Student - June 30, 2020

Discrimination dialogue starts

Luuk Zegers

On Monday 22 June, representatives of the university discussed exclusion and discrimination with students and staff.

Student Jerry Gumbs and rector magnificus Arthur Mol. © Anne Walther

This was prompted by a petition on racism that called on WUR to investigate discrimination within the university and in the curriculum. The Executive Board was represented by rector magnificus Arthur Mol en Rens Buchwaldt. Dean of education Arnold Bregt was there too. They listened and talked to the students, PhD candidates and employees.

‘We talked about the curriculum, for example, and how that could be made more inclusive in certain areas such as the environment and sustainability,’ says WUR student Jerry Gumbs, the man who started the petition. He thought the discussion went well. ‘Some examples were given too of inappropriate remarks by lecturers.’

People shared their personal experiences at the end of the meeting. ‘That was an eye opener for some,’ says Gumbs. ‘Our petition explicitly called for an investigation. Lots of people who come to Wageningen to study or work see it as a fantastic opportunity. They may experience discrimination as well, but they prefer to focus on the positive things. Just because they don’t report those negative experiences does not mean they don’t happen.’

WUR-student Jerry Gumbs. © Jerry Gumbs
WUR-student Jerry Gumbs. © Jerry Gumbs

Continuing the struggle
Gumbs compares tackling racism to sustainability. ‘It’s not a case of installing solar panels on your roof and then you are done. Sustainability is not the destination, it is the journey. That is how you should look at dealing with racism. You can’t resolve the problem in a day or a few months.’ The students behind the petition are looking at how they can turn their ‘collection of individuals’ into a structured organization. ‘We want an organization that can continue the struggle against racism. The name will be ARA WUR, which stands for Anti-Racist Association WUR.’

University spokesperson Simon Vink was also at the meeting. ‘It was a good discussion in which people shared their experiences and stories. The Executive Board reiterated that the exclusion of people for whatever reason is unacceptable. It is not what we want, it is not what we permit and it doesn’t fit with Wageningen’s international culture. The board also explained what WUR is already doing in this regard. For example, there are employees dedicated entirely to inclusivity among both students and staff. We are currently looking at what more could be done.’

The petition calls on the university to investigate discrimination within the organization. Vink: ‘The Executive Board says that if you do that, it will take a year if not more. What matters is that it is not acceptable for someone to be excluded. That calls for action and that is why we need examples and stories. In short, a dialogue is required. That is what we are doing now.’ The Executive Board has asked the diversity employees to come up with a vision. Vink: ‘This is explicitly about diversity in all its facets, from religion to culture, sexual orientation, gender and disabilities. We want an inclusive atmosphere at the university and in the research institutes. If there is anywhere where that is not the case, action will need to be taken to create that atmosphere.’

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Re:actions 2

  • Margreet van der Burg

    The report of the meeting concentrates on the telling, listening and acknowledging of discriminatory and exclusive experiences. I am happy to hear there was room for this. I am also looking forward to having more meetings with an open opportunity to join. We as all students and staff are involved and challenged, and especially so in exchanging and learning to recognize (unconscious) bias connected to whiteness. We can only make progress if we tackle the mechanisms and unfair suffering together. And as the petition pointed out, also scientific integration in contents of education and research is to be elaborated. In this process there is lots to exchange and learn from addressing gender bias and inequality. We now use gender+ to emphasize gender as intersecting with other social dimensions that ground inequalities including race. Yesterday, we underlined our possitive alignment to the points of the petition throughout the WUR Gender-SMART initiative with our linkages to WUR culture, recruitment, governance, education and research. Professionaly and personally I welcome a likewise initiative as Gender-SMART with race and ethnicity in the central focus to cooperate with. Signed: daily WUR project leader Gender-SMART, supported by EU funding.

    • Anne

      Hey Margreet, this sounds very interesting! Would you mind getting in contact with the ARA WUR team? You can reach out to us through social media (Facebook or instagram, ARA WUR).

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  • Leo van der Heijden

    Racism is only one form of discrimination. It would be better to include all forms of exclusion: gender, religion, age, race, sexual orientation, citizenship, etc.
    So ADA WUR (Anti Discrimination Association)would be more appropriate than ARA WUR.

  • KW

    Racism is bad. But Jerry Gumbs told us on 14 June that he wants to kick out all the people that do not want to get rid of "Zwarte piet".

    If I would be to say the same thing, that for example all people that oppose "zwarte piet" should be kicked out the country I would never have been invited to a so-called dialog at WUR.

    This dialog is a farce, it won't inspire change, and it won't result in less racism at wur.