‘Port of love’ is the theme of the fifth Rotterdam Pride, starting 27 September. What is the status of Pride at the Erasmus University? How inclusive is the university and do students and employees feel safe and supported to be themselves? To hear more we met up with the outgoing president, Amber Prick van Wely and new president Welmer de Groot of the LGBT+ organisation of the university: Erasmus Pride.
The organisation has been growing fast the last couple of years, Amber tells us. ‘We have been working on letting students know we exist and they can come to us, either for fun events like our monthly drinks, or to let us know when they don’t feel safe or comfortable on campus.’
Especially international students flock to Erasmus Pride. Amber estimates the number of internationals attending events is up to 75 percent. They notice that many internationals choose the Netherlands as a place to study intentionally because of the country’s reputation of tolerance. Students from China and Russia, for example, come to The Netherlands and would like to meet likeminded people and build a network.
Two of organisation’s goals are to be accessible to students and employees at Erasmus University, and to connect them. There are social events, like parties or bar hopping to LGBT-locations in Rotterdam. They want to provide a safe and welcoming haven for students who are part of the LGBT+ community. For new students it can be hard to find their way in Rotterdam.
But Amber thinks it’s also important to provide information about LGBT+ and inclusion. Erasmus Pride organises lectures and panels on different topics, for example information on asexuality or intersex people.
Intolerance is often the result of ignorance, states new president and medical student Welmer. He explains the theory of the 3 Ts of Economic Development: all thriving communities have an abundance of talented people, are technologically advanced and its people are tolerant and open to new ideas. Intolerance is bad for progress and thus informing people is of great significance to the entire University and to the city of Rotterdam.
One of the targets for the organisation is to reach employees. It’s important, according to Welmer, because they could serve as role models to students who might not feel represented by the University or in their field of choice. ‘Role models are of great importance to the LGBT+ community,’ Welmer explains. ‘Students from most minorities have role models within their family or community to whom they can turn to with questions. Young LGBT+ people only know others who are LGBT+ from the internet or TV. That makes it hard to find someone to identify with.’ Amber adds: ‘I’m from a small village were there weren’t many LGBT+ role models. At my high school there weren’t any positive examples either. This is our opportunity to create a network of role models for young students to look up to.’
What does new president Welmer want to achieve this year as president? ‘I’ll be happy when there’s a system in place to measure inclusivity at the University and incidents on campus. Or when there are visible role models for LGBT+ students and everyone feels safe enough to be themselves.’
The struggle at the University is that students stay within their own bubble more and more, and do not reach out or get to know other students from other groups as much. Education is becoming less personal, without a regular group or mentor, so students do not get to know people from outside their own cultural group as much. The University is becoming less inclusive, Welmer fears. ‘The problem with the current diversity training, for example, is that it mainly focuses on differences between groups. But we should be focussing on what we have in common instead. Go somewhere together, get to know each other. That is the best way to work towards a more inclusive university.’