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Interview on Social Safety at study association Spectrum

Published on 18-12-2023
In a brief conversation, Thomas, a 'support owl' and confidential advisor at student union Spectrum, shares insights on their involvement in social safety.
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What is your connection with social safety? 

"I am a kind of confidential adviser within our study association, a 'support owl'; derived from our logo, an owl). Through this role, I deal with members who come to me with unpleasant situations at events or in their personal past." 

Why do you feel it is important at Spectrum to focus on social safety?  

"At Spectrum, we think it is important to focus on social safety. Despite almost always being seen as a safe environment, unpleasant things happen from time to time. We want to remove and prevent that by creating a safer atmosphere. These incidents are therefore the reason the support owls were created." 

How do you think we can work together to create and maintain a safe study environment? 

"I am a firm believer in prevention over cure. If there has been a situation where someone has felt unsafe, they will never get the safe feeling from before. That is why I think social safety education should be at the forefront. It should be given at the beginning of studenthood - or even as early as the end of high school - and preferably recurring. That way, it really becomes a core value." 

What is your advice to students who may see or experience unwanted behaviour? 

"At such a moment, first of all find a safe situation yourself: the support of your friends (there is strength in numbers) or go home. After the experience, my first advice would be to tell your story; a listening ear is step one towards processing it. Confidential advisers (within the association or within the UvA as a whole) are excellent for this. Naturally, they will treat your story confidentially. Depending on how badly you experience the aftermath, you could also think about seeking professional help, such as a psychologist."  

What is already going well in terms of social safety? And what can we still improve? 

"What is going well in the field of social safety is the growing attention to it. I notice it all around me that it is becoming less and less of a taboo to raise undesirable behaviour. There is increasing attention to confidential advisers and resources in those situations. As I mentioned earlier, education can be improved. Start this at a young age to prevent undesirable behaviour, even if only partly. Young people will be more likely dare to state their own boundaries, but will also less likely cross other people's boundaries." 

More information on the Spectrum websiteExternal link

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