Shaping diversity is a long-term goal at Kiel University. The CAU created a position for a diversity officer at the end of 2017 to achieve this goal. Among other things, this central, independent contact person on the campus offers anti-discrimination advice for students and doctoral students in order to promote equal opportunities, educational equality and inclusion. Another one of this officer’s tasks is to remove existing discrimination and barriers in studies, teaching, research, further education and administration. Eddi Steinfeldt-Mehrtens, a sociologist focusing on diversity studies, succeeded Sandra Elstner and has occupied the position since December 2018. The faculties can also appoint their own diversity officers. The Faculty of Arts and Humanities appointed Professor Manfred Wegner from the Institute of Sport Sciences to this position in October 2018. The sports psychologist, mediator and mental health advisor champions parasports, among other things.
Why does the university need diversity officers?
Eddi Steinfeldt-Mehrtens: Surveys indicate that discrimination exists in all areas at the university. We need to raise awareness about such issues. Everybody benefits from being respectful to each other. That is exactly what we are working towards.
Manfred Wegner: We want to minimise marginalisation and prejudice on the campus. Problems often arise as a result of unawareness, for example, because people do not know a lot about people with handicaps and are not sure how they should interact. Making people aware of such issues, providing advice and thus removing barriers are some of our tasks. We want to create awareness for personal interaction that takes diversity into account.
How do you approach this task?
Eddi Steinfeldt-Mehrtens: Both of us are still new in office. First, it is important for us to create a network, introduce ourselves to all the committees and – above all – to the students so they know where they can get help. Additionally, activity days on campus are supposed to publicise our range of advisory services.
Manfred Wegner: Another one of my tasks is to address possible disadvantages in examination regulations or documents and make sure they take diversity into account, for instance, by using gender-neutral language.
Who can contact you with which problems?
Eddi Steinfeldt-Mehrtens: Anyone who has questions or problems can come to us. Even people who simply feel unsure how to behave towards certain people or in certain situations. All conversations are confidential, of course.
This interview was conducted by Jennifer Ruske.
The handout "Barrier-free teaching" from PerLe (project for successful teaching and learning) helps all teachers at Kiel University on their journey together towards an inclusive university.
Handout Barrierearme Lehre (German, PDF)