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VU opts for more inclusive wording at academic ceremonies

29 November 2022
Ceremonial texts at academic ceremonies will become more inclusive starting 1 January 2023. This was recently decided by the Board of Deans and agreed with the VU Council of Members. For a long time, the ceremonial texts expressed a shared Christian identity of the university community. Today, according to the Board, that tradition no longer matches the particularly diverse VU community.  

"VU Amsterdam is a place where people with all kinds of backgrounds, beliefs, traditions and personalities work together. We often quickly recognise each other when it comes to fundamental values such as respect for the otherness of the other, a shared responsibility for sustainability and peace, and our mission to acquire and share knowledge through education and research so that our world becomes more liveable, fairer, and more promising. That mutual recognition is no longer there when it comes to Christian identity or Christian formulations at academic ceremonies. For this reason, it has been decided to revise the wording of texts during academic ceremonies. The new wording expresses VU Amsterdam’s core values in widely accessible words," said Chairman of the Board of Deans rector magnificus Jeroen Geurts. 

Renewing traditions
Because of these developments, VU Amsterdam's foundation was reformulated in 2016. It now reads, "The Foundation is based on the Association, which, building on its Christian origins, aims to contribute to a better world, a world in which justice, humanity, and responsibility for each other and for the world are central. The Foundation is inspired by this in the design of its education and research and in sharing knowledge with and serving society. It recognises and values the role that philosophy of life and meaning play in this regard."

In line with the amended Statutes of VU Amsterdam Association and in line with the VU Amsterdam's established mission, the Board of Deans has decided to use the following wording at the start of an academic ceremony as of 1 January 2023: "I open this public session ... with reference to VU Amsterdam’s originally Christian tradition of linking the practice of science with wonder and philosophical values.” Upon closure, the following wording is used: "I close this public session ... with reference to our mission to practise values-driven science with responsibility for people and planet." These wordings express Amsterdam’s core values in widely accessible words. As with the terms used so far, it means that science is not separate from philosophical values and is supported by intellectual humility and a responsibility for an interest that transcends us. In the private part of the promotion ceremony, the custom remains to read a short reflective text, which may of course include a biblical text.