If you’ve followed us for a bit, you will know that we do all types of activities - events, workshops, newsletters, the blog you’re currently reading, informational posts, advocacy campaigns, research, and much more. We’re like those 100in1 kitchen appliances that seem to do it all. Most importantly - we provide a platform for underrepresented students to shine a light on matters that concern them. But you know what we haven’t done? Brag about it. But seriously, we want to let you in on the journey we’ve been on so far. If you’re new here, this should help you trace back our steps, and if you’ve supported us along the journey, read along to reminisce on what we’ve achieved. By we, I also include you, dear reader, simply by engaging with our content you are already part of us. And if you’ve taken part in what we do or collaborated with us, thank you. This brag is for you, too. So, let’s start, shall we?
April 2019: The Birth of SCDAI
It all started when we, the founders of SCDAI, found ourselves in an intercultural communication class as part of our BA program in International Communication. During this class, we were meant to deliberate notions of stereotypes, exclusion, xenophobia, and racism, in a way to prepare us to be more sensitive communicators with our classmates and future colleagues. However, the situation that occurred was only an extension of the widely-accepted exclusionary culture that many higher education institutions allow roaming free as “harmless debate” in their halls and classrooms. And this is not to blame our teacher who was present that day in the class, she handled the situation gracefully.
A student expressed his opinion stating that Western cultures were superior due to their economic status; white people were to be highly revered for ending slavery, and Middle Eastern cultures were savage and “objectively” inferior to the rest.
The five of us had had enough. We wanted to see changes - significant changes. So we started SCDAI - the Student Center for Diversity, Awareness & Inclusion.
Shortly after we came together in hopes of creating the meaningful change we eagerly began strategizing. The start of this marked what was a very long process of proving that there is a fundamental need for systemic reform to all internationalization/diversity-related policies and practices in our institution, the Hanze UAS (disclaimer- we are still en route to ensure that these changes do not remain stagnant.)
We conducted voluntary research on all diversity and internationalization policies, as well as held meetings with anyone who would listen to us to help us grasp the full picture. Bit by bit, we found that we are dealing with an organization that is not all too willing to make changes - it costs money, and resources, and quite frankly disrupts a status quo that benefits a large portion of that environment and Dutch society as a whole.
Fortunately for us, we were invited by a group of teachers who wanted to see this change through. They wanted to hear what underrepresented students were facing, and more importantly - what were the changes that we were demanding. And while they held little decision-making power, it already meant plenty that we were able to start a conversation.
We proceeded to try and make our plans last. We tried to recruit new members, as we were all going off on our exchanges and internships for an entire year. We worked tirelessly to collect all of our ideas and knowledge and pass it along to a group that could continue the work.
September 2019-June 2020
As we all followed the same Bachelor's program, in September we were all set to go abroad for our exchanges and internships for a whole school year. Unfortunately for us, the SCDAI project was too little developed at that point, so all the work we had put in was not enough to be passed along to a new team. So SCDAI went silent for almost an entire school year (and returned with a bang…).
June 2020: The turning point. BLM Protests
I believe we all remember the gut-wrenching morning of May 25th, 2020 when we witnessed the brutal death of George Floyd, an innocent Black man. A death incited by White Supremacist culture which perpetuates the disenfranchisement of Black people across the globe, especially in Western societies. It causes marginalization, social disparities, countless deaths, and a lifelong struggle for equality in a society that does not want to recognize its systemic issues - the building blocks at the root of these issues.
Our higher education institutions are also at fault for perpetuating such social disparities and are equally responsible for dismantling white supremacist and patriarchal cultures. Yet, their systems still uphold these cultures. This is exactly what we saw happen when our own university, the Hanze UAS, which had been neglecting the needs of its Black students, posted to their social media in support of the widespread BLM protests. It felt empty and shallow. We were angry. How dare they present to be anti-racist, when they allow their Black students not to receive a just education either? So we started a petition to ask for concrete policy and practice changes in our institution. No more performances. A Black square (the then Instagram trend which meant to show support for Black people across the world) in the midst of your posting schedules won’t cut it anymore. We demanded change.
So we launched a petition that demanded concrete change towards eradicating structural discrimination within our institution. Before we even hit 100 signatures, the comment section generated immense backlash and was flooded with (Dutch) white professors or employees at the institution arguing in its favor, completely dismissing every single BIPOC’s experience in the comment section. The Hanze PR team quickly caught on, and in an effort to not allow its organization’s name to be dragged for allowing institutionalized racism to remain unchecked, invited us for a conversation with the executive board.
This was a crucial moment for SCDAI, as we realized that while our original goal was to raise awareness of the prevailing issues that underrepresented students face, we realized that instead, we must focus on actively advocating by disrupting the natural flow of white supremacist culture.
We held a presentation for the executive board which was one of its first on the topic that went beyond internationalization and into the depths of diversity that spanned further than the student’s national belonging. We were met with some level of openness, and mostly with plenty of questions. Won’t work towards equity make the other students feel excluded? Isn't Hanze's statement for tolerance enough? Why does Hanze have to invest resources into a problem that doesn’t seem to be more than a social media trend? Why have people not come to them before if this were a real issue? Certainly all relevant questions for people who never have experienced systemic discrimination first-hand. And this is not to point a finger at a specific person, at all. It is simply the reality that years of colonization, imperialism, and historic disconnect from a very dark history that the Netherlands has been a key player in.
After this, we heard little back about what the institution's intentions were. Indirectly, we were able to gather that in fact, some structures were beginning to shift by, for example, opening research tables that investigate systemic racism. Or by creating research, policy, and practice teams to support the institution's intention toward Diversity and Inclusion. As with any large institution, such changes could take many bureaucratic years to complete.
