‘Awakening’ at the university: what do the students at Tilburg University notice?

The use of gender-neutral pronouns, the demand for fewer white men in the curriculum and more room for non-Western perspectives: The waking culture has permeated universities and colleges. Univers is excited about whether this also applies to Tilburg University and asked four students: What do you notice about wakefulness at the university?

The word ‘awakened’ resonates throughout society. But what is it really? Anyone who is awake or awake is aware of social inequality. The eyes are no longer closed to discrimination, injustice and deprivation. However, the term is also used in a negative sense by groups that use it to indicate a culture of outrageous political correctness.

Woke is increasingly the subject of discussions at and about universities. One believes that recent sensitivity to injustice limits academic freedom, the other associates it with the younger generation’s self-conscious thinking. We asked four students from different faculties about their experiences with alertness. Speakers: Ian Hale, Birta Kohra Singh, Pam Wijnans and Marijn van den Burg.

Ian Hale, Bachelor of Theology and Vice President of the Ad Interim Study Association (TST)

Photo: Ton Toemen

“First, I want to give you a picture of our faculty because it is different from the other faculties. One part is in Utrecht and the other part in Tilburg, it is possible to follow courses in both cities. We have a student base of about seventy students. About two-thirds of these students are part-time employees who usually work alongside their education. The second part consists of full-time students, from young people to their late twenties.

“I do not believe that vigilance is a big thing among part-time employees. Full-time employees know the concept, but it is not. hot topic† Our program gives no reason why we have a fairly classic subject package. We have, among other things, ancient language, liturgy, dogma and church history. I do not remember teachers ever taking up the subject. But on the other hand, it is also not chosen to offer courses such as feminist theology or gender theology. For my part, there is a lack of nuanced attention to the theme and the issues it raises.

“But four years ago, the Zwarte Piet discussion took place. When we wanted to celebrate Sinterklaas with the student association, the students said they would rather not have Black Pete with them. Then it became a soot napkin. As far as I know, this was the highlight of vigilance within our faculty.Everyone feels welcome within the education and there is a warm atmosphere.

“Within the student body, there are a number that line up with the LGBTIQ + brand. Not everyone comments on this, because it is contagious with a classic Catholic identity. “

Ian Hale

“In addition to the lectures, there are occasional discussions that touch on waking themes. You have two tendencies in the Roman Catholic world. First, no clergy are employed, they are often clergy working in the name of the church. In addition, women generally have remarkably fewer professional positions in the church. This means that women who decide to follow the master’s ministry in pastoral care, that is, spiritual care within the church, face an uncertain professional perspective. This feeling sometimes also plays a role among students. The majority of our students are women, they want the Dutch Catholic Church to change that.

“Within the student body, there are a number that line up with the LGBTIQ + brand. Not everyone speaks out on this, because it is contagious with a classic Catholic identity. As a result, it is uncertain how teachers will react to it. An impressive lecture was recently arranged by the student association, which invited Frans Bossink and Paul Brenninkmeijer to talk about this excitement. Personally, I hardly experience this tension in the lecture halls, but the attendance and atmosphere in the lecture showed that the subject is still a sensitive issue. I wonder if an openly homosexual Catholic theologian would be ‘Catholic enough’ to be appointed to our faculty. “

Birta Kohra Singh, bachelor’s student in sociology and secretary of the study association Versot (TSB)

Photo: Ton Toemen

“At Tilburg University, I notice that it is accepted just to be oneself. There are different people, with different backgrounds and from different countries. I experience no restrictions, it is very open. People indicate it if they want to be prosecuted with other pronouns. I honestly think that is difficult, but if anyone points it out, I try to take it into account. It is easier for some than others, but the process is going in the right direction.

“Especially in informal settings, like in student associations and groups of friends, I notice how people think about certain things.”

Birta Kohra Singh

“I do not think my lectures are particularly vigilant. It’s true that I study sociology, and yet our study is already quite ‘awake’. We take courses that are related to topics within the waking culture, eg a course on social problems and sociological themes, where topics such as gender, inequality and migration are addressed.

