Important note: our website will soon be changed to a new domainname.
UNDIVIDED has been working hard behind the scenes these past few weeks. A lot is changing. We recently learned that the university has decided to stop funding UNDIVIDED. This means that we are no longer linked to the diversity office and the KU Leuven in its entirety, in any way, shape or form. They told us our budget was suspended because of budgetary reform, but this is raising some questions.
We were told that they want to relocate the budget set aside for UNDIVIDED towards other projects and to ‘professionalise’ the work that we have done thus far. Does KU Leuven not value the mission of UNDIVIDED? Do they not value decolonization, anti-ableism, LGBTQIA+ rights, gender equality and intersectionality, like we do? Were we too ambitious? Do they find us too radical in our thinking? Did they not like our tone? Did we hit a nerve? Did decolonizing get too uncomfortable? Real change, as we advocate for in our #DecolonizeKULeuven manifesto, can never be comfortable.
In the past four years of working together with the university, especially in working on decolonization, we have been deemed too radical, when in reality, our suggestions have been no more than realistic and necessary. We went into dialogue with them, but dialogue in their world means dismissing and suppressing critical voices to prevent real social and institutional change from happening within our university. Dialogue for them means compromising our values. We find it particularly painful that our work surrounding intersectionality and decolonization is deemed too radical and not worthy of funding, while KU Leuven itself has awarded honorary doctorates to Kimberlé Crenshaw, Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the past two years. These African American icons have and still fight for the same values we as UNDIVIDED are simultaneously being deemed too radical for by the same university.
Their timing on defunding us also doesn’t sit right with us. Our application for the funding renewal was sent in 8 months ago. Why did we only get the final answer now? With this in mind, it doesn’t seem coincidental that we lose our funding when Luc Sels talks about weeding out so-called ‘cancel culture’ at the university in his opening speech. But by his definition, is the defunding of UNDIVIDED not also ‘cancel culture’ coming from KU Leuven itself? His opposition to this ‘woke’ culture sounds eerily similar to the message we heard repeatedly over the years of us being too radical, unprofessional and that we are just acting on trends. These accusations are rooted in privilege and fear of institutional change. Advocating and fighting for the safety and livelihoods of racialised students, LGBTQ+ students and students with disabilities are not trends.
But our mission does not stop there! Our direct association with the KU Leuven might end here, but we push through even more independently. We are still open to lending KU Leuven our indispensable expertise on individual projects, as long as they align with our values, but we will not allow UNDIVIDED to be used by the university in order to convey an inclusive façade to the outside world while they simultaneously do not value our work and voice within the university itself. Currently, we’re transitioning into a non-profit student organization in order to continue supporting our fellow students. Because the budget-stop was so last-minute, we were able to negotiate a small transition budget. This end of the connection, along with the loss of job students and goodbyes of long-standing volunteers, has led us to restructuring our organization. We will take a different approach to volunteers or membership, while still working on dismantling cisheteronormative structures, tackling ableist systems and decolonizing the university.