Debate 30 April 2021

VU puts cooperation in cultural barometer on hold

Five universities want to use a so-called diversity barometer to map their staff’s cultural diversity – a move that’s been met with strong criticism from work councils. Four universities have now announced their temporary withdrawal from the project.

The universities in question believe that having better data on employees’ migration backgrounds will help in the struggle for equal opportunity in academia. That’s why, as part of their joint Cultural Diversity Barometer project, they chose to share specific information about their employees with Statistics Netherlands (CBS), which would then send back anonymised general data files in return.

Fierce debate

The project led to fierce debate in the House of Representatives last year. Several parties felt that keeping ‘lists’ of people’s ethnicity and migration background was a step too far. Recently, the VVD submitted Parliamentary questions on the barometer.

The project has also been met with resistance at the universities themselves. Earlier this month, Utrecht University announced that it was putting its participation on hold after concerns from its university council. The university has since decided to discontinue “its current involvement” altogether, DUB reports.

But the project could still get a second life. Utrecht University wants to draw up a new plan as soon as possible, in consultation with the other universities and its employee participation council.

Critical works councils

Last week, the University of Amsterdam announced that it would not be sharing data with CBS for the time being. The university’s central works council is strongly opposed to the project. Ideally, the council would like the university to step away from the project entirely, but the Executive Board first wants to have a dialogue in hopes of finding a solution, Folia writes.

Last Friday, Leiden University also announced it had decided to suspend its participation. There too, the university council had been highly critical of the project, Mare reports.

“The Board believes that diversity and inclusion policies must have broad support and has noted that this is not currently the case for the barometer”, the university wrote. The Executive Board now wants to set up an “expert group” to help find a way forward.

VU Amsterdam

VU Amsterdam has also put the project “on hold”. It’s still unclear whether the other university involved – Erasmus University Rotterdam – will also suspend data sharing with Statistics Netherlands.

HOP/EF; translation: Taalcentrum-VU
IMAGE: Matt Briney via Unsplash


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