Campus 09 February 2022

‘It’s heartbreaking how the university handles the challenges of international staff from a minority background’

Pandamn it

How are you doing, after almost two years of pandemic? There is even a chance that students will be confined to their rooms for the third spring in a row this year. In this ten-part series seven Dutch and three international staff members and students tell us how they are faring. Part four: Younes Saramifar, Assistant Professor Social and Cultural Anthropology.

“On the one hand I’m okay: I don’t have children to care for like other colleagues, which makes dealing with Covid easier. On the other hand: my family is back in Iran, where I come from. I worry about them. They don’t have the same privileges as we have in the Netherlands, with multiple vaccinations and good healthcare. Health-wise, my family is suffering. Not being able to help them has led to mental health issues.

Many international colleagues who come from the Global South face the same problem. It’s very difficult to deal with such a family situation, and it’s heartbreaking how the university handles the challenges of international staff from a minority background. Basically, it cares very little for its employees, especially for those from ethnic minorities. I talk to a lot of international PhD candidates. Many of them feel neglected. Even sometimes their direct managers and supervisors don’t ask them how they are doing in these difficult times. Just checking in once in a while would make a major difference.

Bit anxious

I’m a bit anxious about the university opening up again. Of course, it’s great for the students but the past two years have shown us that the universities might need to close their doors again. That would be tough for teachers, because we all put in a lot of hard work making courses suitable for on-campus teaching. Switching everything back to online education costs us a lot of energy and time, for which we aren’t compensated in any way.

Despite the challenges, I’m looking forward to teaching on campus again. Many nuances get lost online. That’s why it’s much more fun to teach in person. People can feel what you’re saying, you get more feedback, and it’s way more interactive. Nothing can replace that.”

The first three parts of this series are in Dutch. They are Pandemoe (1): VU Amsterdam host Corrie Koning, Pandemoe (2): Student Nathanael Korfker and Pandemoe (3) sports instructor Mickey Richards.

Bryce Benda
IMAGE: Yvonne Compier


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