Netherlands: SASS 325 / 575 – Social Justice: Health and Violence Prevention
Note: This course satisfies the Global and Cultural Diversity requirement for BA students.
Participants who travel to the Netherlands will learn how treatment agencies work in a variety of settings. Students will interact with Dutch scholars, clinicians, managers and clients. There will be a lot of walking, interspersed with coffee (the real thing!), biscuits, cheese, chocolate and typical Dutch hospitality. You will make many new friends and learn a great deal about similarities and differences between how Americans and the Dutch view health care, euthanasia, criminal justice, mental health and substance use disorders, in addition to the use of soft versus hard drugs, homelessness, prostitution and abused youth.
On Monday, four lectures from Dutch experts at Vrije Universiteit (Free University) in Amsterdam will focus on Dutch tolerance, euthanasia, substance use and abuse, and sex work (prostitution).
Tuesday has often been the day for a visit to a famous coffee shop, Dampkring, where the manager of the shop will talk about how the Dutch have created laws to allow the use of soft drugs in coffee shops consistent with their philosophy of “harm reduction.” Although the coffee shop will not be open for business while we are there, you will learn about the history of the harm reduction approach to soft drugs, see the drugs they have for sale and hear about how some of their attitudes are now moving away from such tolerance.
On Tuesday afternoon, we usually travel to the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, the largest tertiary care hospital in the country. We will meet with the medical director of the hospital for an interesting discussion about how differently they manage their health care system than we do in the U.S. He will talk about ethical dilemmas that arise when certain patient groups come for treatment, such as illegal immigrants and criminals, and how the Dutch clinicians resolve those dilemmas. Our conversation with him is always fascinating and many students have commented about how much they learned from him during our afternoon at this 2000-bed hospital and medical school.
On Wednesday, we typically have traveled to Rotterdam and spent our morning meeting with staff members and clients at S Gravenhof, a halfway house for hard drug users. We will learn about the Dutch housing system and how they allow drug addicts to live in a halfway house while they try to give them the skills to work and live more independently. Clients will share their stories of life on the streets and their drug use histories, while describing how this unique housing option has helped them.
On Wednesday afternoon, we will visit Horizon, a residential treatment center for severely physically and emotionally abused children, ages 8-12. Several staff members present information about their program for treating these young children and then we have an opportunity to meet with several of the children in one of their residential cottages with staff who describe their day-to-day treatment regimens. Many of the students who come to the Netherlands describe this agency as the most fascinating visit of the trip.
Thursday often takes us to Blacka Watra, a drop-in center where people can find access to a number of services including showers, employment, social services, food, laundry and a User Room, i.e., a safe place to use drugs. Though the schedule is still in the planning stage, there may be an afternoon visit to Altrecht, an inpatient psychiatric hospital for forensic patients. This experience will expose students to how the Dutch treat people convicted of crimes, or treat those who also have mental health disorders. There is often an alternative option to take the afternoon time to visit the main courthouse in Amsterdam and meet with Dutch prosecutors, who detail the structure of the Dutch criminal justice system. We also have attended a trial to see how Dutch prosecutors and judges work. The system does not use juries; rather, one judge (or three judges for more serious offenses) decides the fate of their defendants.
Friday morning takes us to a lecture by COSA Netherlands, a community reintegration program for sexual offenders. Their network of volunteers befriend the client and help him to feel more socially connected to his community while also being on alert for signs of potential problems to decrease the incidence of re-offending. The afternoon is usually reserved for the “Great Debate” where you have an opportunity to make persuasive arguments for or against various Dutch practices or social policies as they apply here at home (or not).
The Netherlands can be cold and rainy (sometimes snowy) with the daytime temperature often in the 40 to 50-degree range. It can feel colder than the actual temperature since it is below sea level and windy. You will want to wear comfortable shoes and consider layered clothing.
We will arrive early Saturday morning. There is a walking tour of the neighborhood around our hotel given by Case faculty while we wait for access to our rooms in the early afternoon. Though the hotel may not be of the same standard with which you are accustomed, it is quite nice. We will do a lot of walking, often several miles per day, and take public transportation. Tram access will be provided for the course.
The streets of Amsterdam are crowded with people and bicycles. English is spoken everywhere, and the water is OK to drink, too, though often you must pay for it in a restaurant. It often costs to use public restrooms.
The course begins with a brief orientation and reception on late Saturday afternoon. Your Saturday evening will be open to see the city. Sunday is also an open day, but in the evening, there is a walking tour of the Red Light District with Dutch and Case faculty. You will also have unstructured free time on the second Saturday in the Netherlands.
All students and faculty will be staying at Leidse Square Hotel Amsterdam, located on a quiet side street off Leidseplein. It is located close to museums, the City Theatre, casino, cinemas, countless restaurants, bars and dance clubs. A historical city centre with canals, the Leidsestraat has numerous shops and famous museums all within walking distance, and it is also close to the Vondelpark. The hotel offers some of the same amenities you are accustomed to, with a full breakfast starting at 7 a.m. every day. It does not provide a washcloth, lotion, exercise facilities or pool, however. WIFI is available for free and a computer is available in the lobby.
Smoking is not permitted in the hotel rooms. You may not bring prohibited items back to the U.S. All students are expected to follow the laws of the United States while in the Netherlands. Your behavior should conform to behavior appropriate for students in the U.S. Most importantly, students and guests represent Case Western Reserve University, so we ask that you keep that in mind during your stay.
Amsterdam is a large, old cosmopolitan city which has an unending supply of historical sites, world-famous museums, Renaissance architecture and appealing nightlife. The course content is fascinating and our students have a wonderful time exploring all that the city has to offer during the site visits and their free time. We are pleased that you plan to join our experienced faculty during your spring break to see this magnificent city and learn about the Dutch culture and liberal social policies.