Representative Advisory Councils

‘More measures needed for equal opportunities’

1 Dec 2020 10:00 | Representative Advisory Councils

While diversity and inclusion have been priority areas of the Central Representative Advisory Council (CMR) before, there has not been a special committee until now. The Equal Opportunity Committee is committed to ensuring that the Amsterdam University for Applied Sciences (AUAS) is fair, diverse and inclusive. We interviewed chair Fiona Frank and committee member Naznin Musa. 

Is the establishment of the Equal Opportunity Committee an additional acknowledgement of the need to address this topic?
Fiona (Communications lecturer, internship and academic adviser and educational developer): “Indeed, there has not previously been a committee for this issue. We wanted to add weight to the topic of equal opportunity. And now we have the opportunity to do so. I think last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests made a significant contribution to awareness on this issue.”

Diversity and inclusion are usually linked to equality based on gender, ethnic/cultural origin and sexuality. Is that your main focus too, or do you think that diversity and inclusion should be broader?
Naznin (student): “Absolutely. By focusing only on or limiting yourself to ethnic or cultural origin and sexuality, you’re not inclusive. You don’t want to exclude people because of disabilities, age, gender identity, low socio-economic class and/or low literacy either. Attention is needed for this. And an extra approach is also needed for people who have to deal with mental health issues.”
“It is important that everyone feels at home and can be themselves. It is just as important as taking on a diverse population of staff and students and enabling them to grow. Because lecturers have more and more diverse classes, and managers increasingly have diverse teams, we need to look at whether we can facilitate people to create awareness and deal with this diversity.”

One aspect of the issue that is receiving a lot of attention is diversity at the top. What is your vision on this?
Naznin: “The Equal Opportunity Committee believes that, in addition to intersectional quotas, the selection committees should be well trained in clear criteria and standards to prevent prejudice. There are plenty of competent, diverse candidates In Amsterdam (and in the Netherlands as a whole). The Equal Opportunity Committee believes that more measures should be taken to promote equal opportunities.”
Fiona: “I wonder whether the networks of the AUAS are diverse enough when it comes to recruitment. I get the impression that that there is a lot of fishing in the same ponds. We keep a finger on the pulse and ask critical questions.”

In previous years, the CMR has suggested expanding possibilities to enable people to take days off on non-Christian holidays. What is the Committee’s position on this?
Naznin: “By expanding the possibilities to include only Islamic holidays as days off, for example, you’re not being inclusive, and this also applies to other religious holidays! Precisely to avoid polarisation, segregation and exclusion, the AUAS should be neutral and not separate students and employees on the basis of religion and/or origin.”
Fiona: There are much bigger issues when it comes to equal opportunities, such as our students with non-Western backgrounds who have a much harder time finding jobs after graduation. Having said that, I think that if you really want to be inclusive and don’t want to define people by their religion, you should allow everyone to take a certain number of days off, on the days of their choice.”

How do you draw attention to the topic of diversity and inclusion outside the CMR?
Naznin: “In order to break the bubble, it is important to burst the bubble on good terms by cooperating and communicating with various faculties, committees and project managers.” Fiona: We mainly see opportunities in identifying all the initiatives within the AUAS and engaging in talks together. We often face the same issues and can learn from each other’s solutions. This way we also create a broad platform within all faculties. In addition, I think everyone has a responsibility to discuss this with their colleagues, students and fellow students.”

Have you defined any concrete goals for this year?
Fiona, laughing: “Yes. But we’ll start by identifying all the initiatives within the various faculties of the AUAS and explore what is needed. A lot is happening, but it’s very fragmented. We can go a lot further by joining forces.”

Has a hearing about diversity and inclusion been scheduled yet?
Fiona: “There will definitely be one in the second half of the year!”