'Empathy is about
daring to share'

Simone Buitendijk

A plea for empathy

Simone Buitendijk, Leiden University’s Vice-Rector for teaching, learning and diversity, makes a heartfelt plea for empathy. She believes that to fully embrace diversity and inclusivity we need to understand the importance of really listening to each other.

“One of the most important challenges for universities around the world is to embrace diversity and inclusivity. If we don’t understand the importance of those concepts and actively start working with them, we will not be able to play a significant enough role in tackling our planet's problems in the future. If we want to really contribute to solving today’s global issues, if we want to cater to an increasingly diverse student population, if we want to do the right and relevant research, we need to embrace diversity and inclusivity.”

From individual to institutional

“I believe empathy is the key to diversity and inclusivity as well as the key to combating implicit bias. Empathy means that you try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. In the four years I’ve been Vice-Rector, I’ve learned an awful lot. I’ve learned from our students and from our scholars; I’ve learned the importance of listening to people’s stories and to their research findings in order to change our university for the better. It’s not always easy, because using empathy often means you need to get out of your comfort zone which may feel like you are giving something up. Empathy is about daring to share.”

Dare to share

“I want to try to be a more empathetic person. If we all do that, we will not only create more individual empathy, but eventually institutional empathy as well. And which institutions are better suited to do that than universities? We are all working at this university because we want to change the world. And I think we can… if we actually dare to share.”

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