September 2020 - January 2021: SCDAI 2.0
Everything I’ve mentioned so far led us to the creation of SCDAI 2.0 - the Student Center for Diversity, Advocacy & Inclusion. We replaced Awareness with Advocacy in our name, as we understood that we would have to remain a strong voice that shines a light on pressing issues that students face, only made possible through committed advocacy and activism.
February-June 2021: Putting Ourselves Out There
In early 2021, as we, the founders, at the time were in our final year of our BAs, launched our website, and started sharing our ideas via social media to the world (or at least to anyone in and around Groningen who was willing to listen) and began actively working on our campaigns.
- December 2020 SCDAI 2.0 launches online
- December 2020 - launched our SCDAI Talks podcast. Back then, and up until now, the SCDAI podcast aims to tune into students’ real experiences and contextualizes those with systemic barriers that are at their root.
- Launched our “Learn About…” video series - a series where we attempt to give context to complex terms often used in the advocacy for inclusive and diverse higher education.
- Hosted our first event in collaboration with the Groningen Feminist Network on “The Meaning of Allyship” where we hosted over 40 people in an online session to learn more about anti-racist allyship.
- Launched our website.
- March-June: The Study Period Campaign - we set up a petition advocating to end period poverty in higher education in the Netherlands (which was signed over 2000 times). Following the petition we started the campaign with the objective of destigmatize periods, raise awareness and advocate for change and eventually we sent a an open letter to the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science to signify the need for change in higher education. While we, unfortunately, never received a response by the Ministry, our petition and campaign were published in a Women INC. article.
- Hosted our first lecture with the study association KIC on “Diversity & Inclusion at the workplace”.
- Got interviewed by the HanzeMag on the story behind SCDAI .
September 2021 - August 2022
In 2021-2022, we were committed to not only gaining an audience but cementing SCDAI as a strong voice advocating for underrepresented students. We were joined by three new team members who shaped the organization alongside us founders into what it is now. Simultaneously, we began transitioning from a grassroots organization founded by a few committed students, who at this point were almost graduated, to a fully recognized organization at the Dutch Chamber of Commerce.
- We started the SCDAI Blog:
The SCDAI Blog launched as a collective of diversified experiences through written form. The blog is run by our blog coordinator and copywriter, and hosts guest writers from various backgrounds who raise their voices, advocate, and spread knowledge on student life in The Netherlands.
- We started the SCDAI Community. SCDAI Community was launched side-by-side with our 2021 recruitment campaign in an effort to bring more students together in a vibrant safer space. While the community had its own events, it is still running quite slow, as we, unfortunately, did not have the capacity to fully grow it into the space it has the potential to be. Do you want to help us shape it better? Then you can apply for our new team’s Community Coordinator position! More info here.
- We were joined by three new team members - Ekin, Emilia, and Francis, who added to our team’s ideas, creativity, and impact in all our activities.
- We launched our second campaign in honor of Black History Month by bringing light to stories that center around the Netherlands and its former colonial territories.
- Together with Let’s Talk About Sex Groningen we collected students’ stories of sexual harassment and assault during their student years to shine a light on rape culture and universities’ roles in dismantling it.
- We dedicated an event with our Community to “Black Pete in the Netherlands” where we provide arguments against it that students can use to navigate this ‘tradition’.
- We hosted our first-panel event on Purple Friday which featured six Queer students' experiences with their queerness and what their experiences in higher education have been.
- We launched our Newsletter. We launched a Newsletter that is aimed at those people who like to receive all of our input in one place and learn how they can support us in our activities. Its main goal is to reach teachers who are interested in D&I work but also any student who prefers emails over social media is welcome to subscribe here.
- We collaborated with the International Communication (IC) program. Two of IC’s 4th-year students completed their Graduation Assignments with us and provided us with insightful research about underrepresented students in Groningen. Additionally, two project teams also conducted research through the IC program by providing us with creative ways to reach our audiences.
- We launched another campaign, this time focusing on Ethnocentrism, Eurocentrism, and how individual university students in a Western and Westernized Academia can combat these. We invited students to diversify the media they consume beyond Western knowledge systems and provided them with a list of selected authors, scholars, content creators and artists.
- In May 2022 Student Association of “Minorities & Multilingualism” approached us for a workshop. Alex and Ekin hosted the workshop titled Discrimination in Education & how to be an active bystander. The workshop consisted of a learning component on White Supremacy, two case studies, and a discussion. The workshop was very well received and it initiated our workshop plan for the coming year. If you want to issue a workshop by us - contact us at [email protected]!
- We co-hosted an event on “Sustainable Anti-Racism” in collaboration with Mallika Sille from the GFN. In this event we tackled how anti-racism in and beyond higher education can be shaped sustainably into the future.
- We dedicated an online session on “Get to Know Ramadan” co-hosted by Ekin and Seherezada where the hosts provided general knowledge on Islam and Ramadan and corrected some misconceptions.
- We hosted our first fundraising campaign. In April 2022, we finally hosted our first biggest in-person event after two long years of online events and COVID restrictions. For this event, we organized a pub quiz as an exciting opportunity to meet our community and have a fun, educational quiz, while collecting important donations that would help us to become an officially registered organization in the Netherlands. The event was a big success: the venue was completely filled up and our guests showed up in high spirits! We will definitely keep this evening in good memory.
September 2022 Onwards
As a result of the funds we were able to raise during our fundraiser, we are currently working towards getting registered at the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (KvK). We are also recruiting for our new team in many different roles. If you or a student you know wants to apply for a role in our team, check out our recruitment page and apply!
We will also be hosting a series of workshops during ESN Introduction Week: Culture Days. If you’re new in town or exchanging or starting your studies, join us!
That’s it for now, stay tuned by following us on social media, signing up for our newsletter, or joining our community!