Creating trust in an intolerable environment

We have just been confronted with shocking revelations about the realities behind the shiny surface of the UvA’s public image. We have also become witnesses of how the courage of some women to testify about their experiences forced us all into a moment of truth.

After the various recent reports, we now know better than ever that Dutch universities are a place of profound insecurity and widespread abuse. Starting at the very top of the hierarchy, the academy has become an institution that worships quantifiable metrics of individual success instead of cultivating trust and mutual support. A specter of threats and shaming is often implicitly built into the very top-down management measures and messages that are supposed to help us, scholars and students, to evolve and thrive. This in combination with the traditional academic hierarchies creates a toxic social mix which we are all exposed to in one way or the other.

Yet, within all of this, there is also a lot of resilience, there a people who do their best to create bonds of trust and respect between each other, who support each other, who listen to each other in spite of an impossible work load. But year by year, it seems to get more difficult to safeguard these islands of trust.
We need to find new ways to come together. Only if we can tell the stories that matter to us will we be able to create a different university.

Sharing stories anonymously

Speakeasy Open Salon (SOS) invites students, academic and supporting staff to share Stories that Matter by using the power of anonymity. Let us listen to each other by committing to a respectful and nonjudgmental attitude. Let us share experiences of harassment and resilience, moments of connection and support as well as of anxiety and intimidation.

Come to the Salon and bring a single piece of paper with a short (printed) text in Dutch or in English that describes an experience, good or bad, that you have had at the university and that matters to you. Leave out all names or concrete places. Fold the paper two or three times and put it in the basket that will welcome you at the entrance.

If enough stories are assembled to safeguard anonymity, the basket will circulate and we will read each other’s experiences to each other.

This is an experiment with a lot of unknowns and we understand that some people might experience it as not only rewarding but also difficult at times. We ask every participant to be mindful of that possibility for everyone involved.

If there are not enough stories, we will simply share thoughts, experiences and wishes about the university in the usual way – and celebrate the end of the academic year!

Sharing stories in this way will not in at of itself make the problems we face disappear. But we are hoping that it might help us to learn from each other’s experiences and develop new ways of communicating.

Friday, June 7, 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Vox-Pop, Binnengasthuisstraat 9 (BG3 – begane grond)


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