[Column] Preaching to the available

It struck Birgit van Driel that there were few people at the International Women’s Day event. Inspired by the omdenken-show, she came up with an idea.

Birgit van Driel: When a technical degree programme suits you, it is not difficult. (Foto: Sam Rentmeester)

It was International Women’s Day again on 8 March. And, as befits a good organisation, there was an event. As a woman my first thought was ‘That’s important, I need to go!’. DEWIS had arranged an informative, enjoyable and lively programme that included music and the big Omdenken Theatershow (The Dutch Art of Flip-Thinking, in Dutch). 

International Women’s Day came and my Instagram filled with inspiring messages from women around the world. I gritted my teeth and worked hard to get everything done on time to go to the event. So imagine my disappointment when I entered the auditorium and saw only one or two hundred people there. TU Delft has more than 6,000 staff members and more than 27,000 students. Even with the – very generous – estimate that there were 200 people in the auditorium, that is only about half a percent of the TU Delft population. A shockingly low turnout! 

And the people that were there? The large majority were women (about two thirds) and many were from the University Corporate Office or people that hold a management position. In other words, the people who were able to clear their agendas for something they considered important. Someone in the venue aptly said that it was “preaching to the converted”. And, while the attendees and organisers were disappointed with the low turnout, this number is not entirely unexpected. We are, after all, a university where, on any random day between 14:00 and 17:00, many people give or take lectures. That is one of our core jobs, isn’t it? So it would really be more accurate to say ‘preaching to the available’. 

Choose a theme day every year and replace a lecture with a theme activity 

I told my colleagues about this at lunch and I started to pounder on a possible solution. After all, I had just seen the inspiring flip-thinking show. As the show’s website (in Dutch) describes it: ‘Flipthinking is a way of thinking and doing in which you look at the reality as it is and use the problem’s energy to create something new’. My first ideas were about cancelling lectures for important events. But that is not doable as there are so many awareness days that if you do that, there would be no more lectures anymore. What about no lectures on International Women’s Day then? That would send a signal that we think that this day is more important than other awareness days. What about holding these kinds of events in the evening? That too is not ideal and does not guarantee a good turnout. Furthermore, all these suggestions are not really flip-thinking solutions. 

My final idea is that we, TU Delft, choose one theme day every year to emphasise. Perhaps it could be put to a vote among the entire TU Delft community. The day could be International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (21 March), International Women’s Day (8 March), Purple Friday (second Friday in December), Earth Overshoot Day (on 13 May in 2023), World Mental Health Day (10 October) … it does not matter! And on this day the two lecture hours after lunch are replaced by an activity related to the theme day. This could be a discussion or an inspiring (guest) lecture or, if appropriate, it could be linked to the subject of the class. A central team could arrange the activity and the teacher/professor who would normally give the lecture could lead the activity. This solution uses reality as is (students and teachers in a lecture hall) to raise broader awareness for important topics.

Columnist Birgit van Driel

Do you have a question or comment about this article?


Comments are closed.