Independent journalism about VU Amsterdam | Since 1953
16 June 2024

& Culture

‘It seemed like this place and I were one’

Theology Dean and Chief Diversity Officer Ruard Ganzevoort has been appointed as rector of the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague. ‘It is a natural next step.’

Ganzevoort has been affiliated to VU Amsterdam for 16.5 years. As dean of the Faculty of Religion and Theology and Chief Diversity Officer he has been an iconic figurehead, but in August he is leaving for The Hague, where he has been appointed as rector of the International Institute of Social Studies (IISS), which is part of Erasmus University Rotterdam. “My deanship would be ending next year and I was already thinking about my life after that, when this great opportunity presented itself”, he says over the phone.

“It seemed like this place and I were one”, he says in reference to VU Amsterdam. “But this is a natural next step in my career, a continuation of what I was doing already. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, my work here has centred on the role of religion, meaning and worldview in solving problems in society. In much the same way, IISS links that role to social justice and sustainability.”

Fifteenth-century ancestor

What’s more, there may be a greater deal of continuity in Ganzevoort’s transfer from VU Amsterdam to Erasmus University than meets the eye. “The current rector of Erasmus University, Annelien Bredenoord, also trained as a theologist and ethicist, and if you look below the surface, you’ll see that Erasmian philosophy and Abraham Kuyper’s philosophy share the same values. There’s also a link from the past, as my fifteenth-century ancestor Wessel Ganzevoort was not only a forerunner of the Reformation, but also an early humanist, which connects him to Erasmian thinking. That’s not the same as VU Amsterdam’s Kuyperianism, but they are comparable ways of thinking because they put social responsibility centre stage.”

As the dean, Ganzevoort implemented a significant reorganisation of his faculty, charting a different course and shifting focus to the role of religion in social issues. This was not an easy process, but Ganzevoort is happy with the result. “Together we developed the right course, creating a stable organisation that is also financially stable.”

Radical analyses

He has been at least as influential as a chief diversity officer, in which capacity he, in his own words, “combines pragmatic solutions and analyses that are as radical as possible. Radical because that’s the only way to bring about such changes as the decolonisation of the curriculum, but you also have to be careful of Prinzipienreiterei and proactively enter into dialogues. Otherwise everyone just retreats behind their own barricades.”

As rector of IISS, he will be working in The Hague, which isn’t unfamiliar territory for him as he has been a senator for GroenLinks for many years, but he does say it will take some getting used to not being on the VU campus anymore. “I don’t think it has really sunk in yet.”


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