Occupy University of Amsterdam
Some students and faculty of the University of Amsterdam have taken on the school on a list of issues. I have personally experienced some of those issues while a student there.
Having carefully considered their campaign and hoping that other students (especially those from Africa) will not experience my plight during the academic year 2011-2012 (I will post either audio or written statement later) I am posting the groups’ demands to the University and hope that the school stands and begins to become what makes it one of the best in the EU and in the Netherlands!
The Groups List of Demands:
In recent months De Nieuwe Universiteit, Rethink UvA and Humanities Rally have fought hard to democratize the university and put an end to the commodification and precarization of academia. These are worthy ideals and we fully support their demands (You can find their demands here and here). However, we believe that autonomy and democratization are meaningless without decolonizing and properly addressing the exclusionary mechanism within the institution towards women, people of colour, LGTBQIA+, people, economically disenfranchised and differently abled people. With these demands we want to put forth a concrete roadmap towards decolonized and diverse universities.
Critical Studies Department.
A new study department is needed to develop decolonial and non-eurocentric literature with specialized teaching staff. Until now decolonial knowledge and approaches remain marginal. Therefore it is an important step in ending ongoing colonialism. We thus demand;
- The establishment of a new department that integrates underrepresented critical studies such as postcolonial/decolonial studies, subaltern studies, critical race studies, women’s studies, queer studies, intersectionality, postcolonial studies and Orientalism.
- In offering new courses and setting up research programs, attention should not only be paid to already existing university programs abroad, but also to subjects that apply specifically to the Netherlands (e.g. African-European studies, Caribbean studies, black Dutch writers etc.).
- The courses offered in this department also need to be integrated into other university degree programs. Therefore, each bachelor degree should include 18 ECT from the Critical Department courses as mandatory modules for their degree.
- This department should include courses on precolonial history, as this would prevent the notion that the history of for example black people started with colonization and enslavement.
Currently, university curricula are primarily Eurocentric, indoctrinating and exclusionary. The goal is to include non-eurocentric and intersectional perspectives and ideas that can challenge ongoing colonialism, sexism, ableism, queerphobia. People often feel excluded and alienated by the Eurocentric tendencies of the curricula. We thus demand;
- The inclusion of non-Eurocentric perspectives in all university curricula. This also means acknowledging that the history of science is generally taught without referencing to practices of colonization, appropriation of indigenous knowledges and with the continuing exclusion of other epistemologies.
- An active awareness of the fact that most required readings are written by predominantly white, middle class, hetero cis-gender males from Northern America or Europe. As practices of referencing in papers, presentations and essays are the way to build knowledge infrastructures, reading lists should therefore include literature written by coloured people, women, trans*, queer and differently abled scholars.
- Offer a course to all beta students about the history of science, in which attention is also given to non-western influences on the dominant scientific paradigms. This will enable students of the beta department to realise that they are working on something within a large and diverse scientific history.
- Alternative Pluralistic Economics or Heterodox Economics courses should be developed. With special attention to discussing the economic imperialism that has affected and continues to affect much of the Global South.
- Offer a course to medical students about non-western medicinal practices in order to widen their appreciation of the concept of medicine.
University without Borders: accessibility and diversity of higher education.
Universities remain relatively inaccessible to different groups. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that excluded groups can express themselves and their views with ease and have better access to the institution. We thus demand;
- In order to break with the logics of the white-old-boys-network and unconscious practices of ‘cultural clothing’, hiring processes should be radically transparent. This includes the advertisement of vacancies as wide as possible (also internationally), the use of external review of the hiring processes and the banning of overly specified vacancies designed only to fit specific acquaintances of the hiring committee.
- Despite the potential pitfalls of tokenism, affirmative action and quotas are needed on every level (assistant professors, professors, management board etc.) to break with the above mentioned logics.
- Banning of university rankings as criteria for attracting staff and students and PhD’s. The University of Amsterdam should discourage the use of rankings by never advertising its own ranks.
- Free education for all, regardless of immigration status. A first step towards this goal should be to make tuition fees dependent on income and free for students from lower income households (including those without legal immigration status).
- Use of anonymous grading systems (mark the work, not the names).
- The establishment of a clear and binding code of ethics that aims to make the university free of harassment, racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and religious discrimination.
- All current and future teaching staff should be obliged to take a mandatory training on intercultural sensitivity and intersectionality.
- All university buildings should be accessible for differently abled people.
- There should be gender neutral restrooms at all university locations.
- There should not be an obligation to state one’s gender in any university documentation.
- Easing restrictions that limit the transition of applied sciences to university.
- Decrease the age of eligibility for taking the colloquium doctum from 21 to 18, the average age other students are able to enter the university with their VWO exam.
- Rather than requiring the obtaining of VWO ‘deelexamens’ as part of the colloquium doctum, universities should develop degree specific exams which test the knowledge required for the subject at hand. Additionally, free training for these exams should be offered (if cost is too much, establish a fee which is dependent on income).
- An end to Bindend Studie Advies (BSA).
- Establishment of support programs that aid high school students of colour, LGBTQIA+ students, economically disenfranchised students and differently abled students to enter universities and work their way up the ranks from there.
Towards an Ethical University.
The university should be a public space free from oppression and with an active and conscious commitment to avoid engaging in colonialist, imperialist and generally damaging practices. Therefore we call for;
- An independent investigation into the contribution of universities to the Dutch arms industry.
- Universities should cut their ties with exploitative and destructive organisations, such as those involved in wars, military occupations and the destruction of the planet. This includes, but is not limited to, immediate divestment from the fossil fuel industry and from all companies which make a profit from the Israeli state’s occupation of Palestine.
- Universities should actively build the infrastructure for open-access journals.
- A reduction of the pay- and workload- gap between different staff positions (whether academic or non-academic).
- Abolition of the gender pay gap.
Specific curricula proposals for the UvA will be made soon. For more info or if you want to join the University of Colour contact Universityofcolour@gmail.com, place Amsterdam, the Netherlands.