Student Perspectives: Sabina Abdullajeva (GU)

What does inclusion mean to you?

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

At the University of Gothenburg there is a mandatory follow-up process when someone has been treated in a discriminatory way. The information about this is really great because it also has a checklist for the situation, showing how to manage it step by step. This is the kind of thing you get in work environments when working for other organisations, but I haven’t seen them before in a study context. I would love for students to learn more about this process.

Are there aspects of life at university that you think are not inclusive?

You can read about the student unions and the welcome activities when you start your studies at the university. But not all actually have a welcoming time at the beginning. All programmes differ of course, but from my own experience it was a very white-dominated space that was not very welcoming. I had a really bad experience and so have a lot of people I know.

When I was a new student here I was also new to the city. In the beginning, I went to all the planned activities, but it wasn’t very inclusive. I saw some students who were saying hello to everyone, but they just walked right past me – there were many small things like that occurring in those activities. So my first semester wasn’t that great. It was very hard to navigate the city, and that’s something I would want to improve.

I think it would be good to have an inclusive ‘new student’ guide listing things you can do and maybe good places to eat. It could also contain tips from students with different backgrounds and experiences. I think a guide by the students, for the students, would be fun, interactive, and another alternative to the activities that are already available.

What new or improved practices would you like to see?

I think it’s very important to implement a kind of perspective training for teachers. Even if you teach a subject about racism, you might still treat somebody in a racist way. The teachers should learn about internalised racism, and how it can look in terms of people’s real experiences on a daily basis, and they should learn about this continuously in their role as teachers. You have this in some workplaces, where employees learn how to be good team-leaders. It would be good to have the same thing for teachers: how to be a good leader, leading the class towards something.

There should be a team of people (rather than just one) who can deal with questions about equality and inclusion, so this group can be used in the process more regularly and more frequently. That is something that can be used in the same way as the ‘arbetsmiljökommitten’ (work environment committee) – it would be the ‘jämställdhetskomitten’ (equality committee).

When surveys are carried out on inclusion issues, it’s really important to follow up on them and try to actually solve a problem. Don’t just do surveys because they are in the protocol: if there is no follow-up, you end up working with something that doesn’t have a purpose. It’s also important to follow up on cases where people have been discriminated against and treated unfairly: you need to concretise the follow-up process.

I am studying work science, and we study a lot of anti-racism and things like that. But in every course that includes issues of equality, inclusion and so on, the literature is not diverse. It’s always white people who have written all the books, or who are talking at inclusion events – they’re always white people, never non-white people.

I remember when the pandemic was new, and I was studying the topic of ‘Work Environment’, and all our teachers were telling us, ‘If you want a good work environment you need to buy this, and this…’ I and some other students were living in a really small student apartment, and we didn’t have money to just travel around and buy things – some people do, but not everyone. I identify as working-class, and if you don’t have the right background you’re not included as much as if you do have the money to buy things. When we had this course named ‘Work Environment’, we learnt that you don’t need the money to buy a good work environment: you just need to know how to make one with the tools you have at home. But we never got that kind of information, we were just told to buy things. I think it’s really bad, actually.