Diversity Dean John de Wit: "Diversity is not always visible"

Professor John de Wit is the new UU-wide Diversity Dean. He builds on the work of his predecessor, emeritus professor Janneke Plantenga. "A solid foundation to take further steps together in the field of equality, diversity and inclusion." 

John de Wit wants to continue with the current course of the EDI programme. "Diversity has different perspectives and comes in many dimensions and facets. Diversity of staff and students enriches the academic debate. Everyone deserves equal opportunities."

In the coming years, De Wit and programme manager Brigitte Prieshof will lead the implementation of the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion programme. As chairman of the advisory EDI Steering Committee, De Wit, together with programme manager Prieshof, monitors both progress and the focus on objectives. He says: "I see it as my task to connect with all faculties and parts of the university. Together we will work on concrete actions towards the main objectives of the multi-annual plan."

Midterm review

This spring, as part of the EDI midterm review, several students and staff discussed how they assess the content, structure and communication of the EDI programme. Diversity and inclusion has support, the review shows. And: there are a number of themes that could be given more emphasis in the coming years. Mentioned are inclusive education; neurodiversity and invisible impairments; first generation students; and diversity and inclusion in research. De Wit: "With the EDI programme as a central starting point, we will pay attention to this with specific actions, debate and discussion."

October Diversity Month

The new Diversity Dean expresses the wish that all staff and students feel welcome, safe and valued at our university. "You have to be able to live up to that. As far as I'm concerned, it's about achieving even more awareness and involvement of staff and students in equality, diversity and inclusion." Diversity month October latches onto this with various events. 

The agenda in the coming weeks includes a diversity symposium and a workshop on creating an inclusive curriculum. The new dashboard Belonging@UU student survey is launched. The Diversity Dinner Dialogues has accessibility and first-generation students as its theme. In short, a literally diverse programme. De Wit: "Staff and students who see themselves as more diverse are given a platform. This creates points of recognition and appreciation, even for those who are not yet ready for that stage." 

Coming Out Day

On Wednesday 11 October, the raising of the rainbow flag will bring attention to Coming Out Day. "A symbolic and at the same time important moment. We send the message that everyone, including LGBTQ+ people, should be able to be themselves and feel safe and accepted at our university." 

Personal themes

"Logically, people can differ from each other both visibly (gender, ethnicity) and invisibly (competences, knowledge)," emphasizes De Wit, referring to more personal themes. "For me, for example, my diversity is probably not visible to most people." De Wit is married to a man and was a first generation student, which has carried over into academic leadership. "These are all things that aren't written on my forehead."

De Wit hopes that these personal themes can provide recognition and inspiration and that he may be able to play an exemplary role for staff and students. "At the same time, I've also thought about whether my non-visible diversity matters? Is it appreciated? yes, I think it's a strength. You can be diverse without it being immediately noticeable." 
In the coming weeks, Diversity Dean John de Wit will be present during October Diversity Month. Among other things, he participates in the ‘Diversity belongs to Everyone Together: the importance of different perspectives’ symposium in the Sonnenborgh.

Profile John de Wit: socially involved

Professor of Social Sciences John de Wit has been a member of the EDI Steering Committee since its inception and is actively involved in the faculty EDI Committee. His profile shows a great social commitment. For three years he has been chairman of the Fund for Scientific Research on Sexuality (FWOS), and there is a membership of the Scientific Advisory Board Corona Behavioral Unit of the RIVM. As a lecturer, De Wit is also  involved in Health in society, Introduction to Behavioural Sciences and Social Change Approaches. These are just a few examples of his many contributions to science, research and education. "I like to make an active contribution to finding relevant solutions for current themes", he explains his great involvement in current issues from society.

Keep it workable and concrete

Portretfoto van Janneke Plantenga
Janneke Plantenga

Emeritus professor Janneke Plantenga was the first Diversity Dean (2020-2023). At the beginning of September, she passed the proverbial baton to John de Wit. How does she look back on her Diversity Dean period? "A lot has been achieved in recent years, and I am proud of that. With a lot of positive energy, the sometimes tough theme Equality, Diversity & Inclusion is made tangible, workable and concrete. Very visible is the 570 meter long rainbow cycle path, a cheerful project by and for everyone. In addition, major steps have been taken on the inclusive curriculum and the percentage of female professors at the UU has increased. We see greater cultural diversity among staff and students. Less visible, but at least as important is the clear structure that characterizes the EDI theme. The ambitious goals are translated into concrete actions and activities, including some prioritisation. This provides structure and ensures predictability and recognisability. I'm pleased that that's continuing."