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Three questions about the D&I Symposium 2023

How can inclusive communication make you feel welcome at a university? That is one of the questions that will be discussed at the D&I Symposium 2023 on 19 January. We ask Diversity Officer Aya Ezawa three questions about this symposium.

What is this year’s D&I Symposium about?

‘The symposium, which is being held for the tenth time, gives us a chance to consider diversity and inclusion (D&I): What is it? What do we do? And what have we achieved? As a university, we stand for an inclusive and diverse community. As an educational institution, we want our students and staff to not only acquire knowledge but also work together with a wide range of people. Language plays an important part in this.

There is a lot of discussion about which terminology you can or cannot use. We want to reflect on this at the symposium. This can be done in a very concrete way, as in the workshop on writing inclusive job adverts. How do you ensure that you appeal to a wider public? It is important to think about what a word actually communicates and to whom.

The terms relating to diversity are constantly changing. Words count: how do you refer to groups and do you take account of sensitivities to specific terms? For example, we’re hearing the term ‘enslaved person’ being used more often instead of ‘slave’ to indicate that something is done to people and that this doesn’t determine who they are as a person. If we want to create an inclusive community where everyone feels at home, the way we communicate with one another is very important.’

Who is the D&I Symposium for?

‘All students and staff at the University have received an invitation. The main aim is to strengthen the sense of community. But the event is open to all, so former staff members, for example, or experts that we work with are also welcome.

‘The symposium is an opportunity to meet, talk and network with others. It’s not a purely academic symposium but is meant for all staff. We hope the programme will appeal to a wide audience, so will also be interesting to staff who are not academics but do very important work nonetheless.’

What do you hope to achieve with this year’s D&I Symposium?

‘We hope that people will think more about the language they use. We want to share information about inclusive language in various talks and workshops. And above all we want to have a safe conversation about diversity and inclusion. It can be intimidating at times because language use can affect people very personally. We want to provide space to break the discomfort and silence that sometimes arises. That is why it is important to talk openly about this with your colleagues.

‘Many of us grew up in a world where our own experience is a given. We now have to take a step in realising that Europe is not always the centre of the world. But your own experience does not speak for that of others. These experiences are just as important but are not always seen or acknowledged. This switch doesn’t take anything away from you but actually makes you richer. I hope we can have an open conversation about this at the symposium.’

To find out more about the programme and speakers, see our events page for more information.

Photo: Monique Shaw

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