Independent journalism about VU Amsterdam | Since 1953
14 July 2024

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USR / USC Universitaire Studentenraad / University Student Council

The importance of understanding each other

University education has the potential to become a community that is a melting pot for diverse perspectives and ideas. Nonetheless, the increase in political tension globally has caused rifts to form inside communities. This division has led students to the belief that they have to be moral judges of fellow students, teachers and administrators. This results in an environment within universities where the imposition of personal beliefs is more prevalent than discourse is, without the goal of trying to understand each other’s perspectives.

Through personal experience I have seen the importance of understanding different viewpoints, as well as how hard it can be to do so in practice. I originally grew up in a Catholic Dutch primary school and had limited exposure to different cultures. This changed when I was transferred to an international high school. This change in environment led to me to feel out of place, especially when dealing with peers. This disconnect was due to cultural barriers, often resulting in clashes. This changed once I learnt that instead of being more self-centered in my own cultural and moral beliefs I should instead try to understand others perspectives and values. I grew to understand that they also have the right to be steadfast in their beliefs, just as I am. This mentality will always be difficult to maintain because there will always be someone with contradicting views to your own.

Various controversies that have been occurring recently on campus have reinforced to me that the way universities deal with cultural or moral differences should change. That is why it is important to create a platform for honest and respectful debate. This debate shouldn’t be based just on feelings but also on the rich expertise the university offers us. This expertise should be unbiased as both sides of the story should be expressed in order for us to enter into genuine dialog. By doing this, we are able to properly understand each other. This in turn, leads to an opportunity to learn. The more we are open to learning from each other the more we can grow as a community. We may never all agree with each other. In fact, we may continue to fiercely disagree. But at least we will have heard each other and, by doing so, help the university accomplish its mission of a broader mind.

The more we are open to learning from each other, the more we can grow as a community


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