An invitation to collectively think and prototype toward preferable futures for KABK
Wednesday 7 April 2021, 17:00-19:00, online (Zoom link)

The Research Club usually takes place (online at the moment) on the first Wednesday of each month. It is open to anyone in the KABK and Leiden University research community (tutors, heads, (research) staff, workshop supervisors and PhD candidates).

These are not usual times, however, and so, for now, we are opening up this space to anyone in the KABK community who might like to think aloud or process silently in the presence of others.

As was evident in the first meeting we held last week, each of us uses the meeting differently—whether it be to share links in the chat, to listen-in while doing the laundry or to share concerns or suggestions, doubts or directives. We will focus on the role of research in this process, but no topic is unrelated so feel free to bring up whatever you’d like. We look forward to seeing/being with you on Wednesday!


Trying to address an institutional problem can mean that you have to enter into and inhabit it all the more. As feminist and race scholar Sara Ahmed (who in 2016 resigned from her professorship at Goldsmiths University in protest at the lack of meaningful response to multiple claims of sexual harassment) observes, 'Inhabitance can involve re-entry: you re-enter the institution through the back door; you find out about doors, secret doors, trapdoors: how you can be shut in; how you can be shut out. You learn about processes, procedures, policies, you point out what they fail to do, pointing to, pointing out [...]'.

This may sound familiar to those of us busy learning about existing processes, procedures and policies, and asking why and why not as we start to imagine new ones. Of course, there are those who have been doing this work all along. Much respect and thanks to the councils of representatives and the study programme committees, as well as to all the non-official groups, who make it their responsibility to represent. But for some of us this work is new.

What can research, and specifically the Design Lectorate, offer this collective project toward systemic change? At the very least we can provide a zone, (separate from the subsets of students, tutors and administrators that make up the academy) within which to hone research tools needed for the task. These include questions, theoretical concepts, methods for collecting and surfacing data, methods for analysing and interpreting it and formats for its public dissemination.

More specifically, we can provide the framework of an online meeting for listening to one another’s lived experiences of obstacles and absences, coupled with an online document for their collective cataloguing along with ideas for fixes and what-ifs.

What if there was a microwave in the canteen so we can heat our own food at lunchtime? What if there was a checkbox for non-binary gender on that form? What if I didn’t have to take six months off between contracts, and I could be there for my students’ graduation semester? What if there was a ramp so I could get to the print workshop? What if this syllabus, assignment or reading list represented non-Western cultures?

For it is through such concrete instances of larger abstract issues that we experience the institution. Let’s take them one by one and dissect them as a way in to a better understanding of each other and our chosen learning community. The good news is that we are not the first to be doing this. Many other institutions have gone through similar traumas and healing processes and are willing to share their insights and experiences.

Ideally, KABK's existing governing bodies will join us in this research trajectory toward preferable futures for KABK. But it's also possible to consider alternative modes of governance and alternative approaches to art and design education, including some that reach out beyond individual institutional walls.

In the coming weeks and months, let’s be there for each other, listen, and try to understand. Let’s inventory the existing problems, and also allow the new ideas to surface. This edition of our regular Design Lectorate bulletin is an invitation to continue to collectively think, question and prototype toward preferable futures for KABK: OURKABK. Let’s find all the doors!


In this document, we are collecting instances of obstacles and absences that give concrete, material form to the more abstract issues (such as lack of diversity and inclusivity) as well as tactics and models for how to redress them, both in the short term, and in the context of a long-term vision. Everyone is invited to add to and edit the document. You can do this anonymously, or add your name if you’d like to stay involved in the process.


If you already know what you want to say, here’s some ways you can make your voice heard at KABK:

  • Use the hashtag #ourkabk on social media
  • Write to the participation councils: dmr@kabk.nl and cmr@hdkdenhaag.nl
  • Post in the Teams Think Tank and use the Mentimeter
  • Post in the KABK Facebook group
  • Post in the KABK Portal
  • Attend the morning walk-in meetings
  • Put up posters, make GIFs, design clothing, write manifestos, write open letters, set up reading groups, use radio to connect to other institutions, construct meeting spaces...
  • Talk to your tutors, colleagues and students.

If you need a prompt:

  • On 26.3.2021 the Board of Governors invited us to contribute ideas for the composition of the board. They wrote, 'we will evaluate our own retirement schedule, looking in particular for ways to achieve faster turnover. When we recruit new members, we will take particular account of the profile features of age distribution, gender and cultural diversity. We appeal to the entire university community.'
    Current profile information is here. New ideas for the board composition can be submitted to the CMR: cmr@hdkdenhaag.nl

  • On 1.4.2021, the KABK DMR invited us to contribute ideas for what the interim director, who will be appointed this week, should focus on. They wrote:, 'What do you think a good ad interim needs to do/act upon/give attention/not do/be aware of etc.?' You can share your thoughts on the Mentimeter, here). Don't forget to request to see the "voting results". Great input so far!
  • On 25.3.2021, the acting director and the deputy director wrote, "We feel a great involvement from the teachers and employees. Discussing and adjusting the personnel policy is therefore of the highest priority. Discussing and improving the personnel policy is a matter of urgency and financial resources will be made available in the short term to enable the extra work involved in implementing the report's recommendations."
    This sounds like a very good idea. There is a lot of extra work going on! You might want to write and ask for details: h.vandermeulen@koncon.nl and f.hup@kabk.nl

If you would like to learn more about the organisation of the University of the Arts and KABK:

Other sources of inspiration and information from within KABK community:

What's missing or incorrect?