So, in the aftermath of Nashville, what now?

After all the commotion around Marc de Vries’ name on the Nashville Statement, the question arises how now with diversity at TU Delft? TrueU has some suggestions.

Julien van Campen: “I don’t see that many role models.”


No, it was not his intention that his name or signature would appear on the Nashville Statement. And no, he never wanted to hurt anyone with his statements. In a recent interview with Delta, Professor Marc de Vries offered his sincere apologies to the people who he hurt by his actions.

His apologies, says Julien van Campen on behalf of TrueU, the LGBT network at TU Delft, are ‘more than accepted’.According to Van Campen, the affair has shown that TU Delft is unable to act in a ‘Delft’ manner. He says that “it can’t act decisively and critically at the same time. This caused De Vries to experience even more of a backlash. If the Executive Board had taken a position immediately, the focus would have shifted away from De Vries.”

Non-effective communication
Van Campen believes that the Board should have said ‘We are talking with De Vries and are distancing ourselves from the Nashville Statement’. “If they had done that, the situation would have been put to bed. Now it’s dragging on for weeks. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. It looks like TU Delft is unable to communicate effectively about this.”

The Board issued a statement on the intranet one day after the first news about De Vries in which it stated that TU Delft ‘stands for diversity’ and that everyone should treat each other ‘with respect’. “Raising the rainbow flag during the Dies Natalis was a nice gesture, but the Dies Natalis lecture then made no mention of it at all,” says Van Campen. “It is a two-faced action.”

TrueU believes that TU Delft should proactively involve itself in the debate and play a leadership role. “Technology can be such a threat to minority groups, says Van Campen. “Just one example is that there are algorithms that see your internet behaviour and if you belong to a minority group. It’s only a couple of steps from there to come up with something that limits someone’s freedom. As soon as ethics touch TU Delft in any way, we must think about it critically. Especially now that ethics is included in several bachelors. It is a perfect entry point to talk about diversity.

TrueU has more suggestions to shape the diversity policy.

  • Include diversity in the Basic Teaching Qualification (a teaching qualification for teachers in the sciences, ed.). “In group work, for example, teachers have to see how they can enable minority groups to work together well. We wonder if our colleagues have the accumulated experience to do this well.”
  • Do something on diversity on campus every month. It could be a pub quiz, a banner, posters that stimulate thinking, a story competition etc.
  • Make sure there are visible role models. “I am open about being homosexual and recently got a message from a student who was pleased that there is a role model,” says Van Campen. “I don’t see that many role models.”
  • Make deans co-responsible for the diversity policy, for example by having them report every year to the Diversity Office.
  • Make greater use of communication channels. For example, let the Executive Board issue emails.

What TrueU itself is currently doing.

  • Meeting with the LGBT+ associations of the Free University of Amsterdam, Leiden University and Erasmus University Rotterdam about handling these type of situations. “There could also be lectures at the Studium Generale or workshops,” says Van Campen.
  • Talking with the Workplace Pride employers’ organisation on how to give shape to the discussion about diversity. “Only a few universities and universities of applied sciences are members,” says Van Campen. “Maybe now is the time to involve others.”
  • Give solicited and unsolicited advice to the Board.

Higher up the agenda
Board member Rob Mudde announced that the subject of diversity has ‘moved even higher up the agenda’ because of all the commotion around the Nashville Statement. “It is important that everyone knows that he/she is welcome at TU Delft. Opinions and convictions may clash, but the priority is that we treat each other with respect, despite these differences.”

Mudde says that the time has come that the themes in the Vision on Integrity “become the norm. TrueU makes some very interesting suggestions, such as including diversity in the Basic Teaching Qualification.” On 2 April, there will be an open meeting which anyone can join to discuss the Vision on Integrity.

News editor Connie van Uffelen

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