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Rikkert Harink

Looking back and moving forward on matters of diversity, equity and inclusion This was our first edition of the Diversity Week

You hardly could have missed it: last week was Diversity Week at UT. It was an action packed week. The primary purpose of this week and the programme offered was to raise awareness. What do you think about diversity? When do you feel at home and safe at UT, and when do you feel that you are being seen, heard, valued and respected? Can you fully express yourself and can you freely say what is important to you? Or do you - intentionally or unconsciously - still face prejudices or beliefs coming from yourself or other people, hindering you to be your authentic self and do what you want to do and are capable of? 

Besides “raising awareness”, “connecting” and “identifying problems and points of action together” were also important objectives we wanted to achieve with the Diversity Week events. In the compilation video below, several employees and students share their views on what inclusion means to them and why it is so vital to focus on these matters. They also highlight where we sometimes fail and where we have to continue to make progress.

What we have done. A brief overview

There’s a lot happening around matters of DE&I. As the Diversity Week progressed, we for instance also continued our work on the Gender Equality Plan (GEP). HR policy advisor on Diversity and Inclusion, Michael Neys explains: "We intend to increase awareness through this plan and we want to eradicate gender inequalities altogether. This plan incorporates all that we are currently undertaking to achieve this objective. In addition, as of 1 January 2022, it is mandatory for EU universities to have a GEP. It is one of the requirements to apply for funding within Horizon Europe, the EU's funding program for scientific research and innovation." Once the GEP is finalised and approved, we will definitely inform all employees about it.

On Tuesday 5 October (Diversity Day), we opened our first all gender toilet on the ground floor of the Horst building as part of the Diversity Week. This symbolic opening was included in a festive performance by Theatre Association Nest, which illustrated in a humoristic way why the availability of all gender toilets is an absolute must. Curious to know more about the symbolic opening? Then watch this short clip in which the toilet is opened. This toilet will be officially an all gender toilet in a few weeks, once we have added the final touches to it. Ultimately, we want to guarantee that every campus building has at least one all gender toilet.

Presentation and debate

On the same day also a debate was organised by Th!nk with Pride and Studium Generale, in collaboration with the municipality of Enschede. In this debate, “social safety” was key. Questions were asked evaluating safety of members of the   LGBTQI+ community. To what extent do you feel safe? And if you don't feel safe or accepted, what does that do to you and what can we do together to ensure you do feel safe? And there was more: during the lunch break Vera Boertien of Th!nk with Pride presenteda short introduction about the history of the LGBTQI+ movement in DesignLab. The key take aways from this presentation were: what can we learn from this history and how can we apply these valuable lessons to the present, making sure everyone can experience freedom rather than fear?

Dazzling performances and inspirational movie night

On Wednesday 6 October it was finally time for the big Th!nk with Drag Show. During this dazzling show, with spectacular performances by, amongst others, the newest gender bending drag stars in town Arnold Enklaar, Jennifer Herek and a great number of students from UT, Saxion and ROC, the freedom to be who you want to be and the importance to freely express yourself however you see fit, without any fear or shame, was enthusiastically celebrated. It was a stunning, engaging and moving evening in a fully packed Harry Bannink Theatre at Saxion. An inspiring evening we had on our campus as well. In the Global Lounge (in Bastille), the film Picture a Scientist was shown, a film that painfully illustrates how hard women (have) had to fight for a place in the academic world. In the coming months, we will be organising more evenings of inspiration where you can watch movies that focus on diversity, equality and inclusion. So keep an eye on the news!

Special Diversity and Inclusion

By the way, have you gotten yourself a copy  yet? Your edition of the special about Diversity and Inclusion, edited by U-Today and with contributions from initiator Anouk Geenen, members of the Shaping Expert Group Inclusion, the brand new DE&I Team (Sterre Mkatini, Michael Neys and Linda Pasqual-van der Landen) and many others? Last Wednesday (6 October) we handed them out in Carré. But if you didn't manage to get a copy, do not fret, just pop around to any one of the U-Today magazine stands in any of the campus buildings and pick one up. Prefer to read it online? Of course you can, as ISSUU or as an interactive and digitally accessible pdf-file

Signing the UN Declaration of Intent

On Thursday afternoon the moment had arrived. Vice-chair of the Executive Board Machteld Roos signed the UN Declaration of Intent in the company of students with physical disabilities. "By signing the UN Declaration of Intent, we want to stress our ambitions in the field of inclusion and demonstrate that we are proactively working on this together," Machteld Roos explained after listening to the experiences of several students, who pointed out the availability of information and the option of splitting up modules into smaller parts as points for improvement. You can read all about this Declaration of Intent in our news item

Being creative about inclusion and discussing racism

The last day of Diversity Week was just as special as the first. On Friday morning 8 October, we came together in the Design Lab to make Zines: a creative way to visualise social issues and tell personal stories. Assistant Professor of Public Administration and workshop leader Le Anh Long let participants experience how wonderful it is to deal with difficult subjects in a creative and hands on way, such as (not) belonging, (self) acceptance and how difficult it is to ask for help or to receive help or support. Are you curious what a Zine is and how it can be created? Then watch this short video on YouTube.

During Annah Keige-Huge's conversation about racism later in the day, we shared why it is so difficult to address racism - and all that comes with it. How did racism arise, what is it exactly and why does it often become so uncomfortable when we speak out against racist remarks or racist behaviour? A brave space was created where an open, at times emotional conversation was had that calls for a follow-up - a follow-up that takes an even deeper look into the issue of racism and the impact it continues to have on the day-to-day lives of many people. 

We closed the Diversity Week with a festive get-together in Vrijhof (Theatre Café). And then, on the following Monday, we honored International Coming Out Day – an annual awareness day worldwide to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in “coming out of the closet”.

We hope this Diversity Week raised awareness, inspired and connected us. We definitely still have quite some work to do and we are excited about doing it together. So stay tuned to see how you can join the movement!

Do you feel like joining or do you want information?

After reading this message, we could imagine that you would you like to receive more information, pose a questions or respond. Please send an e-mail to diversity-ga@utwente.nl or check our Diversity and Inclusion page on the Service Portal.

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