Christine van der Horst
—Excellence and Diversity. AUC students are proud of being the first. The second, however, is a cause of tension among members of the AUC community. Efforts previously made by students to raise awareness for issues of diversity, such as Glass and the Feminist Committee, have proven to be only temporarily successful. As a long-term solution to the issue, Andy O’Daab, a third-year Social Science major and AUCSA treasurer, has recently founded the Diversity Commission, a new student body that aims to make AUC more inclusive.
A more direct reason for starting the Diversity Commission were complaints of homophobia, sexism and harassment at AUC. “We had certain occurrences in the dorms, and I am not only talking about the big ones, like the wifi dilemma,” O’Daab said. “These kind of things can be more openly discussed if you already have something in this building that shows you ‘Hey, these are topics we care about, this is something we find important’.”
The Diversity Commission will raise awareness for diversity issues and stimulate discourse within the AUC community. O’Daab has recently appointed a chair and a secretary, who are currently conducting interviews with potential commissioners. Commissioners will be able to apply for the position every semester and are responsible for organizing events around one issue of diversity, such as feminism or the LBGTQ community.
“The idea is that we [chair and secretary] are the infrastructure of the commission, that we are here to help and make it possible for the commissioners to organize their events,” said chair Bram Goede, a first-year Science major. “But at the same time, we’re not dependent on them for organizing an event.”
O’Daab thinks the feminist committee dissolved not only due to an unfortunate transition after many of its board members graduated, but also because of a narrowness in focus. The Diversity Commission and its format are a response to this.
”In the Diversity Commission, as the chair and secretary, you’re in charge of all the topics, so that gives a lot of variety and more to do,” O’Daab said. The flexibility of the commissioners’ position and the independency of the chair and secretary should, according to O’Daab, also help keep the commission alive.
AUC’s Diversity and Outreach group, better known as the DO-group, also focuses on matters of diversity. The important difference between the DO-group and the Diversity Commission is that the DO-group is an AUC institution, whereas the Diversity Commission is an extension of the AUCSA board.
“In talking to the DO-group we saw that there is interest in these topics [topics surrounding diversity issues] (…) but we didn’t have a platform to facilitate that [interest], especially within our association: And that’s where the Diversity Commission comes in,” O’Daab said.
Goede, who is a former member of the DO-group, explains that there is also a clear difference in the missions of the two bodies. “The DO-group is all about brainstorming and changing policies. The Diversity Commission aims at setting an agenda, and positively changing the way AUCSA members think through fun activities.”
“As a part of AUCSA, we have no influence on who is accepted at AUC,” Elizabeth Schippers, first-year Humanities major and secretary of the commission, adds. “It is not within our power to make AUC more diverse; we rather try to attract more attention to the diversity we have.”
As soon as they have selected the commissioners, the Diversity Commission wants to start on their first project: organizing a Women’s Week in May. There are also plans for a stand at Dormfest in honor of Pride Month and collaborations with committees like Pangea and Hands On. The commission would like to host regular events, but the most important thing remains celebrating diversity and increasing the community’s inclusivity.
“If I or we can make AUC feel like home to one more person; if we can only make one person feel more welcome at AUC than he or she feels now, then that, in my opinion, is worth all the effort we put into this,” Goede concluded.
All images used in this article are a courtesy of the Diversity Commission.