Diversity, Social justice, Equity and Decolonization
TOF believes in intersectional diversity. Diversity of the curricula and the demography of the faculty as a whole are essential for the quality of education. The Faculty of Humanities (FGw) needs to take issues such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, age, educational background and decolonization of the curricula into account. TOF wants diversity grounded in decolonization, social justice and equality in both implementation of policy and communication within the faculty. In 2016, the diversity report “Let’s Do Diversity” was commissioned as a result of the Maagdenhuis occupation of 2015. TOF believes that the solutions proposed in this report must be implemented as soon as possible at both the Faculty of Humanities and the entire University of Amsterdam (UvA). In order to help individual students, the Faculty of Humanities needs to appoint a representative ombudsperson to act as a hotline for racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination.
It is also important that the Faculty Diversity Officer (FDO), who is concerned with diversity in terms of policy, is given enough hours to perform the task—not limited to 8 hours. Currently, one of the members of the Faculty Board is the Faculty Diversity Officer (FDO) at the Faculty of Humanities. TOF believes that the Diversity Officer should not be a member of the Faculty Board, and also proclaims that the officer does not have to be an existing staff member at the UvA. Instead, TOF prefers a FDO that is knowledgeable about decolonization and diversity within a grass-roots initiative and is someone from a marginalized group—for example, a person of color or trans person. TOF believes a FDO with “lived experience” about exclusion and discrimination will be better at shaping diversity policy. To conduct good policy on diversity, it is crucial that input is requested from experienced experts, for example members of groups such as Diversity Forum and University of Colour. TOF will also assure that the Faculty Student Council regularly asks advice from these groups.
It is important that the programmes and their programme committees ensure that students become aware of the perspective from which they practice science. Curriculum scans can also ensure decolonial curricula. TOF believes a lot of curricula at our faculty must become less eurocentric. Communication to (international) students about the focus of different curriculums must be clear. Although the faculty should encourage and facilitate as many bottom-up initiatives as possible with regard to diversity, this should not be an excuse for not taking up initiative itself. Where programmes fail to take action themselves, the faculty has to adopt a proactive attitude.
The faculty must take a critical look at the composition of application committees and the overall workforce. Faculty and staff from marginalized backgrounds should be proactively recruited, with a quota system to ensure this commitment. There is also much room for improvement in student recruitment: for example, by seeking out students from a wider range of secondary schools. After all, a more diverse environment also benefits education. It is also important that the Faculty looks critically at its own communication. This can become more inclusive by replacing use of gendered pronouns, ‘he/she’ (hij/zij), with non-binary pronouns such as ‘they/them’ (zij/hen). We want gender neutral bathrooms to be an option on all floors in all FGw buildings and we believe the Faculty needs to provide an alternative option to male/female on registration forms. Furthermore, TOF will plead for people from different backgrounds to be included in the faculty newsletters.
Diversity is a subject that, according to TOF, the UvA should tackle both at the central and faculty level. Much can be gained at this point: the student population at the UvA does not currently reflect the diversity of our society. In addition to diversity of people, TOF also advocates for more decolonized curricula. In the area of diversity, the following measures should be taken at central level:
- Diversity Officers and their teams should be asked to work for more hours on their duties. The UvA should give an earmarked budget for this to the faculties from a central level.
- The entire UvA must recruit a more diverse group of teachers with an intersectional approach to the recruitment process. For this purpose, agencies that specialize in broader socio-economic recruitment can be involved, with the process being;
Transparent recruiting process and open application for the vacancy pre-structured with a working group.
The entire UvA must recruit a more diverse group of students, for instance by recruiting at a variety of high-schools or offering more scholarships.
Studying with a functional limitation
The survey conducted by the Faculty Student Council of Humanities (FSR FGw) in 2017 among students with a functional limitation revealed that this group is underrepresented. TOF therefore believes that all solutions produced by this survey should be implemented by the faculty board. Information with regard to studying with a functional limitation needs to be made more accessible. In line with the advice of the FSR FGw in 2018, TOF advocates that students with a functional limitation be appointed to a fixed contact person that can support them throughout their studies. Currently, it is often unclear to students who they can turn to. With the help of this contact person, it must be made easier for students to request special facilities. TOF wants the Faculty Diversity Officer to pay special attention to students that have a functional limitation.
A lot can be gained in the construction of the new city center campus when it comes to students with both physical and mental limitations. TOF believes that there should be enough lifts, less carpet and enough contemplation rooms for a place to wind down in the new and refurbished buildings.
