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University diversity image backfires

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University diversity image backfires
Photo: Uni Wien website
12:40 CEST+02:00
An attempt by the University of Vienna to promote its viability as part of the Erasmus student exchange program, and to highlight its diversity backfired when one of the students depicted in a promotional image revealed he is a native born Austrian.

The web site of the university showed an image of two blond girls talking to a fellow student with a dark skinned complexion. 

The male student in the image wrote an open letter to the school, humorously praising it for its diversity, but noting that the image was always used when the university wanted to promote the international nature of the university.

He went on to explain: "The guy that you see there [in the picture] is not from overseas. He is not an Erasmus student. I know, because that is me in the photo. I study with you at the University of Journalism and have no idea how I get the 'honour' to be your poster child for internationality. The only thing about me that's kind of exotic, is in fact my pronounced Flachgauer dialect."

Flachgau is a suburb to the north of Salzburg.

"As a boy, born and raised in the exotic frontier region of Salzburg and Upper Austria, you have to deal with massive cultural and especially linguistic barriers in Vienna, which is why I think it's always great to have your support and such a great welcome for me here.  But I still do not think that Salzburg and Upper Austria are necessarily the definition of internationality."

"With a little effort, I understand you Wieners pretty well - and you me hopefully - so you don't need to worry so much about me."

The university apologized, and has removed the image from its website.  "We will endeavour to be more sensitive in photo selection in future", said a spokesman.

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