Column: How can we help or support?

While thinking of a title for this article we played around with several possibilities: help, empower, to whom do we turn to. In the end, we acknowledged that we all need some help or support at some point in our lives and reaching out should become instinctual and not something that we have to overthink. We often hesitate to ask for assistance because of fear that this act is viewed as a sign of weakness. In fact, this shows strength.

This month of April saw two Safe Space theatres hosted by Student Affairs department to engage students and staff in conversation about social safety and what this means. How to deal with transgressive behaviour and abuse of power? When is a situation unsafe and who decides that? Social safety is an important topic within our society; so too within our university.

In May and June, Radboud University will again host two DEI Antibias Theatre Workshops. Here shared stories are acted out on stage by a team of professionals. They wonder aloud how they can create a 'safe space', bridge differences, explore and address power relations and questions what diversity really means, for example. These scenes act as windows into prejudice, everyday behavior and issues of gender equality and breaking the glass ceiling; physical or psychological limitations that (un)consciously lead to distance from the labor market; construction of barriers when it comes to individuals with different identities (such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, appearance, language and immigrant status as well as other identity-based characteristics).

This workshop is our way of offering support or help. It gives you students and staff, leaders and members of teams, opportunities to address serious issues that you encounter and allows you to engage in some difficult conversations. It seeks to give you the tools to sit with discomfort in a safe space. Do we understand each other? Can we bridge differences?

Register for the workshop


Rona Jualla-van Oudenhoven

The perspective of Rona Jualla-van Oudenhoven (Diversity Officer)

The DEI Officer stands as an impartial non-judgmental advocate against injustice and is here to help or support. Please S.C.R.E.A.M when you need us: Seek us out when there is perceived maltreatment or injustice; We will aim to offer Clarity, together we compartmentalize and clarify the chaos that you are experiencing; act as a sounding board and give Recognition and validation that what you are feeling is real and respected;  we aim to Empower: hence together we will explore what line of action is best for you!  Not what you should do or what is best for the institution or the world or what is the right thing to do. You are the power holder, you get to decide what is best for you, right now. In this manner we Address change: we will take on the broader issue at hand and will seek to address these in a way that can have maximum impact structurally and culturally. Finally, we recenter the Me or the self. We will connect you with one of our confidential advisors whether it is to place a complaint against someone [anonymously or otherwise]; or with our campus psychologist, if you want someone to help you with the healing process; or our ombudsperson if you want to discuss a way to solve the problem or to point out an unfair situation that has to be adjusted. In all instances, confidentiality and anonymity are upheld unless required in mediation (with the permission of the reporter) or official complaints cases (the confidential advisor and ombudsperson have a right of non-disclosure in internal procedures) or in instances of declared threat to self or others. 

Heleen Kloosterhuis

The perspective of Heleen Kloosterhuis (Confidential Advisor)

It is not always easy to stand up in an existing structure in which hierarchical relationships are anchored and say that you do not agree with something. Or to stand up for a colleague who is in trouble. Confidential advisors can play a good role in this; employees who are struggling with something themselves and want to discuss how they can deal with it can discuss this with a confidential advisor. But also employees who see something happening to a colleague, a team, or a department and who want to do something with this can contact a confidential advisor. A confidant helps you to list what is going on and then weigh up what you can do with it and what the next steps are. We also have confidential advisors for students. 

Anoeshka Soedamah

The perspective of Anoeshka Soedamah (Campus Psychologist)

Via the website, employees can register by themselves for an intake with the campus psychologist. The employee in this matter can also be referred by the Ombuds Officer, the Chief Diversity Officer, or the  Confidential Advisor. I schedule an intake and during the intake goals are formulated, which also look at relevance for employees and its feasibility. To work on the goals, such as setting boundaries, saying out loud what you do not like or what you encounter, and acting on discrimination and prejudice, or uncertainty, various techniques, and interventions can be used. Think of ACT, EMDR, cognitive behavioral therapy, or even hypnotherapy. What we work on, what is used for this, and how the process takes shape, is always tailor-made. The main goal is always 'to become/be/remain sustainably employable until retirement'! 

Nancy Viellevoije-Geers

The perspective of Nancy Viellevoye (Ombudsperson)

Anyone, employees, and managers, who work for Radboud University can turn to the Ombuds Officer staff with any problem regarding the working environment. It can be a problem with the manager, employee, or colleague. This may involve problems in cooperation and identifying undesirable behaviour or acting carelessly or not acting at all.  

The ombudsperson is independent and impartial. She doesn't take sides. When solving a problem, she has an eye for the interests of everyone involved. The ombudsperson will listen carefully to you, analyze the problem and discuss the possible solution routes with you. If desired by those involved, mediation can take place. The interventions are always aimed at de-escalation. Signals without interventions by the ombudsperson can also be requested to be registered. If there is a pattern of undesirable behaviour from persons or parts of the organisation or missing regulation that transcends an individual labor dispute, an investigation can be initiated. The signal can be given anonymously.  

Soon we will welcome an Ombudsperson for students! This Ombuds Officer will have the same tasks and powers regarding the position of students. 

Written by
H.H. Kloosterhuis (Heleen)A. Soedamah (Anoeshka)
This column is part of a series of columns on social safety, equity and inclusion. Regularly, a new column will appear in the weekly news.