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Photos: Andreas Klein

Discovering Diversity - Week of events at UoC

This year’s diversity week offered participants plenty of opportunities to get away from the campus routine for a while and discover Diversity at the University of Cologne. From June 6th to 10th, they had a chance to look deep into strangers’ eyes, find out what accessibility really means and see what it feels like to leave your comfort zone….

Nurcan Karaaslan and Andreas Klein, both students at the University of Cologne, tell us what it was like to take part.

What about the human connection?

Looking into a stranger's eyes for a minute and thinking about what is happening to the human connection these days - that was the objective of the eye-contact-experiment on the Albertus Magnus Platz. Photo: Andreas Köstler

On June 7th, we were two of many who accepted the invitation to spend at least one minute looking into a stranger’s eyes right in the middle of Albert Magnus Platz and think about what is happening to the human connection these days. The organizers of this eye contact experiment had set up a few chairs for us and it wasn’t long before other students, university employees and even people from other cities, who had heard about the event on Facebook, appeared too. After one encounter, a participant said, “The only thing I saw was beautiful eyes”, and another participant declared with a huge smile, “I don’t know when I last looked into somebody else’s eyes so intensely and for such a long time.” For us too, it was quite something to look into different people’s eyes for so long and without saying a word.

Diversity in Cologne

The week of Diversity events, of which the eye contact experiment was part, was organized by the UoC’s Gender & Diversity Management Department. In cooperation with Cologne City Council’s Dienststelle Diversity, the Department staged various events at different locations, including in the city center. The aim was to raise awareness of diversity and equal opportunity and, in particular, to showcase the numerous projects, programs and organizations at the UoC that deal with these issues.

Dr. Britt Dahmen

The Diversity Week is a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate the extent to which equal opportunity is already embraced at the University of Cologne.

Dr. Britt Dahmen, Head of Gender & Diversity Management, University of Cologne

Wide range of events

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  • Yummy cupcakes adorned with the Diversity Week's logo. Foto: Andreas Klein
  • Corresponding shirts with the Diversity Week logo. Foto: Andreas Klein

During the Diversity Week, the University hosted over 30 events – activities on campus, information booths, exhibitions, panel discussions, workshops and seminars. They were designed to provide a closer look at racism, equality, homosexuality, family-friendly policy, inclusion and accessibility and to give participants a true experience of some of these aspects. For instance, as we crossed Albertus Magnus Platz on our way to one of the events, the witty performance artists from improv troupe Caracho drew us out of our comfort zone and then rewarded us at the info booth with a very yummy cupcake adorned with the week’s logo. A whole host of institutions, service providers, central units and courses opened their doors during the week, allowing us, for example, to cruise the campus in a wheelchair, attend intercultural skills seminars and workshops or visit Cologne’s City Hall, where there was a ceremony to open the multimedia installation Inklusion Inside – Inside Inklusion, which was open to the public for the entire week. Since most of the events didn’t require advance registration, you could just check the website or the program posted on Facebook and go.

The event team braved Germany's most difficult city-center uphill run and in the end there were small and big winners alike. Foto: Lex Aliviado

As well as providing information and promoting diversity-related activities, the focus was on having fun trying things out, discovering new things, asking (challenging) questions and engaging in debate. It was also possible to join the event week team participating in the Kölner Bank UniLauf run. The team also included 60 other (amateur) runners, who bravely took on Germany’s most difficult, city-center uphill run in the 5km or 10km discipline. Some were even crazy enough to run 25 km! But our efforts – and the sore muscles that followed – were rewarded with fantastic weather, a team shirt and a whole lot of fun.

So what was it like then?

The event week was huge fun and the reactions we saw showed that equal opportunity is still an important issue for everyone at the University. There was lots of laughter, information and lightbulb effects. We hope there’ll be another event week next year and we’ll definitely take part again. Perhaps they’ll have some yummy cake pops next time?

Dear Ms Karaaslan, dear Mr Klein, we would like to thank you very much for sharing your experiences and insights with us!

Answers given by Diversity Week participants to our question:

Why do you make a difference in the way we deal with Diversity?

Nicola Sonntag

I'm making a difference in the way we deal with diversity because each of us has something very special inside, something that can only be seen if we’re treated with respect.

Nicola Sonntag, Diversity Week participant
Christian Weinert

I’m making a difference in the way we deal with diversity because I know how valuable every single person’s individuality is.

Christian Weinert, Diverstiy Week participant
Jana Bauer

I’m making a difference in the way we deal with diversity because no two people are alike.

Jana Bauer, Diversity Week participant

4th German Diversity Day

On June 7th, the signatories to the Diversity Charter celebrated the 4th German Diversity Day.
The nationwide event is intended to promote a constructive approach to diversity in industry, academia and other areas of society. The University of Cologne signed the Charter two years ago, joining over 1,700 organisations that have thus declared their commitment to creating working environments that are free of prejudice and exclusion and recognise and utilise the potential diversity offers.

The University of Cologne would like to thank all instutions that were part of the Diversity Week (in alphabetical order):

The following institutions were involved in the diversity week: AStA, AIESEC, Career Service of the Faculty of Humanities, CEfAS (Center for Aging Studies), Dual Career & Family Support, the central Gender Studies in Köln (GeStiK) institute, the Global South Studies Center (GSSC), the Faculty and Staff Development Department, the International Office, the Writing Competence Centre, the Dienststelle Diversity  of the City of Cologne, the “school is open” project, the Service Center for Students with a Disability, UniSport², the weitausmehr project, the Center for International Relations at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities and the Center for Teacher Education.

The diversity week was coordinated by the Gender & Diversity Management Department.