Universities hire diversity officers to counter discrimination and remove obstacles. However, the changes they pursue are felt by some to be too extreme. These critics, some of whom are MPs, often use the term ‘woke’ as a disqualifying pejorative to describe diversity officers.
And this disapproval isn’t just expressed verbally. A journalistic survey of several higher education media outlets, including U-Today, published last year revealed that diversity officers not only face verbal abuse but also threats and harassment, online as well as in real life. There have also been instances where their personal data was distributed online without their permission. With their names a matter of public record, even their family members became targets of harassment.
D66 asked parliamentary questions about the survey results. After taking a closer look at the study, Minister of Education Robbert Dijkgraaf replied on Friday that he found the findings disturbing and ‘completely unacceptable’.
He then announced a new cabinet approach against ‘online harassment, racism and hate speech’, to be presented before the end of the year. Details of the plan have yet to be revealed. Dijkgraaf also said that he would sit down with diversity officers to talk about their social safety and referred once again to the WetenschapVeilig safety hotline, launched in November of last year. He stressed that higher education staff who are not involved in research can also use this resource to obtain support and advice.