Another of the series of debates within the second stage of the Culture of Respect campaign entitled Diverse & Equal took place on June 6th 2023 under the motto Equality in Diversity / Równość w Różnorodności at the Auditorium Primum of Professor Olgierd Narkiewicz in the Atheneum Gedanense Novum at the MUG. The allies and supporters of the campaign are the Marshal’s Office of Pomorskie Voivodeship and the City of Gdańsk. Partners in the campaign are also the University of Gdańsk and the Fahrenheit Universities union in Gdańsk.
The speakers in the debate were international students and graduates of the Medical University of Gdansk and a special guest – Mr. Andrzej Ziółkowski, Polish traveller and author of photo albums and exhibitions dedicated to religious and spiritual diversity and the human quest for contact with the Sacred. Our University was represented by the following students and alumni:
The debate was moderated by Jacek Kaczmarek, Ph.D. – representative of the Medical University of Gdańsk for international alumni relations of the MUG. Jacek Kaczmarek introduced the speakers and welcomed the audience gathered both in-person and online.
– We would like to focus on diversity and equality and inspire positive thoughts about them, and hopefully positive, meaningful actions in our academic community, and maybe even a little further afield – Kaczmarek began.
The event covered a range of issues relating to diversity beyond our academic community. The discussion was divided into six thematic blocks, which showed the concept of diversity from multiple perspectives.
In the beginning, each speaker introduced themselves and their backgrounds. The panelists highlighted the environment in which they grew up and where they came from.
In the next part of the debate, the speakers talked about their first experiences of diversity before they went abroad or started their studies at the MUG.
Alejandra Vivas recalled her school days. While attending school in the USA, she was exposed to different traditions and languages specific to students from different countries. She also travelled around the world before studying at our University.
– It was an amazing experience. I saw about 35 countries, so I was able to learn from different people and get to know different countries – said Alejandra Vivas about her trip. – It opened my eyes to the beauty and different perspectives. I learned that people on the other side of the world are looking for the same thing we are, which is happiness. I learned that children play the same way here as they do on the other side of the world. It is humanity that unites us across the world.
The next part of the meeting touched on how the experience of diversity at the MUG or abroad has affected the speakers and which aspects of it they consider the most valuable.
– It really made me who I am today – as a person, as a doctor, and as an adult. It has changed everything because there is a difference between travelling to another country, seeing what people do, and living in that country and understanding their values, principles, culture, and language. All these things can open your mind. It makes you understand how other people think, and how they live, and you live closer to them. We are all human beings – said Faisal Al Maghlooth, M.D.
Participants in the debate also discussed the challenges of diversity. It was pointed out that, for some at least, diversity may not be seen as a benefit. Some may see it as a source of risk or even threat.
The students’ perspective was presented by Shraddha Singh, who highlighted the advantages of diversity, such as the promotion of individualism. She also pointed out that it is people who complicate this idea by creating social norms, which cannot always be said to be good or bad. However, they do allow members of a community to fulfill their need to belong to their surroundings.
– When someone from a different society, with different ideas and opinions, enters ours, then there is often a problem – said Shraddha Singh. – But we can also think this way: why not have an open mind to someone who wants to be integrated into another society? One can be open to such a discussion and have an open conversation. But we know that this is a problem in today’s world. I think it is time for a change.
In the discussion that followed, participants focused on diversity in terms of equality. The moderator asked the speakers about what it takes on a personal and social level to make equality in diversity a reality.
– We need to be careful when we talk about equality. Let’s not settle for simple platitudes or advertising slogans. Diversity is a value, it is a source of enrichment. Being different is something I have always valued in my life. At the same time, we must be very careful that our differences do not become a source of divisions and walls between us, – said Andrzej Ziółkowski. – Each of us must be very careful to tear down the walls we have created in our minds and heads. I think the university campus, this debate and the network that you are building is a great contribution. I congratulate you for taking on this topic and making this effort.
At the end of the debate, its participants referred to their positive and negative experiences of diversity and equality and summarized the event in terms of their hopes for the future.
– The very name of University represents something universal, global, an entity for all, but it is not just about building knowledge and skills, it is also about shaping attitudes and reinforcing values, learning, how to live together, how to respect others, how not to shut oneself up in one’s ethnicity, language, religion, in believing that our “cultural bubble” is the best place on earth. Hopefully, we will be able to continue and develop not just words, but – much more importantly – actions, that will make the values we talk about an integral part of everyday life at the University and maybe also beyond – concluded Jacek Kaczmarek, Ph.D..
The discussion was conducted in English. A video transcript of the meeting can be viewed on the MUG’s channel on YouTube.
photo Paweł Sudara/MUG