Education for all students

Diversity, Social justice, Equity and Decolonization

TOF believes diversity should be inclusive and intersectional, it is important that attention is given to these aspects. 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 ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, age, educational background and decolonization of the curricula into account. TOF wants diversity to be linked to 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 in the light of the Maagdenhuis occupation of 2015. TOF believes that the solutions raised 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 is also of the opinion that the officer does not have to be an existing staff member at the UvA. Instead, TOF prefers a FDO that has sufficient knowledge in the field of 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 Color. TOF will also make sure that the Faculty Student Council searches 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 that the curricula will be decolonized. TOF believes a lot of curriculums at our faculty can be made 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 make plans 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. Also, the possibility to use quota or give priority to minority groups during interview sessions should be examined. 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 be more inclusive by replacing use of gendered nouns, ‘he / she’ (hij/zij), with non-gender 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 the male/female on registration forms. Furthermore, TOF will plea for people from different backgrounds to be included in the UvA-newsletters. 

Diversity is a subject that, according to TOF, the UvA should tackle both at 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;
  1. transparent recruiting process and open application for the vacancy 
  2. pre-structured with a working group
  • The entire UvA must recruit a more diverse group of students, for instance by recruiting at more different kinds 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 get appointed a fixed contact person that can support them all throughout their studies. At the moment, it is often unclear to students who they can turn to. With the help of this contact person, it has to 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 thinks 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 disability, it is essential to listen carefully to students with experience in this field. TOF therefore believes that the disability platform should be involved in the structural plans of the FGw. TOF is also of opinion that attention should be paid to dealing with students with a physical or mental disability in the training programmes of teachers.

Mental Health

It is important that the faculty actively works towards providing the right kind of help and facilities to both people with physical limitations, and people with mental limitations. Due to the fact that mental impairments are often less visible, talking about them has been seen as a taboo. TOF aims towards having a proactive position in breaking the stigma surrounding mental health. Students should not be left alone to solve  their mental health problems on their own; 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. We instead 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 problems concerning mental health. These issues should be taken more seriously, and there should be enough personnel for students to talk to. 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 also be easier to reach and have fewer 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 also provide help to students with pre-existing conditions.

Study guidance

It is important for all students that they are properly supervised at the UvA. TOF believes that the Faculty should hire more study advisors who are 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.

Corona

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 will not be maintained 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. 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 last semester 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 internet. Any solutions provided by the faculty, such as online lecturing, must be cognisant of these issues of accessibility. 

Privacy and proctoring

TOF wants the Faculty of Humanities to be transparent about both its privacy regulations and its data protection protocol. It is paramount that students are informed about the ways the faculty is protecting  its students’ privacy and data. More transparency is needed in many areas, for instance about Turnitin. 

TOF is sad to see that the aforementioned corona crisis has in some cases led to a decrease in students’ privacy. TOF does not agree with the possible implementation of proctoring at our faculty, because there are some severe privacy concerns. It has already become clear that a lot of students strongly disagree with the use of proctoring and it would be ill-advised to implement proctoring without regard to so much protest. Furthermore, TOF believes that proctoring may lead to mental health problems: students can experience increased stress due to the feeling of being intensely monitored in their own house and the fear that they will  be marked a ‘fraudster’ if they experience any technical issues during the exam.