Steering committee for initiatives regarding slavery past of Utrecht University

The Executive Board (EB) has decided to found a university-wide steering committee regarding the slavery past of Utrecht University (UU). The steering committee will have the assignment to connect and show various faculty initiatives. A budget of 75,000 euros has been set for 2023. Over the course of 2023, the steering committee will indicate what kind of budget will be required for 2024.

Study of slavery past and the role of Utrecht University

In 2021, a study on the city of Utrecht’s slavery past was published. The study showed that Utrecht University, too, has ties to slavery. The EB then asked a commission led by James Kennedy to advise on what UU must now do. Which role can UU play and does UU want to play in the further investigations and (internal) discussions on the colonial history of the city and the university itself?

Working out the activities

In February 2022, the advisory report was published. This was then discussed with the University Council and the Deans. All faculties received the request to internally discuss the report and work out plans of their own. They have worked very hard on that in the last period. The activities vary from a broad discussion meeting at the Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance (LEG) to appointing a research assistant who will carry out research at Geosciences.

‘From all of us’

Rector Magnificus Henk Kummeling says: “As the EB, we didn't want this to be a project of one faculty or researcher. It has to be something from all of us. I'm glad with how the faculties are rising to the challenge. And more is happening. For instance, I'm looking forward to the book that Henk van Rinsum is writing. The Centre for Academic Teaching (CAT) recently used the lustrum to bring attention to the importance of diversity, with a keynote by Bruce Mutsvairo and a workshop by Jeroen Janssen on an ‘inclusive curriculum’.” Other examples pointed out by the Rector Magnificus are the Decolonization Group of the Utrecht University Centre for Global Challenges (UGlobe), and the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Office that seeks collaboration with the African and Caribbean Heritage Network in the run-up to Keti Koti 2023.


Kummeling says: “I understand there is now also a call for more coordination and collaboration. That is why the next step is the founding of a university-wide steering committee with a budget and official support, which connects the implementation and compares the plans to the report by the Kennedy Commission to see where any gaps may be and where additional effort is desirable. This way, we can really give shape to the ‘accountability’ the Kennedy Commission is rightfully calling for.”

List of initiatives