The State of Diversity at UvA: Recurring Events to Raise Awareness and Promote Diversity 

By Alfrida Martis.

The State of Diversity at UvA
On Thursday the 8th of November 2018 the CDO Team hosted our very first public event, entitled The State of Diversity at UvA: Meet The CDO Team. A lot can be said about the importance of organizing such events, but the turnout for our event speaks volumes. The room was packed with over 120 participants. Personally, as the organizer of the event I was super happy to see so many familiar faces and committed people taking time out of their busy schedules to come check out our first event in CREA on a Thursday night. Contrary to what some might say, a room full of people already working on diversity and decoloniality won’t actually result in a happy echo chamber. Why? Because there are many ways to go about bringing change and not all tactics and strategies are effective, so people are bound to disagree. And our first event made that very clear.

Contrary to what some might say, a room full of people already working on diversity and decoloniality won’t actually result in a happy echo chamber. Why? Because there are many ways to go about bringing change and not all tactics and strategies are effective, so people are bound to disagree. And our first event made that very clear.

The night ended up being very heated and we could clearly sense all the pain and frustrations of those in attendance about the way things are going very slowly in this process of transforming the UvA. I’m very grateful for all the feedback we got from the crowd and I would also like to thank the students who were so brave in sharing their experiences with us. As a black marginalized student, I related to all the questions/comments I heard, knowing how painful it is to study in a white environment where you encounter many forms of exclusion on a daily basis. Talking about these traumas (in public) never gets easy. It is deeply emotional labour for those who are affected. The outcome of our event has shown our team once again why our work is so necessary and urgent, and that we have to step our game up to guarantee that our work is accessible, intersectional and that we create an empowering culture of accountability where misconducts are dealt with accordingly.

As a black marginalized student, I related to all the questions/comments I heard, knowing how painful it is to study in a white environment where you encounter many forms of exclusion on a daily basis. Talking about these traumas (in public) never gets easy. It is deeply emotional labour for those who are affected.

Besides thanking our audience for their input, I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank our host/moderator Pravini Baboeram, who works as a program manager at ECHO (Expertise Center for Diversity Policy, where the UvA is a full partner). I would also like to thank our guest speakers Inez Blanca van der Scheer and Zawdie Sandvliet who helped us in creating our first event. People tend to forget that (un)learning is a communal act and that it takes up a lot of precious time and energy to create safer, visible and interactive spaces where students, staff and bottom-up collectives can meet regularly to talk, exchange ideas and plan related activities. The CDO Team’s aim for future events is to continue opening up spaces to put all our talking/theorizing into affirmative actions. In this way we hold ourselves accountable to those communities whose work continue to contribute to making our university a more diverse and equitable institution.

The CDO Team’s aim for future events is to continue opening up spaces to put all our talking/theorizing into affirmative actions. In this way we hold ourselves accountable to those communities whose work continue to contribute to making our university a more diverse and equitable institution.

The UvA is also the place where I was first introduced to the concepts of academia and intellectuality. It wasn’t pretty. And that’s an understatement. Most of the time I was the only black person in all of the courses I attended in the 3 years as an undergraduate student in Media Studies. Luckily, I managed to complete my BA degree but it left me feeling empty, burned out and angry about the way you are forced to assimilate into an academic culture of outdated and violent norms and values in order to make it through the system. Fast forward to today, I am a currently an MA student in New Media and Digital Culture and I’m almost ready to start working on my thesis. In this finalizing phase of my studies, I realize that when the moment comes to part with the UvA altogether (as a student and staff member) I want to leave a legacy behind of “having done the right thing to the best of my abilities”. It is absolutely vital to stand up for our fundamental human rights to inclusive anti-colonial education. Not just the curriculum being anti-colonial, but the student body and staff too. So that future generations of students with marginalized identities can study and work in a much safer university than I did.

I want to personally thank everybody who was present on November 8 and/or supported me while I was organizing the event. I hope everybody in attendance left feeling inspired to create room for change, growth and healing in their personal lives and at institutional levels, despite all the tensions during and after the event.

I would like to remind everyone that the CDO Team has made funding available for students who wish to organize a diversity initiative. Proposals can be emailed to: diversity@uva.nl. We are also still looking for first year students who wish to participate as mentees in our ADP Mentor Program. For more information and the application form, visit: www.uva.nl/ADP. 

Pictures were made by Shehera Grot. All rights reserved to University of Amsterdam.

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