Talking about discrimination at the RUG

Many students were happy to sit and talk about discrimination with the Groningen Student Group of Amnesty International on Friday. But others hung back. ‘There isn’t discrimination at the university.’
Text and photo By Tatiana Coba

As part of an ongoing national campaign, Amnesty International constructed a bright yellow outdoor living room in front of the Academy building on Friday. Their aim was to invite student discussion and to create awareness that discrimination happens everywhere – even inside the university.

Discrimination is ingrained into all elements of society, says local campaign organizer Eli Berghuis. ‘Something we have come across a lot is that discrimination happens unconsciously’, she says. ‘For example: when you see a person of a certain race walking by and you change sidewalks because you associate his race with danger. Something like that is embarrassing to admit because no one likes to say, “oh! I discriminate.” But once you are aware, you starting thinking about the reasons for making those associations.’

Amnesty hopes that by inviting casual conversation, more people will start to think about the ways they discriminate.

Not convinced

But some students are not convinced there is a problem. They say that discrimination has never affected them personally. ‘There isn’t discrimination at the university’, says student Daniel Nsengiyumra. ‘At least, I haven’t felt it.’ Others watched from a distance, too self-conscious to go and sit in the yellow chairs.

However, several students did participate – especially once Student Assessor Saina Abeshzadeh arrived to hear what they had to say. One student said she had changed classes because the way a professor always brought up her race made her uncomfortable. Others talked about how hard it is to integrate with Dutch students.

More aware

‘It’s very good to have a platform where students can share their concerns’, says Abeshzadeh. ‘These days everyone is much more aware of the topic. People are really thinking about what they say – for instance, the jokes – and now that it’s out in the open, it’s easier to discuss.’

Abeshzadeh reminds students that if they ever experience discrimination from staff, they should go directly to confidential advisor Marjolein Renker. ‘She is there to help you – it is free and it is confidential.’




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