Elmer Sterken said recently that the university should facilitate conversations about discrimination – especially after a UKrant survey revealed that 42 percent of international students have been subjected to prejudiced jokes and comments in the last three months. ‘The problem is that people are simply not aware of this issue; and if you are not aware of it, it’s hard to discuss it.’
But Sterken couldn’t say what platform might be best for hosting such a discussion.
Pop-up living room
His remarks got the attention of Amnesty International, who wants to offer the RUG just that: a platform. Amnesty International will install a ‘pop-up living room’ at the Academieplein today, April 20, from 11:00-17:00. Passersby are invited to stop and talk about discrimination and prejudice in exchange for free coffee. ‘The goal is not to convince people of a certain narrative’, says campaign organiser Laura Wennekes, ‘but to hear what the concerns are and find a common ground.’
Sterken has been invited to join the conversation, but is unable to attend. Student Assessor Saina Abeshadeh will come in his stead. Abeshadeh will be at the Academieplein at 12:30 to discuss what role the administration can play in addressing discrimination on campus. Students and staff are welcome to come and speak with her directly.
RUG leading the way
Today’s ‘living room’ is part of a nation-wide Amnesty campaign, #itseverywhere, to raise awareness of discrimination in the Netherlands. Amnesty is hosting living rooms on eight other campuses from Amsterdam to the Hague. They have also placed bright yellow chairs in random locations throughout the country. ‘The chairs symbolize sitting down and having a conversation’, says Wennekes. ‘Discrimination is everywhere, but conversations about it can happen everywhere too.’
Amnesty coordinators hope their efforts will make difficult conversations easier. ‘When we saw that this conversation is already happening on your campus – and has even been addressed by the Rector Magnificus – it was really exciting’, Wennekes says. ‘You guys are leading the way.’