Student Perspectives: Anonymous (2/2)

What does inclusion mean to you?

Inclusion, to me, means constantly reviewing and questioning your views and how many perspectives you take in. Also try to get as many perspectives possible. No matter how long you try to think of every perspective, you can’t get them all by yourself. Inclusion is a conscious act: not just saying ‘accept everyone, everyone should have rights’ (which are just nice words), but actually taking steps to implement these ideas. And not only based on what people ‘need’, but on what would make their lives better.

Here is a poem that represents how I see inclusion:


A concept more easily described by what it isn’t

Not leaving anyone out
Not leaving anyone forgotten

Rather than what it is

Inclusion is a conscious act, not a passive state
It’s an invitation to a room, that’s more than a
“You can join our room, if you want”

Inclusion creates
a path to the room, that anyone can follow
Inclusion ensures
Everyone fits without having to be reduced
Inclusion recognises
the different needs of different people
Inclusion considers everyone,
even when they’re not there knocking on the door, asking to be let in

When so many people are locked out,
by inequalities and inaccessibility,
the key to inclusion is:

Reflection, to recognise who’s inside and who’s not
Courage, to truly see, be honest, and ask why
Care, to want change

Are there any inclusive practices at your university that you would like to highlight?

One good practice, which is described in the equality plan, is that staff at the University of Gothenburg are offered education in equality and equal treatment. I think this is important, in order to implement changes that improve inclusion. For example, in 2017, one unit of the university became the first in Sweden to receive an LGBTQ+ ‘certification’ after completing a 20-hour training programme on the topic. I tried to find out how regularly similar education has been offered for staff since then, but could not find an answer. I think that regularity is important since these topics, as well as the staff members, change over time. It could also be offered to other people working with students, such as student ambassadors and mentors.

I would also highlight Gothenburg’s student mentorship programme: one student acts as a mentor for another student with a documented disability. It’s a good practice because it rewards both the student being mentored and the student mentor. Because the mentor is a student and they know the study climate, they can relate on another level than a member of staff could: they can take the social and academic parts of university into consideration.

The programme only deals with the academic side of university life, and it would be improved if mentors had more education about disabilities, and could deal with difficult situations in a more knowledgeable and understanding way, so the experience isn’t damaging for the student being mentored. When I’ve been in meetings with other mentors, there have been cases where students connect with their mentors on a more emotional level, and reach out for guidance on their diagnosis or their emotional life rather than their academics – it’s very easy to get drawn into that emotional connection. So it would be good if the mentors had more education on these issues so they don’t have a negative impact.

Another good practice I have seen, though unfortunately not very often, is a clearly structured outline for courses on the university learning platform. This makes it easier for students to organise their studies.

What new or improved practices would you like to see?

The main thing I’d like to highlight is the inclusion at facilities. Most university buildings in the city have bathroom areas with separate, single rooms (rather than booths) that can be locked, and they are not divided into men and women. I believe this is great from a gender identity perspective, since it includes non-binary as well as transgender people in general.

However, there’s a need to improve facilities outside the city when it comes to shower rooms – here, students usually stay over a period of time and they have to use common shower areas. The shower areas are divided only into men and women (no neutral options), and consist of booths with only a shower curtain and no door. In addition to this, the towel hangers are not accessible without having to walk some distance outside of the booth. This puts transgender people into a very exposed situation, which can be dangerous both socially and physically. I believe there should be a gender neutral option, which could be as simple as adding one separate shower area. This could be beneficial for other students as well, for example those who suffer from anxiety.

I would make sure that every study facility or research area is inclusive, by developing an assessment guide or protocol, and then use this to assess every university facility to make sure they fulfil the criteria. This could be quite difficult because inclusion is so hard to define, as we’ve discussed before, but it would be good to create some form of criteria for inclusion so that everyone can feel included in every space.