"Universities do have an impact on society, especially since numerous future multipliers in various fields can be reached within the framework of university education". At the beginning, the Vice President of Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz (JGU), Prof. Dr. Stephan Jolie, illustrated the importance of universities’ confrontation with the fact of institutional racism in European higher education. In this way, the Vice President introduced the first online lectures of the collaborative project of the international FORTHEM Lab Diversity and Migration with an opening speech on March 22. The implementation of the collaborative project within the framework of FORTHEM is intended to contribute to the development of initiatives, gathering theoretical knowledge as well as addressing the reality of racist experiences in our universities. On the basis of this exchange, strategies can bring about the reduction of discrimination and exclusion. With his introductory words, the Vice President of JGU Mainz put the focus on the exchange and the maintenance of the discussions. He expressed his belief that despite their connection with the history of racist oppression and exploitation, the universities can provide helpful tools for overcoming discrimination and exclusion.

At least two scholars in the field of racism and discrimination studies will be invited to each of the four online lectures to present research findings and foster exchange with students, academics and partners from FORTHEM partner universities. The Diversity and Migration Lab accompanies this series with seminars where participating students can expand their knowledge and deepen the learnings from the lectures.

In this first event, research assistant in the Department of Sociology, Dr. Sahra Dornick (TU Berlin), as well as the two PhD sociologists Dr. Pierre-Oliver Weiss and Dr. Romane Blassel (University Côte d'Azur) were invited. Their lectures included multi-layered insights in structural racism in our society and in higher education. To this end, the three speakers introduced different key terms and concepts and shared the state of the art in research with the participants.

The history of racism is intertwined with the history of the university and academia, which can still be observed today. In universities in Europe, there is recognizable institutional representation of white, upper-class males. Speaker Dr. Sahra Dornick made this point by quoting British-Australian scholar of critical race theory and postcolonialist research Sara Ahmed (2012). At the level of social and discursive engagement with racism in higher education, Ahmed speaks of a condition of "banging one's head against the brick wall." Dr. Dornick used the quote to illustrate the need at the institutional level to recognize that diversity work is always in a bind, working within the institution and against the institution, and becoming a problem itself by solving problems.

In the second part of the online lecture, Dr. Pierre-Oliver Weiss and Dr. Romane Blassel focused on presenting the results of research on discrimination in higher education and research currently being conducted at several universities in France. In doing so, they highlighted the specificities of the French context in relation to racism research. Weiss and Blassel addressed in their presentation the challenges that arise in conducting this research while raising institutional and policy issues related to conducting racism research in French universities. In their conclusion, it is clear that universities are influenced by an environment characterized by inequalities and power relations. They note that they cannot directly change the things that are part of this context. But they can at least conduct research on these factors to create more sensitivity and awareness.

The Labs within FORTHEM are of critical societal importance and situational relevance, as is the Lab on Diversity and Migration. FORTHEM has brought about the fusion of academic projects and wants to create networks aiming at a permanent multilateral and European cooperation environment. "I am convinced that the project starting today will contribute to the achievement of our goal," mentioned Vice President Jolie on the launch of the collaborative project. With that, Jolie also addressed the organizers and coordinators of the project, as well as the partner universities and the Equity and Diversity office of JGU, thanking them for their support and funding of the lecture series. He concluded by encouraging all participants with the words: "Lets continue these discussions on every level," while also reminding them to continue attending the lecture series.

All information about the online programme and registration for this FORTHEM project can be found here: https://www.sozialethik.kath.theologie.uni-mainz.de/lecture-series/.