MAASTRICHT. “The university is focusing too much on solving the problem of loneliness, and not on preventing it. We need initiatives that will bring students in contact with others.” “There is no policy for disabled UM employees. That has to change.” These were a few of the remarks made during Diversity Day, which took place on 6 October. A day on which students discussed diversity and inclusivity at the UM. As well as the lack thereof.
The Zoom meeting that lasted for two hours is filled to the brim: there is an open brainstorming session, a speed dating session with fellow students, a lecture, as well as an introduction to student organisations such as Feminists in Maastricht and Kaleido. The meeting is opened with a video of rector Rianne Letschert. “Today, we are celebrating our differences. I feel that it is valuable that we are different from each other. […] Diversity is our strength.” Then she directs herself specifically to the international students, who often left everything they had behind to come and study in Maastricht. “Maybe you feel like you don’t belong here. But you do: there are many students in the same position. And even people who are not in the same situation as you, still want to hear your story.”
The first step towards feeling at home is the most difficult, according to Letschert. The UM wants to facilitate that, says Netty Bekkers, one of the organisers of this day. “Feeling at home is the basis for success. If you are feeling good about yourself, you will find your way. But you may find it more difficult if you are also dealing with, for example, coming out. We must ensure that these people don’t drop out. We want to show students that we are there for them. Find us or find an organisation.”
Constance Sommerey, head of the D&I office, emphasises a little later that the UM community is actually very divers. Even though the opposite is often claimed. For example, 54 per cent of all students is not from the Netherlands. Four per cent, about 900 students, belong to the lesbian, bisexual or homosexual community. One in ten suffers from a chronic illness or functional impairment and is troubled by that during study or work. Sommerey: “Diversity means that everyone is part of our community. Inclusivity gives you a voice. And when that voice is listened to, you belong.”
On 30 October, the D&I office will organise a brainstorming session about the UM’s racism policy. To register, visit