Until end-2020, the Social Safety Taskforce will be working on strengthening social safety for staff and students. The Taskforce will inspire, encourage improvements relating to social safety and keep track of ongoing improvements.
The task force will draw up an action plan for strengthening social safety at the UvA and make an inventory of ongoing measures, initiatives and proposals in four areas:
In 2019, the Task Force conducted interviews with deans, the heads of shared service units directors and of operational management, the chief diversity officer, the ombudsperson and the Central PhD Council, and others. In order to deepen the inventory, further discussions will be held with staff and students. The Task Force is also working on recommendations in the areas of culture, policy and communication. The findability and awareness of the various places where employees can go has improved and this will be made more known in a campaign that will start during the next academic year. To stimulate the discussion about social safety, a play, The Learning Curve, will be performed on all campuses in 2020. The planning has moved from April/May to October 2020 because of the coronavirus measures.
If you have any questions or suggestions for the Taskforce, please use the following contact form:
'Social safety touches an organisation's soul. It affects every employee and every student. Social safety is an integral part of power relations between all members of the UvA community – staff and students alike. It precedes everything we do in research, education and support. If something is amiss here, things fall apart. I would be very proud, as a member of the UvA community, to contribute to improved social safety for all our employees, PhD students and students.'
'Particularly in a competitive environment such as a university, it is vital that we treat each other respectfully, and that unsafe situations can be discussed in a safe manner.'
‘Social safety is something that affects everyone in the workplace. It is crucial that students and staff feel appreciated, respected and safe. These three values are the foundations of constructive and professional collaboration in which everyone knows exactly what their duties and responsibilities are. I feel it's important that we have an ongoing dialogue, in which we give each other feedback and so broach tricky or sensitive subjects as a matter of course.'
'Social safety is the most important precondition to allow both individuals and teams to perform well. At the same time, it's a topic that most people prefer to avoid. Raising the subject of social safety in a meaningful manner typically only works in environments that are quite safe to begin with. We are all aware of examples of unsafe situations, for ourselves or for others, in our own immediate surroundings, but we are insufficiently aware of the scale, nature and impact of the problem.'
It is important that we get a better view of what is going on. and investigate why people do not report incidents and under which circumstances they would be more likely to report incidents. It is also important that we present information and reporting options more prominently on the website, and see whether and how we can make the subject more open to discussion.
'Social safety is an important theme to focus on because it concerns everyone within the university. People struggle if they don't feel safe. The UvA should be more than a place where people just work or study. It should be a place where people feel safe and at home. At the moment, not enough is being done to give all people this sense of safety. There are too many incidents that are being reported, and also too many incidents that aren't being reported. So it's vital that social safety is now being discussed so seriously at UvA, and that problems are being addressed.'
'Because it concerns trust and safety, and the most important component is credible, reliable and engaged managers at all layers of the university or faculty. Being part of a group (department, academic staff, support and management staff, management team, etc.) gives people an increased sense of safety and security, and thus gives them a greater sense of protection. This will motivate people to achieve something together, and to be there for each other. People start feeling unsafe when deviations from this standard are allowed to occur, people become cautious and no longer support each other.
Social safety plays a fundamental role in realising a safe, inclusive atmosphere of trust at the UvA that allows students, PhDs and staff to function optimally in terms of education, research and the supervision of both. Recent reports about transgressive and undesirable bahaviour and subsequent student protests have shown, however, that far from everyone feels safe and that there may be structural problems regarding social safety at the UvA. That is why it is essential to promote improvements in the area of social safety and create an environment where everyone feels heard and represented and has the opportunity to jointly construct a safe university and campus.
Iris: ’I see social safety as a necessary condition to be able to develop yourself and your thoughts freely within a community. In my previous experiences with the student council of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences and as the Student Assessor on the executive Board I have seen and heard that in many areas this is not the case for people. Particularly at a university substantive and interpersonal exchange between people for the benefit of research and education should be in the forgeround.'