedy to advise on what the university should do. What role could and would Utrecht University play in further researching and (internally) discussing the colonial history of the city and the university itself? The advisory report was published in February 2022. All faculties were asked to discuss the report internally and develop their own plans. To connect these various initiatives, a steering committee has now been set up.

Steering group composition

Chairing the steering committee on slavery history and colonialism is a duo position:

  • Joyce Sylvester, chair of the State Commission against Discrimination and Racism, and Academic Fellow of the Faculty of REBO;
  • James Kennedy, Professor of Modern Dutch History and University Professor with an assignment on community engaged learning.

The steering committee further consists of:

  • Bruce Mutsvairo, professor of Media, politics and the global south;
  • Makeda Ferguson, master's student in Sustainable Business & Innovation and chair of the African and Caribbean Heritage Network;
  • Henk van Rinsum, former staff member and author of the book on Utrecht University's colonial past, to be published in October;
  • Femke den Boer, director of Centre for Science and Culture;
  • Kai Bhawanibhiek, policy advisor Inclusion and diversity at UMC Utrecht.

Secretary of the steering committee is Bas Schreiner.

There is a budget of 75,000 euros for 2023. In the year 2023, the steering committee will indicate what budget is needed in 2024.


Rector Henk Kummeling: Because there is a need for more coordination and cooperation, this university-wide steering committee was created. The steering committee will receive budget and support and will link the implementation of activities. The steering committee will also lay existing initiatives alongside the Kennedy Committee report to see where gaps exist and additional efforts are desirable. In this way, we can really start shaping the 'accountability' that the Kennedy Committee rightly calls for.


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