The Berlin University of the Arts and its 300-year-old history is rich in the tradition of exclusion. For only one-third of this period—and after many years of fighting—have women finally been allowed as fine art students in 1919. Since then, the university has become slightly more diverse in regards to the student body. But all in all, it still is a very white and male-dominated institution, with fewer women taking the higher job positions and almost none BIPoC representation among teachers or in the eurocentric curriculum.
Different actors and initiatives have been working towards anti-discrimination, diversity, and structural change within the UdK Berlin for years, but their efforts have often been fragmented and made invisible by the very power dynamics they are fighting against. The Critical Diversity Blog aims to assemble all these actors and initiatives in one place, to make their work visible and simplify collaborations between them. Initiated in the spring of 2020 by the working group Critical Diversity, the blog serves as one of the means for gaining knowledge about UdK Berlin’s structural discrimination and different initiatives working against it, and will inform the new diversity policy that is due by the end of 2021. In the upcoming policy, the Critical Diversity working group is developing measures that will make the UdK Berlin a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive place where differences are engaged with considerately and respectfully.
By striving for heightened visibility of various anti-discrimination initiatives and stronger bonds and collaborations between them, the Critical Diversity team hopes to provide better support to all university members looking for help in the event of discrimination. The blog also offers the chance for everyone (alumni included) to leave an anonymized report of experienced or observed discrimination at the university through an online form. The collected reports will help identify the problem areas and thus support the implementation of the necessary changes through the diversity policy.
The format of the blog and the Critical Diversity Podcast allows anyone at the UdK Berlin to publicly engage in conversations or present their artistic contributions on racism, sexism, ableism, classism, discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and related topics. Additionally, experts are invited to give valuable insights into the specificities of discrimination and antidiscriminatory work in the arts and at art universities. The aim is to critically confront unjust social structures and their roots while staying self-reflexive and alert to one’s own mistakes and unconscious biases along the way, and dismantling them just as rigorously. It is part of a long, likely painful, and hopefully thorough process of detecting issues, overcoming challenges, and enacting urgently needed changes and practices in the university and beyond.
In the current conditions of the health crisis that render marginalized groups even more precarious, and with anti-oppression movements sweeping the globe, Critical Diversity and other anti-discrimination initiatives at the UdK Berlin take this task even more seriously. This year’s Rundgang event was taken as an opportunity for an anti-racist protest, organized by the fine arts students following the Black Lives Matter movement. Through their protest they revealed some of the racism engraved into UdK’s structures and proved once again that now is the time at the UdK Berlin, like elsewhere in the world, to pay attention to systemic injustice and focus on healing, repairing, and reflecting on one’s own power to make a change.
– Elena Buscaino & Adela Lovric, editorial team members of the Critical Diversity Blog