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Meet confidential advisers for students, Kristien and Belle

Published on 31-08-2022 17:41
Kristien van Lunen and Belle Jansen have recently been trained and installed as confidential advisers for students at the Faculty of Science. Get to know them and find out what they can do for you.
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Portrait Belle Jansen
Belle Jansen
Portrait Kristien van Lunen
Kristien van Lunen

Belle is communications officer at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (IIS). “In my work, I have very little direct contact with students. So, I can imagine that it feels safe for a student to share their story with me. I will never supervise their tutorial or mark their exam.” As the programme coordinator of the Master’s programmes in Biological Sciences and Earth Sciences, Kristien draws on her experience with students: “I enjoy having in-depth conversations with people and am a good listener.” 

Relieving feelings of shame and guilt 

Confidential advisers can offer support if you are experiencing inappropriate behaviour by lecturers, students or any other persons you interact with as part of your studies at the UvA. Both Kristien and Belle acknowledge that talking about these situations can be instrumental. Belle: “Personally, I benefitted quite a lot from speaking about it when I experienced inappropriate behaviour. The taboo around these topics must be taken away, as well as feelings of shame and guilt.” Kristien adds: “The next step is also very important: what can students themselves do to resolve the situation? I want to help students to be able to take back control and feel safer and more empowered.” 

Recognizing inappropriate behaviour

While some forms of inappropriate behaviour may be quickly recognised, that might be more difficult for others. Kristien explains: “There are four main categories of inappropriate behaviour: bullying, (sexual) harassment, discrimination and aggression.” These types of behaviour can occur in many forms: “Suppose a student is bullied by fellow students in the lecture room or online, via WhatsApp groups. That creates a hostile environment and can make the student feel very unsafe in the study group. In such a situation, getting in touch with a confidential adviser can be helpful,” explains Belle.

Confidential advisers can also assist with practical solutions. Belle: “When you come to us no names or further information about the situation need to be mentioned, but we can come up with solutions to deal with the situation together. And if you do choose to file a formal complaint, we can help with information and support in the whole process.” Both of them stress that how you want to deal with the situation is completely up to you. Kristien: “As a confidential adviser we can inform and support, but the student remains in control of the situation. That is the most important thing.”

When in doubt, get in touch

It is important to note that the inappropriate behaviour do not necessarily need to have occurred at a UvA location. Belle: “Suppose two students go out for drinks together, come across their lecturer and something happens. Then they are not necessarily in the UvA environment, but it’s still something you can talk to us about. In any way, we would like to encourage students to get in touch, if even they are in doubt if they should.” 

You can get in touch by sending an e-mail or giving a call. Kristien: “In most cases, you can make an appointment in one or two days. It is also important to know that you can meet at any place you like, it does not have to be at Science Park if that does not feel safe.”

Are you experiencing some form of inappropriate behaviour, such as bullying, (sexual) harassment, aggression or discrimination? Contact a confidential adviser