What does racism mean at UM and for UM?
When is a joke just a joke and when is it racist? When is a process biased, favouring white Europeans? If ‘race’ does not exist as a biological category, why is racism a social reality?
These are just some of the questions we, the Diversity & Inclusivity Office (D&I Office) has encountered over the past months since we started our efforts of Action Against Racism at UM.
In conversation with our UM BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) community and other engaged staff and students, it is clear that institutional and individual racism are a reality at UM. At the same time, it also became clear that what constitutes as racism is not always generally agreed upon. However, if we want to move forward with an anti-racism action plan for the UM Community, it is essential that we define racism.
We would like to invite PREMIUM students to review academic definitions of racism, look up best practices of racism definitions of Dutch and international universities and to perform research into our own UM community to come closer to a working definition of racism for UM. You will present your results to the D&I Advisory Council (chaired by UM rector Rianne Letschert).
The Diversity and Inclusivity (hereafter D&I) Office aims to make Maastricht University an inclusive organization that values diverse talents and competencies and creates an environment in which everyone can feel at home. We are doing this through developing policies, organizing events and supporting the UM Community in their ideas.
As the D&I Office, we are currently working on developing an ‘Action Against Racism at UM’ plan to be presented to the Executive Board. In this process of devising a plan, we talked to many different groups from UM including UM Community members of colour, decision makers, the Student Service Centre and many more. What we are noticing is that one major obstacle to tackle racism at UM is the fact that there are many different understandings of what qualifies as racism, as institutional racist structures or as racist practices/behaviours. Hence, we need to come closer to a UM working definition of racism!