Antiracism derailed at the University of Antwerp: can Rector van Goethem do his job?

Rumors in the media about an exchange of views between some employees of UA. In a private conversation, recorded by accident and without their knowledge, they talked about Moroccan students and their language and the problem of the bad behavior of Moroccan youth, and made comparisons between the Moroccan and the Jewish community. That conversation took place on May 24, and a month later it suddenly came out in the open and thus in the news. How and why is not clear. The university immediately condemned through the words of the rector and other staff, and sanctions were proposed. The principal finds the staff’s behavior “below all standards” and “completely unacceptable”.

Nowhere in the media noise is it made clear what exactly is wrong with the private conversation between a professor and an assistant. Principal hides behind phrases as meaningless and inadmissible – which is completely irrelevant to a private conversation. Kifkif, for whom I have great sympathy, hesitates to say: “Two employees at the University of Antwerp are caught on tape while exchanging racist prejudices against Moroccan students. The image fragments do not show bad apples, but are evidence of structural racism. ” Structural racism ?? Racist prejudice? Kifkif can explain that. It is not allowed to put labels on without arguments.

That it is nowhere explained what is wrong with UA employees’ statements, but that only overall statements are made as inadmissible, level-headed, racist, prejudiced, disrespectful … indicates that we are only dealing with a taboo here. You must no longer say anything about Moroccans, Jews and what ethnic variation still exists. This is related to a relaxed strategy for migrant youth: when confronted with their bad behavior, they immediately scream “racism”. The expectation that they will behave is already a dangerous prejudice.

The ridiculous behavior of the UA and its principal (or is it cancellations?), Which instantly censors, pleads guilty, curls up in the dust … I think is offensive. That they explain to me exactly which words or statements from the UA employees are wrong and which are not. What do you have to say and what goes wrong and why?

No unions ???

And then in relation to the procedure: Have those employees been heard? By whom and when? Where are the unions in this story? Surely they should be justified in such an affair? And how irrelevant is the content of a private conversation? Why does the principal come out to publicly apologize before the commenced investigation is completed? Why should the practical exams of those involved be improved by others? Does the private conversation indicate the intention to give Moroccan students fewer points or to pipe? Is it not because you exchange ideas in a private conversation about integration and its problems that you plan to cross the line deontologically? I hope these UA staff soon find a good lawyer to defend themselves!

UA has more to offer than silly and irresponsible policies. Hear this trumpet: “UAntwerp condemns all forms of racism. We regard the diversity of society as an enrichment and added value, so that we too can learn from each other and work together and in mutual respect to build a society based on human rights. Our university therefore wants to offer equal opportunities and development opportunities to all. Working with diversity requires a sustained effort and a constructive, positive attitude. As a university, we will focus even more than before on a respectful culture among staff and students. “

The added value of irritation

I am not against diversity, on the contrary. I do not know in which migrant neighborhood UA’s rector lives, but I myself have lived in migrant neighborhoods for more than thirty years. I have lived in Antwerp’s Seefhoek and in Stuivenbergwijk, and now live in Ledeberg in Ghent, between Turks, Ghanaians, Arabs, Chechens, Czechs, Chinese, Roma … With pleasure, because I enjoy the wealth of backgrounds and cultures, and I worked for years as a home teacher in immigrant families. But that diversity is not an idyll. She has her beautiful and fascinating sides, but also her problems and her annoyance. You have to take that myth of enrichment with more than a pinch of salt.

I think there is more annoyance and excitement than enrichment: nice that an African resident in an apartment building can play the drums well, but at 12 it is no enrichment. It is nice that the Ghanaian residents of another apartment building are having a fish meal in their own style, but the fellow residents are disgusted by the stench. It’s nice that the Turkish youth can have fun on the street and in the park, but the ruined flowers and trees do not excite me. OK that the Roma are begging for some money for a loaf of bread, but if you are scolded for giving “only” two euros and they want a lot more, it’s no added value. It’s nice that Moroccan girls are eloquent, but if you are approached as a woman because you have a short skirt on and are told: “is your mother a whore?”, Then it is not clear what we can learn from each other. Nice that you could communicate with people from other cultures, but if they do not bother at all to learn Dutch and find themselves at ease in their own environment, then where is the added value?

UA’s blabla is far from reality. A university is not a community-building institution, and you should not even assume that it understands any of it. Of course, migrant children must be given study opportunities and even extra support to bridge the cultural divide. And of course, a constructive, positive attitude is a matter of course. But against what? Not against bad behavior, arrogance, aggression and narrow-mindedness. And this positive pedagogical attitude does not prevent you, at least in private conversations, from expressing your opinion about the problems of living with and taking education of migrants and preferably further. No one benefits from censorship, and a principal is not a censor.

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