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Dean of the Humanities Faculty

Prof. F.P. Weerman
Kloveniersburgwal 48, 1012 CX, Amsterdam

3 March 2022


To Prof. Weerman and the Faculty Board,

We are writing to invite the faculty of Humanities to immediately participate in the effort to support Ukraine by curricular means.

A week ago, Russia launched an extensive military invasion of Ukraine. There are many persons from both countries involved in the occupation studying at University of Amsterdam, with a considerable number belonging to the faculty of Humanities. Also, there are mentally ill and neurodivergent students within the faculty, who had already been disturbed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, there are students who were faced with everything at once.

The University’s inability to properly assist neurologically and mentally compromised students had been verified numerously in the past, exemplified most vividly in the 2021 suicide case of a student who was turned down with indifference by the University psychologist after having expressed relevant concerns. This precedent has resulted in the formation of the Mental Health initiative at the University of Amsterdam, which was carried out on social media (@uvawellbeing) and is presently stagnant. Now, a mental health crisis is likely to materialize on a large scale among students; those from Ukraine and Russia are undoubtedly to be affected the most, but also native Dutch students and internationals who have relatives and friends on the battlefront or in shelters, will be influenced.

At the Q&A session “War at Our Door” of 2 March 2022, held by the University to inform its students about the war and show solidarity with Ukrainian people, the Media’s impact was highlighted by experts. The notion of “post-truth”, a pressing issue of the 21st century painfully familiar to students of Media and the academic community at large, is as relevant as ever to consider. To stay informed sufficiently and act thoughtfully in a political climate of ambiguity (encumbered with Russian propaganda), one must adequately investigate the news and the sources through which it is provided. This applies to students largely unfamiliar with the context of the invasion. Thus, it would be universally beneficial to allow students extra time for independent research, but also for participation in thematic talks and workshops organized by the University that must absolutely continue.

What we are attempting to request, however, is not absolute suspension of educational services – as that would critically undermine the academic institution’s high standards – but rather universal, unconditional access to resits for the upcoming deadlines granted to all students. Notably, we believe this modification within the faculty to be the bare minimum of assistance it can provide. Not only will

the systemic adjustment alleviate the burden of communication overload for teachers and students who currently must negotiate their situations on individual basis, it will also secure resources for staff to continue the information campaign, further including students from a variety of disciplines as collaborators, but also for getting involved in direct political action and volunteer outside of the University. Ideally, the faculty would also suspend education indefinitely – that is, until the situation is somewhat under control – for Ukrainian and Russian students without request and consequences; however, we understand this to be an extreme institutional change that is difficult to execute.

“As an academic community we have a special responsibility for all the students and staff affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, regardless of their background. It is good to see that the UvA community is united in this.” – University of Amsterdam, 2 March 2022

We believe true unity to be embodied in solidarity with the vulnerable, realized through decisive action on behalf of the authorities. Unity should not be an explicit trademark for the University to maintain its advantageous position, but rather a signifier for proactive virtue.

As we have emphasized, the adjustment must be paired with advance in initiatives for Ukraine within the faculty and the University, to ensure the students’ active involvement.

Kind regards,
On behalf of students of Media & Culture
Aleksandra Kaplina
Aleksandra Wesołowska
And Humanities students facing perpetual struggle in turbulent times

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