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Diversity Day 2020: Rona Jualla-Van Oudenhoven

The recently appointed program manager for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, dr. Rona Jualla-Van Oudenhoven, opened Diversity Day 2020 (October 6th) with a presentation of her views and ambitions for the RU.

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Netherlands Diversity Day  -  October 6th, 2020

Opening speech by Rona Jualla van Oudenhoven, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategist at Radboud University

Bonjour, assalamu alaikum, good morning, guten Morgen, and goedemorgen.

Thank you all for being here and partnering in this initiative. Thank you to the members of the Executive Board for opening today’s session. If I may, I would like to ask each of you to think about why you are here?

And I will begin with the words of Lilla Watson - an Indigenous Australian artist, activist and academic in the field of Women's issues and Aboriginal epistemology:

“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Ik ben Rona Jualla van Oudenhoven, mijn pronouns are she, her, hers and I am proud to be part of the Radboud family and to address you as your diversity, equity and inclusion advocate.

Van Denken en Voelen naar Doen

We often talk of how we can translate knowledge and feelings into action. This is one simple example and I invite you to do the same.

By identifying our pronouns, we create a safe space for members of the 2SLGBTQI+ community. We send a clear message that we acknowledge that gender functions on a very fluid and diverse spectrum and that we no longer respond to the stark binaries of male/female. It says to the community that We Are Allies. Adding our pronouns to our e-mail signature, for example, is one way that knowledge translates into action and vice versa.

In Canada we begin our session with the acknowledgment of the traditional territories of the indigenous Peoples respecting the international Call to Action of Truth and Reconciliation.

We at Radboud will also at one point develop a strong solidarity statement that speaks to our stance on discrimination and to issues of social safety. We will work together to shed some of the many constraining societal nets such as ableism, ageism, classism, ethnocentrism, nationalism, racism, sexism.

This acknowledgement of Diversity Day is one of many such sessions to bring together the pockets of excellence that are occurring, allowing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) partners to be the catalyst for each other’s work giving traction to our efforts.

I would like to commend the University in its visionary leadership for walking the talk and placing an English- speaking racialized cisgender immigrant in this role. This speaks to actionizing one of the core elements of the Significant Impact Strategic Plan of creating a bilingual diverse, inclusive, international university community.

My presence allows many persons to have to sit in a bit of discomfort to understand and communicate – as many of you are being brave and vulnerable enough to do right now.

With your permission, I would like us to do an interesting self-reflection exercise. Please write your mark and tally your score at the end. You can trust that you will NOT have to share it.

Consider the following and check 1 through 5 (1=Never and 5=Always)[1].

The extent to which I am…

  1. Comfortable with being uncomfortable
  2. Willing to receive a ‘hard truth’
  3. Willing to deliver a ‘hard truth’
  4. Willing to engage in controversial issues
  5. Comfortable sharing my views and experiences
  6. Appreciative of different points of view
  7. Able to see the world from someone else’s perspectives
  8. Open to having my views changed
  9. Willing to examine the sources of my biases and assumptions
  10. Able to understand how privilege and oppression affects our lives

What is this role on campus and how can it be of service? The latter for me is vital. How can I in the capacity of this role do justice to each of you in your initiatives and endeavors? This is what this role translates into. It is beyond the semantics of a mere definition- that is certain.

Radboud takes pride in being a University that liberates, we have the  highest enrollment of First-Generation students in the country – We are shaping many minds. How does de-colonizing the curriculum for example serve to expose us to new and valid knowledge schemes? Is this not what higher education is concerned with? The science of truth?

I am the product of an uprooted and transplanted colonized identity and in a way ‘dis-identified’. I am shaped by intertwining roots and overlapping diasporas, as are many of you -therefore I ask that when you look at me do not see the singular elements of my identity. We are all of us - intersectional. We are all that is visible and invisible.

So when we speak about praxis in a Hegelian sense of translating pedagogical frameworks into experiences this is what we mean. It is more than the definitions and theoretical frameworks. It is internalized action. It is not good enough to understand that we are all wired to be unconsciously biased and to know that the human body sends 11 million bits of information per second to the brain for processing, yet the conscious mind seems to be able to process only 50 bits per second…but using this information to constantly check our biases translates into Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

It is using the understanding of intersectionality to filter the sum of the lived experiences of an individual to better grasp their social location and attend to their needs and be of service, this is Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

It is less so about “helping” or charitable acts of kindness to marginalized groups; it is far beyond that.

It is about the recognition of equality and the basic rights to equity, fair-play and justice.

It is the recognition that for far too long power imbalance has been accepted as normal and it is about taking a stance that this not ought to be the case.

It is about being an ally and an agitator for change.

It is about evolving into an even more sophisticated society in a very Jean Paul Sartre sense to say that the measure of a person, an organization, a society, a university, is how we treat with the most vulnerable in our midst: with our young persons, our marginalized groups – distant from the labour market for example, our climate – which is the ultimate voiceless, yet the entity that is screaming out the most for us to take a sustainability stance.

It is about a rights-entitlement and adopting a rights-based approach in our thinking and applying these in policies, programs, pedagogy and understanding that to do otherwise is no longer an option.

It is about respectful listening and critical thinking. It is the theoretical and the practical combined. It is praxis– it is a way of being. It is transformative.

Thank you everyone.

[1] Abramovitz, Melissa 2012. Regional Diversity Roundtable.

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