Diversity at the UT. A heavily discussed topic lately. It is not that long ago that the University of Twente sign was wearing the rainbow flag for international coming out day. And even now, there is a rainbow bench standing only a few meters further. A great gesture of the UT for the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community. And, in my opinion, a very necessary gesture to allow every student to feel welcome and safe.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community myself, I recognize the need to feel supported and for someone to back me up. The same is true for all vulnerable groups that are easily discriminated in society. It cannot be denied that discrimination is happening in every kind of community. The UT, for example, is a true melting pot of cultures and a lot can improve when it comes to accepting and understanding each other.
A recent example of that was the opinion expressed by some members of Uraad (University council), who stated that we must keep the coöptatierecht, the right for students to choose their new housemates themselves. While the executive board clearly stated they would like to get rid of this procedure, Dutch students jumped in to defend the cooption once more. I mean you cannot combine ‘night owls with morning people’ in a house of 16 residents. Is it not a greater challenge to find 16 identical people? But somehow the student houses on campus manage to be occupied by white and mainly male students every year. Is it really that hard to open up and to learn from other cultures? And what is there to lose? Extraordinary student traditions? You mean the prominent nude calendars, beer cap collections, hidden Vodka bottles, the stickiness of kitchen floors and slips on doors of first year students?
According to some of the students of Uraad, the UT is putting the problem of internationalization on the students’ plate. I am quite shocked by the attitude of UT students about getting in touch with international students. Every year, many students go abroad for their study to explore different cultures and places. However, there seems to be no willingness to use the opportunities offered by an international university at home. It would be so easy to make friends, taste food and learn about traditions from all over the world. But none of this is happening right now. And the exclusive association culture at the UT is not helping. Instead of meeting each other, everyone stays within their own group.
As for me, this is just another reason to change the coöptatierecht immediately and counteract the visible segregation in student houses. One thing is for sure though. Building another isolated apartment complex with expensive studios did not solve the problem. It actually made it worse. If the UT wants to become a truly diverse and inclusive university, the right decisions must be made now.