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How we deal with diversity

Diversity Policy

The Diversity Policy of Bielefeld University aims to establish the institution's positive attitude towards diversity and to create a basis for dealing with diversity within the organization. The university has thus established a framework and procedures for (self-)critically reviewing and, if necessary, modifying organizational structures and processes in line with this stance. The aim is to optimally prepare our university for the opportunities of diversity.

The Diversity Policy consists of two parts that build on each other: the long-term Mission Statement and the Diversity Plan.

Part I: Diversity Mission Statement

After a one-year, university-wide coordination process with the participation of numerous university members from research, teaching, studies, administration and technology, the Rectorate of Bielefeld University adopted the Mission Statement on 7 May 2019.

The Mission Statement provides the framework for dealing with diversity: It serves the strategic understanding on a common stance, on related common goals and on the common claim for action. It specifies the prerequisites for achieving the goals, fields of action, and defines persons concerned. The Mission Statement is based on the strategy paper "Diversity in Society and Dealing with Diversity at Bielefeld University" (2017/2018) which it replaced by resolution of the Rectorate.

Part II: Diversity Plan

The Diversity Plan of Bielefeld University will be developed and coordinated in a university-wide process from spring 2019.
The Diversity Plan will ensure the planning and implementation of the measures set out in the Mission Statement. Bielefeld University has developed a number of principles, goals and strategies on diversity. For sustainable implementation and critical evaluation, the Diversity Plan defines control mechanisms and suitable instruments for monitoring and quality assurance.  It contains a status report on what has been achieved and specifies outstanding needs for action. In selected areas, the Diversity Plan specifies measures that have previously been developed and coordinated. Existing projects and measures that promote diversity at Bielefeld University are integrated into the overall planning and receive particular support.  Similar to the University's Equal Opportunities Plan, the Diversity Plan has the potential to describe the University's needs and intentions regarding action in a regular cycle. It can be adapted according to current requirements.

However, diversity also harbors risks and generates conflicts. Different worldviews and demands can be incompatible. In a pluralistic culture, critical voices are welcome within the framework of democratic laws; for the university, they are a necessary prerequisite for scientific progress. At the same time, this openness is constantly exposed to new threats. The free exchange of opinions must be secured again and again. The protection and defense of diversity of opinion and academic freedom are therefore at the heart of our values and rules.

The central concern of Bielefeld University is to support people in developing their potential in study, research, teaching and in the university workplace. To this end, the university must continue to work harder than ever to improve the environment so that it meets the different needs of diverse current and potential university members and university staff, opens up opportunities, enables equal rights and freedoms, compensates for disadvantages, and breaks down barriers.

Socially induced barriers may be long-established patterns of interaction habits that exclude or fail to adequately address certain audiences. For example, barriers mean difficulties in entering the university, limitations in staff and student development, or infrastructural barriers. Barriers also represent forms of discrimination, such as those that are racist or sexist. Different barriers can intersect to create multiple impediments. University structures and university behavior patterns themselves can act as barriers and discriminate. The university bears responsibility for this. To break down all these barriers, conventional paths and patterns must be broken or expanded.

As part of its profile, Bielefeld University understands diversity - as well as internationalization and equality, health and family - as a university-wide cross-cutting task. This cross-sectional task can be concretized on the basis of the institutional, individual, social and legal dimensions of university action.

Our goals

The guiding principle of the diversity policy is to recognize and encourage talent, support its development and enable participation. In order to systematically identify and support disadvantaged groups, it is particularly important to break down stereotypical attributions of ability and other barriers and to open up diverse access to the university. In doing so, the university takes all university fields of activity and status groups into consideration and provides a binding framework where necessary.

The university wants to address and discuss the importance of diversity and how to deal with diversity throughout the organization, especially in research and teaching. It wants to think diversity in multifaceted approaches. In the positive basic assumption of Bielefeld University that one of many effects of diversity is the promotion of scientific excellence, the institution does not close its mind to the critical question of whether diversity contradicts scientific excellence under certain circumstances. Rather, the conditions under which diversity promotes excellence must be discussed. In approaching the topic of "diversity" from multiple approaches, it is therefore also important to review the understanding of "excellence," for example, by broadening conventional perspectives. Critical reflection on diversity, however, also concerns the need to clearly mark the boundaries of unreflective tolerance in order to support and protect a society and culture of openness.

Bielefeld University stands firmly for a positive approach to diversity. It wants to make this attitude clear both internally and externally. At various levels, it wants to work towards ensuring that diversity can be understood as a strength, diversity as a potential, and difference as a benefit for the entire institution. This also includes pointing out disadvantages that arise when diversity is not recognized and dealt with constructively.

With the campaign 'Uni ohne Vorurteile' (University without Prejudice), the university consciously positions itself as an open, pluralistic institution and unambiguously against social tendencies in and outside the university that reject pluralism and diversity. In terms of party politics, it maintains neutrality. However, the university clearly rejects discourses and behavior that question or undermine the freedom of science and opinion, human dignity and equality of people with different backgrounds. Unconstitutional and anti-human positions will not be tolerated. In contrast, a constructive culture of debate with differing opinions is highly welcome and encouraged.

Bielefeld University is a signatory of the Magna Charta Universitatum and is involved in the "scholars at risk" network for scientists at risk.

The contents of the diversity policy, in particular short- and medium-term measures in the diversity plan, as well as the progress of the implementation of the entire diversity policy are subject to regular monitoring and quality assurance. In this process, all university fields of action and the various status groups are given appropriate consideration. For this purpose, the diversity plan specifies suitable control instruments. For the implementation, evaluation and, if necessary, (partial) reformulation of the diversity policy and the implementation of diversity as a cross-sectional task, the rectorate provides adequate financial and human resources.

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