Universiteit Leiden

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Susanne Deen Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator at Leiden Law School and FGGA

On 15 April Susanne Deen will start as Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator for Leiden Law School and the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs. The aim of this new position is to contribute to establishing an inclusive community where all students and staff feel valued and respected, and can achieve their full potential irrespective of gender, ethnicity, sexual preference or disability.

Susanne Deen

Both faculties have been working hard for some time now on the issue of diversity and inclusion. Many ideas have been put forward on how to reinforce a sense of inclusion and increase diversity – for example in relation to student population, academic and non-academic staff, faculty facilities for studying and conducting research. ‘It is now up to me to roll out all these great plans and ideas at these faculties’, says Susanne. ‘My first point of focus will be student recruitment. We aim to increase the visibility of both faculties among a broader public; to create a more positive identity so that these faculties become more attractive to a larger, more diverse section of secondary schools.’

Today, there is more priority in society for diversity and inclusion, and related issues of racism and discrimination, compared to a few years ago. The time has come for society to work on these issues and search together for structural solutions, says Susanne. ‘Leiden University realises that in its role as an educational institute it must adopt a proactive approach if it wants to enlarge its diversity and bring about change in its culture. This will take time and energy and this was the reason for setting up this position. Ultimately, the aim is to have a coordinator for each faculty who will be in touch with each other and will stimulate change.’

Challenging and delicate

Last year, Susanne conducted research among 1500 staff members on improving diversity and inclusion. ‘I gained a lot of useful information and insights by looking at various perspectives and opinions. It showed me that diversity is a very challenging topic and also something that is very delicate. When you get to the crux of the matter, there can be friction and underlying issues can also surface.’

Besides this experience, Susanne also has the drive to make a difference and motivate people about these issues. ‘Perhaps, in particular, because my skin colour is white, and I’ve learnt to understand that we all need to contribute to increasing diversity. Many people are unconsciously biased. If you want to change that, you have to take a good look at yourself. The solution has to come from within, because ultimately you are the one that has to change. With my position at the University, I hope to eventually create a ‘we’ feeling, so that everyone feels at home here, irrespective of background, gender or skin colour.’

She hopes that this position will not be necessary forever. ‘My aim is that a time will come when my role is no longer needed because there will always be enough diversity among the students and staff of Leiden University that it will be considered something self-evident throughout the whole of society.’

Concrete steps

Dean of Leiden Law School Joanne van der Leun is looking forward to Susanne’s arrival. ‘Working on diversity and inclusiveness is connected to everything we do. It’s important to get lots of people involved. Susanne not only has expert knowledge, but also a background in communication which we are very pleased about. And since she will be working at two faculties, we can learn from one another and act together. Leiden Law School wants to take a number of concrete steps in the coming year in which inclusion will be interpreted broadly. For example, active bystander courses, seeing what is needed for students with a disability, and equal pay scales for men and women. All are welcome to contribute.’

Erwin Muller, Dean of FGGA, agrees. ‘FGGA is delighted that we can tackle this important issue together with Leiden Law School. Part of our faculty’s agenda for action in relation to diversity and inclusion is to achieve a more inclusive climate for our students and staff with even more diversity. Having a joint coordinator will be a major step towards achieving this.’

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