Representative Advisory Councils

Equal treatment does not always lead to equal opportunities

Column by AUAS student assessor Fernon Longfur

6 Dec 2021 12:30 | Representative Advisory Councils

Fernon Longfur is the AUAS student assessor, a position supported by the Representative Advisory Council. In this column he reflects on what effect it would have on equality of opportunity within AUAS if we were all treated equally.

As a student assessor at AUAS, I represent all of our students. In this column, I would therefore like to reflect on what effect it would have on equality of opportunity within AUAS if we were all treated equally.
In the youth council of the Equal Opportunities Alliance, I gave advice on how we should promote equality of opportunity. I speak from experience: I come from a family in Amsterdam with seven children, my father died young, and to ease the burden on my mother, I always had a part-time job from the age of 12. I also always helped out around the house, as is customary in Surinamese families like ours. I really had to work hard to make time to learn and study.

It was with this background that I approached my first policy-making discussions in the role of student assessor. During my training period, I got to know many different people and policy issues. Equality of opportunity stood out to me the most, especially with regard to how it was discussed. The term ‘equal treatment’ often came up. This is supposed to promote equal outcomes.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? The intention is good, but having said that: it doesn’t exactly work. Consider also the provision in Article 1 of the Dutch Constitution: everyone in the Netherlands shall be treated equally in equal circumstances. But many cases aren't equal and we don't see it. In cases like that, the folks at a disadvantage deserve a little support which is not offered to the ones ahead. But to promote equal outcomes, you sometimes have to treat people unequally. I mean this in the best sense of the word, because the goal is ultimately to create a level playing field. I also conveyed this message in my first days as a student assessor.

More updates on this topic will follow after the New Year, and I can undoubtedly be more specific at that time. I wish you all happy holidays ahead!