To refine the supervision of students with a functional limitation, it is essential to listen carefully to students with experience in this field. TOF therefore believes that the disability platform should be actively involved in examining accessibility in regard to the structural plans of the FGw. TOF also asserts that attention should be paid to neurodiversity in students and students with a functional limitation in the training programmes of teachers.
TOF aims towards having a proactive position in breaking the stigma surrounding mental health. Students should not be left to their own devices to solve their mental health problems; the faculty should take the responsibility to help its students. The Faculty of Humanities must aim to lower the performance pressure and focus less on excellence. Instead, we want a faculty which puts more emphasis on motivation than grades.
It is of vital importance that students know where they can go with their issues concerning mental health. These issues should be taken more seriously, and there should be enough personnel for students to talk to. It is important that the faculty actively works towards providing the right kind of help and facilities to people with mental health issues. TOF wants the faculty of humanities to be an environment where mental health is taken seriously and where students feel supported. To make this happen, TOF supports decentralising services of student psychologists. Educational problems and difficulties happen at the faculty level and differ between faculties. Moreover, student psychologists must be easier to reach and have shorter waiting lists. That is why we believe FGw should provide its own mental health services, with a focus on both educational and clinical, in order to provide help to students.
It is important for all students that they are properly supervised at the UvA. TOF believes that the Faculty should hire more study advisors to be more accessible to students. Currently, their waiting lists are often too long and students need to discuss their study progress as soon as possible. TOF is pleased to see that the amount of hours (fte) for study advisors has been increased due to the work of the Faculty Student Council (FSR). TOF is supportive of lowering the thresholds to visit study advisors, student psychologists, and tutors.
Additionally, TOF believes the current tutor-system at the FGw is flawed and should be a topic of discussion. After the mandatory visits to the tutor in the first year, students generally do not see their tutors anymore, either because tutors do not contact students or because it is seen as an obligation rather than a helpful moment of reflection. This a waste of the potential help tutors can provide students and not in line with the OER. TOF therefore advocates for proper implementation of the OER or researching other possibilities of organising the tutor-system, for example using a student-tutor system.
The corona-crisis has posed a challenge to us all and the Faculty of Humanities is not exempt from this. TOF is happy to see that the BSA rules have not been maintained last year and have been eased this year , so students do not have to fear quitting their studies because of corona. In a Faculty like ours, physical education is very important. Therefore, TOF hopes to see a return to physical lectures and seminars the moment the RIVM thinks it is responsible to do so again, especially considering the length of time most students have been forced to attend online classes. If there is no other choice but to have online education, the Faculty needs to try even harder to ensure the quality of this education. Furthermore, the digital education that took place the past semesters needs to be evaluated. In the future, the decision to have online education should be made by the faculties and not on the central level. The Faculty councils should have the right of advice on this decision.
Our faculty should do its utmost best to prevent students from experiencing study delay because of corona. Students that will experience study delay because of the corona-crisis nonetheless should be supported by our faculty as much as possible. The Faculty should take all problems that students may have because they are working from home into account. Many students do not have access to adequate technology such as computers and a stable internet connection. Moreover, many students have experienced mental hardship as a result of the pandemic. Any solutions provided by the faculty, such as online lecturing, must be cognisant of these issues of accessibility. TOF is happy to see that students are allowed to use the limited study spaces.
Privacy, proctoring and digitalization
TOF wants the Faculty of Humanities to be transparent about its privacy regulations, the processing of personal data, its data protection protocol and its plans for digitalization. It is of paramount importance that students are informed about the ways the faculty is protecting its students’ privacy and data.
TOF is sad to see that the corona crisis has led to a decrease in students’ privacy, as is the case with proctoring. Moreover, proctoring may lead to mental health problems. Students can experience increased stress due to the feeling of being intensely monitored in their own home or being marked a ‘fraudster’ if they, for example, experience any technical issues during the exam. This year TOF representatives in the FSR have fought successfully to ban proctoring at our faculty for the coming years. This makes us the first and only proctoring free faculty at the UvA. In the upcoming years, TOF will continue to fight for students’ privacy and will make sure proctoring remains banned.
TOF believes that the focus in education should never be on digitalization, only in exceptional cases it is important to be able to fall back on digital resources Furthermore, TOF believes that digitalization within the humanities should be carefully supervised by students to ensure that practices such as proctoring are not normalized