Demands from ASVA Student Union
3rd of May 2021
Core demands for AMFI
Admission of guilt
To make space for improvement, the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI) must start with an admission of where things have gone wrong. An admission of guilt is an essential first step in the healing process and although it will not solve anything directly, we consider this to be the minimum that AMFI needs to provide before they can improve their toxic culture.
ASVA Student Union deems the resignation of Peter Leferink as a fundamental step in changing the toxic culture of AMFI. It has become evident to us that Leferink has played a large role in pushing the idea that students, during their time at AMFI, should be broken down in order to be built back up again. Many students have emerged from AMFI with severe trauma, anxiety and low self-esteem due to this way of teaching.
When articles about Leferink started to come out, the directorate of AMFI, lead by Dirk Reynders, was quick to voice their unconditional support for Leferink. We see that Dirk Reynders has made an effort to make AMFI a safer school in the past two years, but as long as he is not willing to act on the harm that Leferink has done to students and the school; he cannot speak of structural change and therefore, the resignation of Reynders’ is also demanded.
Currently, there is a complaint procedure at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences/Hogeschool van Amsterdam (AUAS/HvA), but it is nearly impossible to reach by students of AMFI. Students and staff are encouraged to not report anything outside of AMFI, but instead fix it within AMFI. However, we have seen that many reports are swept under the rug here. For this reason, it’s incredibly important for students to be able to complain to an independent third party that is situated outside of AMFI.
Other demands for AMFI
Improve social safety
Within and outside AMFI, there is currently a lot of pressure to improve social safety. However, the measures that we have seen implemented so far, such as a diversity group that does not have much true power, are too little and too late. There is a drastic change needed at AMFI. A number of our demands fall under the broad scope of improvement of social safety, but we consider these demands to be the least AMFI can do.
First of all, AMFI staff need to follow sensitivity training. Organizations such as Our Bodies Our Voice can provide these. In this way, staff can be made more aware of the consequences of their actions. These trainings can also help reduce known problems of racism at AMFI. The teachers are ultimately the ones who need to keep the classroom safe and it is imperative that they receive tools to do so.
Secondly, the AMFI campus is in need of a nurse who is available during school hours. There have been many stories from students fainting or otherwise being physically or mentally unwell, and it is very important that there is direct help available if needed.
Third, students with disabilities, whether they be physical or mental, need to be able to study at AMFI like any other student. Because we currently have little information about the accessibility of AMFI for disabled students, we demand an independent investigation on the accessibility of AMFI. Such an investigation could be a starting point for improvement.
Lastly, we demand to have elected representatives who have the mandate to investigate and who can stand up against the mistreatment of students and staff. We think that both a student and staff elected should work together to improve social safety at AMFI. In this way, there are people who can investigate claims within AMFI and communicate clearly with students and staff, the board of directors, and AUAS.
We consider these implications to be the least that AMFI can do. We also want to have the report on the current situation at AMFI, made by Bezemer & Schubad, to be made public, so we can help solving the problems that they might still bring to light as well.
Many students have left AMFI, either temporarily or permanently, because of the mental health issues that they suffered at their time at AMFI. Some may have had to pay for psychological care costs or have paid costs to move countries to study at AMFI, only to stop before they could receive a diploma. We believe that these costs, insofar as they can be traced back to AMFI, should be reimbursed. Students do not carry the responsibility to pay for what has been done to them at AMFI and therefore compensation of their tuition fees and other expenses must be demanded.
Students at AMFI regularly complain about the extreme pressure that they experience. Both in classes and in internships students are expected to work much more than the standard 40 hours a week, and students are expected to work overtime in order to get passing grades, often without any concern for their mental and physical health. There are a number of ways we think this problem should be addressed, but a big part of this can also be contracts of students, staff and interns.
First of all, students should be guaranteed their safety when studying at any institution. We demand AMFI’s enrollment contract to include a guarantee of student safety in the form of explicit policies that define mistreatment and delineate the consequences for teachers who engage in such actions. Students should be informed of their rights as they start their studies and be aware of what behavior is and is not okay. For staff, we also consider it important to be aware of this. Both AUAS and AMFI need to establish concrete anti-hazing policies and communicate this with staff and students. Lastly, we consider it important that AMFI’s internship contracts include a set limit of working hours and a guarantee for student safety in the form of explicit policies that define mistreatment and delineate the consequences for employers who engage in such actions. Students provide free labor to a company, but this does not mean they should overwork and suffer abuse because “that is just how it is in the industry”. Contracts should include information on the rights and responsibilities of both parties, to prevent overworking of students outside of AMFI as well.