By Laura Galante
— On Wednesday, 15 June, Voices of AUC published results of April’s discussion on the AUC’S motto ‘Excellence and Diversity in a Global City’. The motto has always been perceived as ambiguous by the AUC community, hence the report raises a variety of issues relating to the pressures of high academic achievements and lack of curriculum diversity that participants felt are reflected in it.
This year’s Voices of AUC discussion took place on the 21st of April at AUCafe . The event’s objective was to rethink the AUC motto and to crowd-source ideas for new proposals and policy implementations within the university. According to the report, there is “a need for better understanding of the terms in AUC’s motto so that people in our community [can] speak the same language”. Voices of AUC did this by offering a platform for participants to voice their concerns in the form of an open discussion.
“We wanted to see if we could engage students in thinking how the motto could be filled with meaning again,” said co-founder of Voices and AUC graduate Michael Vermeer. To ensure participation on equal terms, Voices’ discussion was organized through a method of participatory leadership to blur the boundaries between students, staff and management. The evening consisted of 40-minute discussions led by the Voices’ founders at different tables with six to eight participants. The discussion topics varied per table, and were themed according to the motto’s keywords, ‘excellence’, ‘diversity’ and ‘global city’. The participants’ ideas were first recorded in the form of a word web and then synthesized in the final report.
“We tried to identify patterns and put them together by theme,” said Maarten Albers, member of Student Council and Voices of AUC. “ We had a lot of descriptions about what each theme entailed and how these definitions were problematic. Then we did an analysis of how the situation is now and what we want it to be.”
According to the report, the word ‘excellence’ was criticized for praising students’ academic performance, rather than creativity and extracurricular experience. “We discussed that AUC’s definition of ‘excellence’ seems to be very grade-focused and does not take other aspects into account, such as social skills and committee work,” says the report. Therefore, a solution was to provide more opportunities for students to take a semester off in order to deal with their studies in a way that is not rushed, as well as to assess students on their process, as opposed to the end result of an assignment. “Excellence is often linked to grades and I really dislike that,” commented AUC professor Dr. Cor Zonneveld, who took part in the discussion.
Among other issues, ‘diversity’ was criticized for lack of curriculum diversity, which was defined as too “westernized” by students. The report suggested giving up some of the western focus in favor of inclusivity and cultural sensitivity. “A need was seen by the students, particularly those in the Sciences, concerning having more female lecturers,” the report says.
Voices of AUC’s founders claimed that there were significant improvements in the discussions’ structure compared to last year. “There was a much broader discussion [and] the writing team was different from the organizing team, [which] took a longer time,” said Albers. “This year it was a lot more structured, [because] the organizing team also wrote the report.”
AUC Dean Murray Pratt, who was appointed in February this year, expressed positive feedback on last year’s publication. It was handed to him as an overview of some of the issues that students were concerned with. “I found the first report insightful,” he said. “[This is] the information we can build on in the future.” He believes that the event itself was conducted professionally and designed in an inclusive way.
Albers said that next year Voices of AUC will aim to publish the report even more shortly after the event, as “it is fresher in your mind if you put it together one week after the event. That is a lesson for next year.”
This year’s Voices of AUC team consisted of: Albers, Vermeer, Tanushree Kaushal, Manar Charafeddine, Anouk ter Linde, and Felix Beer.
Correction: It has come to attention that Anne de Graaf has also contributed to the writing of this year’s Voices of AUC report.