“Compared to tutorials, where students can have a discussion, the lectures are generally quite formal and tightly organized. Especially in informal settings, such as in study associations and groups of friends, I notice how people think about certain things. At the study association Versot, we also have activities that deal with conscious themes, for example, we recently had an interdisciplinary evening on climate change.

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The rainbow stairs to the library. Photo: Jack Tummers

“In addition, there is more attention to international students, also at the request of the faculty management. It made us organize more English-language events to welcome international students more. Since the assaults around The voice of the Netherlands the management team wants to create more awareness in the area of ​​sexually transgressive behavior. We work in an organization where power structures also apply.

“Since then, we have tried to be more open as a study association, and therefore we now have a confidentiality advisor who works within a number of different study associations. This confidential counselor must not be a teacher and must be separate from the association. This fits in with the Code of Conduct used by Tilburg University, which we must comply with. “

Pam Wijnans, Master’s Student in Clinical Psychology (TSB) and President of the Vegan Student Association Tilburg

Photo: Ton Toemen

“In general, I do not think that the vigilance at Tilburg University is good. A higher degree is, in my opinion, desirable. There is still a need for much more awareness of institutional racism and other forms of social injustice. The university is increasingly including the words ‘inclusivity’ in official documents. However, this seems to stem mainly from various social movements that have taken place in recent years. The underlying motivation therefore does not seem so much to be due to the conscious identification and tackling of the actual problems at the university.

“While Europe was turned upside down by the outbreak of war in Ukraine, we were taught how to use a napkin at a fancy event.”

Pam Wijnans

“A few concrete examples. First of all, there are mainly white teachers and white students. In addition, international students are not received with open arms everywhere. When looking for a room, they often do not have a chance in advance. Within a study or study association, communication is often Dutch in the first place. It creates a barrier to participation. Non-white students or students with a non-Dutch ethnicity do not see themselves as adequately represented in education and employee participation. Year after year, almost all white, native students are on the candidate lists.

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Gender-neutral toilets in the Cube. Photo: Jack Tummers

“As chairman of the Vegan Student Association Tilburg, I was invited to a etiquette dinner this year with the board. This is a dinner where the management teaches etiquette in a semi-playful way. However, it is mainly a meeting that is about networking and being interesting. My two international board members doubted whether they would join because the official language would be Dutch and they would feel a burden to their table mates. When I attended the dinner with two other native board members, we noticed that there were almost no colored people present and that there was a white ‘high class’ vibe. While Europe was turned upside down by the outbreak of war in Ukraine, we were taught how to use a napkin at a fancy event.

“I have had such a bad feeling about it that I try to persuade the boards of my network of student associations to be more spacious and diverse. I have hoped that this could change, but a few people will have to come forward to bring this up. ”

Marijn van den Burg, bachelor student in public administration (TiSEM)

Photo: Ton Toemen

“Awakening is increasingly becoming a household name in today’s student culture. As a student, you can hardly avoid being woken up and interfered in the societal debate. In it, we form an opinion about abuse, mistakes and other problems that have been going on for a long time. Being awake is actually nothing new in college. Being a ‘vigilant’ student who is critical of what is happening in the world around him or her seems timeless to me. After all, that is what we are trained for: critical and analytical thinking.

“I notice alertness especially in the symbolism of the university, for example through a rainbow flag and stairs. There is more emphasis on drawing attention to these topics. The university wants to spread the word.

“Before you laughed faster at a bold comment, now people are more aware that they can hit someone with what they say.”

Marijn van den Burg

“There is no emphasis on alertness in lectures. Public administration is very much focused on politics and rights, themes such as inequality in the labor market and acceptance of minorities in society have already been discussed. For example, I am in the process of writing a thesis on sweat in state communication at asylum seeker centers. I also take the course Administration Philosophy, which is philosophy on politics. For this, I am writing an essay on the distribution of men and women in the workplace, and it is about income differences.

“I especially notice alertness among students. Before you would laugh at a bold comment faster, now people are more aware that they can hit someone with what they say. People talk to each other faster, and that’s not surprising. There is a culture among the students that should be able to joke, but there is a fine line between a joke and hurting. So this new awareness is important. “

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