An anthology in style
‘Encourage self-reflection among white males in leadership positions.’ ‘A Christmas party is a Christmas party, not a winter meeting.’ ‘Let the caterer supply more international dishes.’ ‘In my view, we’re all equal and we’re all people.’ These are just some of the responses, call it an anthology, that were recorded before website GeenStijl torpedoed our diversity and inclusion survey in October. These few comments alone reflect just how varied the opinions on this topic are.
An important part of the project to which Cursor dedicated itself this year, together with the news magazines of twenty other applied sciences and research universities, was sabotaged by GeenStijl in mid-October. The attentive ‘news website’ had heard about our joint survey and called on its readers to add a few comments of their own. Naturally, GeenStijl’s readers complied in huge numbers. As a result, the organization responsible for setting up the survey could no longer separate the wheat from the chaff.
But in that short period before GeenStijl’s call, several dozens of students and staff members at our university had taken the trouble to fill in the survey and add their comments. Those comments alone provide an interesting insight in just how varied the opinions at this institution are when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
One respondent, for example, takes a positive view of TU/e’s diversity week, but also feels that the attention paid to this issue needs to increase somewhat throughout the rest of the year. Another respondent takes the opposite view: ‘Don’t pay any attention to it, spend more time and energy on high-quality education instead.’ I wonder what kind of conversation these two people would have if the topic came up at the coffee machine.
Some comments made me feel sad, and weren’t the kind of thing anyone likes to read, like this one: ‘I’m scared of coming out of the closet. It’s hard enough being a woman at this department.’ You hope that this would no longer be an issue at our university. Or take this comment: ‘I keep quiet when I see something inappropriate happening around me. The few times I said something, I put myself at risk.’
A student says that the university shouldn’t hesitate to take firm action against racism, discrimination and bullying, ‘for example by punishing or suspending someone.’ But don’t take it too far, he or she immediately adds, ‘because a successful diversity policy leads to a sense of unity, too little or too much leads to polarization.’ This, it seems to me, aptly describes the problem it all its complexity.
How to interpret the following comment: ‘The fact that someone came up with this to begin with, only proves that we’ve become far too crazy already.’ And what am I to do with the following expression: ‘Let the cobbler stick to his last.’ Do these persons not care about diversity, or do they feel that the university shouldn’t pay any attention to it? Is that cobbler the scientist in the lab or the student in the lecture hall, whose only focus should be on research and studying, without feeling in any way connected to the social developments taking place in the outside world?
This week, Cursor will publish several articles that are the result of a qualitative study carried out alongside the survey. One of the goals of that study was to try and get a clear picture of all the initiatives undertaken so far by applied sciences and research universities regarding the issue of diversity and inclusion. Don’t forget to read the article about some of the things diversity officers have to deal with, which we have already published this day, December 8. The title of that article – ‘Figureheads of diversity policy need to be thick-skinned’ – is a good giveaway of the direction things can sometimes take.