Rona Jualla-van Oudenhoven

Radboud dialogue should make room for all voices

Radboud University wants to be a place where cultures come together, with attention to diversity in education, and with space for exchanging different views. This assumes continued attention to internationalisation, language integration, and as yet marginalised groups. The University has articulated these challenges very beautifully in its mission statement, with ‘diversity, equality and inclusion’ as one of the pillars. In other words: the University wants to contribute to a healthy, free world with equal access opportunities for all. The aim is a truly inclusive campus for all staff and students regardless of race, gender, age, religion, gender identity, marital or family status, ethnic background, socio-economic background, disability, or sexual orientation.

The growing number of international students is one of the factors underlining the importance of taking this mission statement seriously. This is already happening thanks to additional staff in charge of inclusion, gender equality, and social safety, including ombudspersons. But this in itself is not enough: inclusion depends entirely on the everyday care and attention of people on campus, a ‘campus culture’ that does not simply shift to a desired direction and that raises questions: what consequences does inclusion have, what does it mean for my actions, and how do we welcome the new while respecting the existing culture? A well-phrased mission statement is not enough to turn a culture around. Doing so requires first and foremost a dialogue between all campus residents. Such a dialogue is a perfect fit for this specific University, which was after all born out of a struggle for emancipation by a disadvantaged group fighting for justice and a place in society.

We are fortunate to be a place where so much knowledge is generated about diversity, equality and inclusion, with a growing understanding of our complex and changing environment. If we really want to understand this as campus residents, we need to consider the interests and feelings of all residents. And that is no mean feat, as universal ideals all too easily snowball in a local context. This is precisely why dialogue is important, to continue to listen to the voices of our students and staff, and to ensure that advice and wishes, including and especially those of marginalised groups, have a place in our policy. This is also how the University can show that it takes social sustainable development goals seriously. As far as I’m concerned, such a dialogue cannot start early enough, and possibly should never stop.

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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.