QueerCECAD joins the University's Diversity Week 2024 with "Voices of Diversity: A Conversation on Equity and Inclusion"

17.06.2024 2024 Values Diversity GADIS Public Outreach

Word cloud with inputs on the meaining of "diversity" by the audience.
Kristel Martinez Lagunas sharing a personal experience with the audience. On the left, Andreas Klein. On the right, Luise Nagel.
The organizers and part of the panel guests,
View on the panel guests.
View from the audience.

Open dialogue on mental health, queerness, gender expectations, and internationality aimed to bridge gaps and foster inclusivity at the University of Cologne.

On June 5th, 2024, the QueerCECAD, a newly-established group of LGBTQIA2+ individuals and allies within the CECAD, hosted an inspiring event titled “Voices of Diversity: A Conversation on Equity and Inclusion.” This was part of the Diversity Week 2024 organized by the University of Cologne. The event was partnered with Gateway, which offered their InnoDom as venue. 48 participants contributed to a lively and interactive exploration of crucial topics affecting diverse communities: mental health, queerness, gender expectations, and internationality.

The panel featured distinguished guests, including Andreas Klein, Kristel Martinez Lagunas, Luise Nagel, Urmi Roy, and Katerina Vlantis, who shared their personal experiences and insights. Each brought a unique perspective, enriching the discussion with their diverse backgrounds and expertise. The interactive format allowed for spontaneous sharing of personal stories, making the event not only informative but also profoundly human.

The discussion was distinguished by its interactive format. Real-time engagement by polls placed the audience at the heart of the discussion, allowing for immediate feedback and a dynamic exchange of ideas. The initial open question, "What does diversity mean to you?" resulted in a word cloud, with "life," "acceptance," and "nonjudgmental" emerging as the most prominent terms (see image). This set the tone for a deeply reflective and inclusive conversation.

The conversation on mental health revealed, that friends emerged as the primary source of support, whereas the common feeling was that there remains a significant lac of empathy and socialization around mental health issues in both academic and professional environments. In addition, it became obvious, that a lot of individuals face pressing challenge in navigating the German healthcare system, as examples difficulty in understanding medical bureaucracy, finding specialists, and dealing with an oversaturated system were mentioned.

The dialogue on queerness was equally enriching, with a focus on fostering openness and understanding of LGBTQIA2+ issues. Universities, notably, were recognized for their progressive efforts in their first steps on the matter, such as enabling name changes and implementing all-gender toilets. Participants expressed appreciation for institutions which support LGBTQIA2+ initiatives like this one, noting that 75% considered their workplace or university to be inclusive environments for queer identities. This highlighted the importance of continued support and visibility for the queer community.

Discussions on gender expectations revealed the pervasive pressure individuals face to conform to traditional roles. Both men and women reported feeling trapped by societal stereotypes, exacerbated by social media and environmental influences. The acceptance of parenthood and parental leave was seen as progressive, especially when supported by understanding supervisors. However, stories of discrimination, particularly in healthcare settings, underscored the need for increased awareness and empathy. Participants emphasized the importance of listening, not jumping to conclusions, and acknowledging the limits of one's knowledge.

The theme of internationality brought to light the struggles faced by foreigners in Germany, particularly regarding bureaucratic processes. Participants called for simplified procedures and better support from academic institutions. A recurring sentiment was the disconnect between decision-makers and the realities of international individuals. Suggestions for improvement included fostering open dialogue, raising awareness, and implementing a Buddy Program to help newcomers acclimate. This resonated strongly with the audience, who emphasized the need for better communication and understanding.

With "Voices of Diversity" QueerCECAD created a space for genuine reflection and growth, which clearly showed the power of open dialogue and the importance of fostering an emphatic community. A poignant quote from Ed Yong provided by one of the participants summarizes the results and points out the importance of future initiatives:  "We are all limited by what we see, and although the 'Umwelt' of senses is limited, the 'Umwelt' of our minds can be trained."


Press and communication:

Dr. Tanio Calabrese
+49 221 478 84044


Further information:

Page of the event: https://vielfalt.uni-koeln.de/en/aktuelles/diversity-woche-du-machst-den-unterschied/voices-of-diversity-a-conversation-on-equity-and-inclusion

Text revision: Dr. Sibylle Grandel, Dr. Franziska Ottens