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Diversity as a fact. Inclusion as an act.

A day-long workshop organised by the University of Erfurt as part of its diversity audit ended this week with numerous impulses for the path to an inclusive university. Around 50 participants from all areas of the university came together to talk about what diversity in studying and teaching means and how it can be enabled, made visible and lived at the university.

In his opening speech, the University President, Professor Walter Bauer-Wabnegg, emphasised the workshop character of the event and acknowledged the commitment of all members and affiliates of the University involved in this area, especially the students. This was also underpinned in the welcoming speech by Verena Baumüller, who spoke on behalf of the Student Council. Dr Hanna Proner from the University Council highlighted the opportunities that the strategic anchoring of diversity offers for the university.

And so it was in the lecture by Professor Andrea D. Bührmann, Director of the Institute for Diversity Research (Georg-August-University Göttingen), first dealt with "Diversity understandings in discourse and diversity strategies in practice". It became clear that diversity is to be understood here as a process that offers far-reaching potential for creativity and innovation through diversity of perspectives. University President Professor Bauer-Wabnegg also made it clear: "Diversity is a process. A process that will accompany us for a while and make us more prudent, smarter and more diverse." However, it also became clear that this process is already underway and is already supported and sustained by many at the university.

In the afternoon, the main focus was on how diversity can become visible on campus - and beyond. The participants agreed that this is necessary - on the one hand to counteract discrimination, but at the same time to create an awareness of the fact of diversity on campus. "I would like to see us move from a debate that was often agitated in the past back to a factual level where opinions can be exchanged and different perspectives can be allowed and openly discussed," Carmen Voigt, Head of University Communications, said in this regard. "We should see diversity not only as a challenge, but also as an opportunity to broaden our horizons or take on new perspectives." What should be the end result: a consensus that diversity is a matter of course and is perceived in exactly the same way. Making it visible is a first step towards this. To make this possible, the existing communication channels should also be used more than before - e.g. website, social media, newsletter, videos, but above all (teaching) events and committees.

Another participant from among the teaching staff stated: "A diverse - and cosmopolitan - university must also be communicated, above all, to future students, all the more so against the backdrop of the fierce competition for minds and resources, especially in view of the political mood in Thuringia, which was not only reflected in the local results of the recent Bundestag elections, but is also perceived beyond the state's borders." Universities should educate people who shape the world. And they should do so as inclusively as possible. This must also be reflected in the curriculum, added Professor Andrea D. Bührmann.

At the same time, it became clear that the resources of universities - both human and financial - are limited. Against this backdrop, a common focus must be found and attention paid to the sustainability of the measures so that they do not remain a "flash in the pan". Thus, following two further contributions on "Monitoring and Evaluation of Diversity and Inclusion", three working groups were also founded in which members of the University of Erfurt can now continue to discuss and work - in other words, participate:

  • Strengthening the profile of the University of Erfurt as an inclusive university;
  • Making diversity at the University of Erfurt visible;
  • Monitoring and evaluation.

If you are interested in working with us, please contact the Diversity Officer at diversitaet@uni-erfurt.de.

"There are many people at our university who are concerned with diversity and inclusion - in research, in teaching and in campus life. That's why I'm optimistic that this diversity can become an everyday culture at our university that enriches us all," says Niklas Radenbach, the university's diversity officer, following the workshop. "We have set out on the path, I am looking forward to the next steps together."