To be honest with you, I have struggled with writing this editorial for two reasons. Firstly, it is my very first editorial that I have been writing since I have become the new editor-in-chief at Splijtstof. Secondly, this edition includes a few articles that I hold very dear to my heart – social safety.
Since social safety is an issue that affects people personally, let me first introduce myself. My name is Mireille Kouevi, and I am currently an international master’s student from Germany, following the Philosophy, Politics and Society track. Similar to my philosophy, my goals are impulsive and have a tendency to be born out of struggle. To give you an example of what I mean by that, I will tell you how I ended up studying abroad in the Netherlands. What initially motivated me to study abroad and obtain my bachelor- and master’s degrees abroad, was based on an impulsive decision and one conversation with a representative of the Radboud University at a university fair in my hometown Hamburg. Although I talked to several representatives that I scheduled an appointment with to talk about the philosophy track of their university, the results of those conversations were quite discouraging. Although the representatives were students themselves, they seemed to be highly dissociated from the social aspects of their university, which was one of the issues that I did not want to face during my study. I often heard from friends that were already studying around that time, how they felt like “just a number” in the system, and that the power dynamic between students and lecturers was extremely present in day-to-day interactions. This experience was pretty discouraging to them. They advised me to make sure that whatever university I decided to start studying at in the future, is a university that advocates for the importance of a positive study and work environment, and in which social safety is one of their main concerns. Social safety, in this context, thus referred to the importance of creating and maintaining friendly social bonds based on equality and respect, in order to let open discussion between students and lecturers and the institution and its staff flourish. Social safety is an issue that concerns everyone within a designated environment regardless of their status or rank within its system.
My last conversation at the fair was with the representative of Radboud University, and I was already pretty discouraged based on the outcome of the other interviews. The representative was pretty upfront about the fact that they could not tell me much about the philosophy track. Nonetheless the representative could provide me with information about the university itself and the overall atmosphere. I expressed that one of the most important factors to decide for the right university was the overall atmosphere of the university, so I was pretty stocked about the fact that they had some information on that topic for me. The representative’s information was quite helpful and positive, and I was excited to give Radboud University a shot. This person also advised me to participate at the open day, to see whether the university would be able to cater to my needs for a socially safe campus. To be honest, I already made up my mind and I knew that very moment that this was the university for me. In retrospect, my impulsivity might be not the most sophisticated way of making such a life-impacting decision, but I am glad that this decision I made on a whim has worked out wonderfully.
Weirdly, the decisions that I made based on impulse are the ones that proved themselves to be one of my better decisions. For instance, joining Splijtstof and the editorial team is another excellent example of such an impulsive decision. I joined Splijtstof out of frustration with the institutional structures of the university which pretty much turned into anger, and I knew if I wanted to get rid of or at least find an outlet for these feelings, I would have to do something. This was before the Social Safety Club came into existence. I needed a platform where I could express my frustration with the institutional practices of academia that has failed to take into consideration many people, not only me feeling unseen and our experiences. My experience as a black woman in academia has not always been a fun one. However, my lecturers and the people in “higher positions” tried their best to either help me out with my issues, or support me during difficult moments I was experiencing at that time, which always resulted in the same frustration. Because it felt like they did not hear me. Maybe it was the fact that they could not relate to my experience of being a black woman in our faculty, which predominantly consists of white men. What I needed was an open ear that would listen, instead of trying to provide answers and find a solution to a problem (that they were unable to fully understand in the first place). I knew that I was not alone in this frustration, based on the countless stories of social discomfort that my friends and other students experienced. From there on, I knew that I do not just want to create a platform for myself, but one that is open for the experiences of others and willing to share these with everyone else.
The need to create this platform for everyone that feels excluded or unseen by the institutional practices became my ultimate motivation to sign up for the editor-in-chief position. With the help of Janneke and the people on the editorial board of Splijtstof, my goal is to create a platform in which predominantly students can get their word out in the world.
So, with not much left to say, I am happy to announce this edition and hope you will enjoy this brand new edition of Splijtstof!