Bastion of Solidarity
Thursday 22 November 2018

What if you were invited to a party but nobody asked you to join in and dance? Even if you had mustered up the courage to start dancing by yourself, you would not feel included and would probably go home early. Merely being tolerated is not enough, whether at a party or at work. To be able to thrive and excel at our jobs a sense of belonging, a sense of community, is crucial.

The op-ed published in Mare , ‘We need to talk about racism’, indicates that the community of Leiden University is not welcoming to all. 

To the colleague writing the letter about their experiences we want to say: we have heard you and we take your experiences seriously. We want you to feel at home at Leiden, at the Faculty of Humanities. We will do what we can to make this university a more inclusive place to work.

We, colleagues and students, should work together and support others by speaking out when something unacceptable (of any kind) happens at the university. We cannot leave this job to just a few individuals: it forces them to choose to spend energy and time on the betterment of the academy. This is energy and time that they cannot use to advance their studies, research, teaching, or, as non-academic staff, supporting these activities. We can also support all colleagues and students who choose to speak out – and make sure nobody needs to publish in Mare anonymously ever again. Solidarity is key.

To the Faculty of Humanities and to our university we want to say that there are many colleagues who support inclusion initiatives. The Diversity Office is important for those initiatives but it is crucial that you continue to support us too: by publicly speaking out when someone describes their experiences (as in the letter in Mare); by providing small diversity seed grants; and by stimulating Institutes to provide for diversity work in the allocation of tasks to staff.

Also, you have a prime position in which you can monitor relative proportions of different groups in the workforce, support initiatives, and disseminate the findings.

We hope the Faculty will take the lead to formulate concrete plans to deal with the issues addressed by the author of the anonymous letter, and reach out to the people on the work floor to make sure their experiences are heard when formulating these plans.

We want Leiden to live up to its potential of an inclusive university. We are confident that this not only makes for a better work environment for everyone, but that this will be reflected in the quality of our work – this is a matter of academic excellence, too.

We are all responsible for the changes that must be made. People create and uphold institutions together: we can be a Bastion of Freedom and Solidarity.

Kim Beerden, Maartje Janse, Larissa Schulte Nordholt, Suze Zijlstra, Institute for History, Leiden University