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The Faculty Diversity Office, the Diversity Sounding Board and the Student Impact Center of the Faculty of Science have issued the following statement against racism and discrimination.

Two weeks after the violent death of George Floyd in the US and three months after a similar death associated with police racism and violence of Tomy Holten in Zwolle, the Netherlands, peaceful protests and demonstrations have been held across the globe. Large crowds of diverse protesters are  demanding change and structural commitment to fight racism and discrimination in their everyday and institutional forms. We, the Diversity Officer, the Diversity Sounding Board and the Student Impact Centre of the Faculty of Science (Faculteit der Natuurwetenschappen, Wiskunde en Informatica) of the University of Amsterdam, would like to express our sincere sympathies for the victims of racism and discrimination and our commitment to combating these phenomena. We are aware that this commitment will consist first in listening to the voices of protest, listening to the experiences and feelings of those who have suffered and are still suffering from racism in all its forms, making sure that we are hearing and understanding these adequately. In addition, fulfilling this commitment implies that we will actively inform ourselves about the many ways in which racism and discrimination exist and how these can be stopped, and taking actions accordingly.

Moreover, we want to acknowledge that as part of academia in general and the University of Amsterdam’s Faculty of Science in particular, we more specifically commit ourselves to actively investigating how our communities, our teaching and research, are tainted by the longstanding history of racism and discrimination of our society and of our fields. We do not perceive science and academia as domains that are immune to those horrific phenomena, which indeed have historically been condoned and even supported by scientists and their work. On the contrary, these fields have problematic histories that actively contributed towards structures of racism. As such, the inherited structures in these areas contain colonial residues, for example, that are to be articulated and eliminated. Hence, we will actively scrutinize how racism and discrimination is present in our midst: both within our communities, where diversity and inclusion is still lacking while some are benefitting from historical privilege, but also in our teaching and research.

At first sight, it might seem that the natural and life sciences are less subject to racism and discrimination than the humanities, medicine, law or social sciences are. This may or may not be true for some (though not all) of our subject matters, but certainly in our processes we have to admit that we are not different from other academic fields. We are very much aware that our fields of research and teaching are suffering as well from a very low degree of diversity and inclusion. Ranging from a lack of attention to other traditions and histories of science in our teaching, to not actively engaging underrepresented groups in the setting of research agenda’s, we are certain that we can find options to increase diversity and inclusion in many ways. For this we will not only work together with our departmental colleagues, but also actively establish connections and collaborations with other groups and individuals who can help us in this important challenge and journey.

As this challenge requires all members of our community to engage in critical self-reflection and mutual dialogue, we welcome and will support their initiatives to that goal. We encourage our students and colleagues to also inform themselves, for example by looking at the resources that the UvA Central Diversity Officer’s team has listed here. We will also publish in the near future activities and other options for engagement with these important challenges that we will organize.     We do plan, for example, to conduct a survey about diversity and inclusion at the faculty of Science; to initiate a discussion about curriculum renewal; and to advise didactics courses on how to recognize and mitigate conscious bias in teaching; and to organize events that foster a more inclusive campus culture. Meanwhile, we will continue to listen, to self-reflect and investigate and indeed prepare ourselves to change.

This statement was co-authored by the Faculty Diversity Office, the Diversity Sounding Board and the Student Impact Center of the Faculty of Science, University of Amsterdam.

Responses can be sent to: Diversity-Science@UvA.nl .